I’m reading a book that has me thinking. It’s called “Mothers of Invention”, and it’s about- by, really- Southern women “of the slave holding class” during the U. S. Civil War. The author has read hundreds of memoirs, diaries, and letters from her subjects, organized her thoughts into categories, and let the women speak. She’s not (so far) all censorious, nor does she demand that these women of 1860 hold bien pensant ideas of today. It’s refreshing, there’s only moderate P. C. jargon usage and explication. I’ve been thinking lately about the “home front” and families in wartime, so seeing this was a fortunate fortuity.
She seems to try to show, and present, as broad a selection of these womens’ experiences and thoughts as she can. It has always seemed to me, pill that I am, that the study of history is anti human. By its insistence on pie charting humanity- “The landed gentry of England opposed parliamentary reform in 1832”. Surely these blanket statements are broadly true, but they deny the real truth that people are usually conflicted. The Grandma’s diary quote is a good example- we need to fight the Japanese and Germans, but I hope not with my beau." I suppose even the most homogenous societies contain people who aren’t so much dissenters as what might be called perspectivists- those who cannot deny outlooks which don’t match even their own actions. We all know that lots of our own fellows, maybe most of them, are like that. Certainly most hunting people think hard and are disturbed by the cruelty inherent in what we do, and I find few people who oppose the Iraq war who also believe that our enemies want to live in peace, or that the retreat they want will help bring about a solution.
I wonder if we concentrated more on this genuine diversity, diversity of thought, it might make a difference. Don’t look for it from lefty academia- those folks seem obsessed with pie charting and the very THOUGHT that people could vary from their category’s assigned thought pattern is inadmissible. Especially designated oppressors and victims- can you imagine class material at Yale suggesting that, for example, lots and lots of German aristocrats despised the Nazis? It’s true, though. And it was often said among enforcers of the Judenrein that everyone- even the “best Germans”- had particular Jews within their own circles whom they considered should be exempt from repressive measures.
Thinking about that might help us get out of our still wired in Marxist view that history is in some way inevitably on some course. You constantly hear people talk about the future as though it will be determined by confrontations and alliances between uniform, homogenously thinking groups. I believe it’s not, though. Maybe history, like life, isn’t changing red to yellow, but instead changing green to brown. Sure, there are some serious Jihadis we have to kill. But I have always thought that the hearts and minds idea was a good one. The tactics we use might be wrong, but most Moslems don’t, personally, want to choose between conversion and martyrdom.
Just a musing, there, on the contrary and unique nature of almost every human.
The place I saw it was interesting, too. I was visiting a house which belongs to somone who makes a habit of buying any book written by a university classmate. This makes for an interesting library. Sort of a postsecret effect- content suggested by the artists, not the viewer.