I’m paranoid because I read history.
I actually thought about becoming a history teacher, before casting my lots – body, mind and soul – in the music business. As I age, and as the music business morphs into something no one can seem to make a living in, I wish, more often than you would think, I had become that history teacher.
If I tried to go back and get my degree now, I would probably be arrested by campus police on sight. I am, after all, a walking, talking micro-aggression. A middle-aged white man who uses such hetero-normative terms as “her” and “him”/ “he” and “she” would no doubt be burned in effigy before he could crack open the first book …if books are even still acceptable …because they destroy trees. Anyway …I digress.
The one thing you learn about history is that you can count on it to be unpredictable. That may be the only thing you CAN count on. Just about the time a society thinks they have it all figured out, someone raids the castle and burns the documents. It’s usually done by the last one they saw coming. And as another cautionary tale gasps for a last breath, while watching the unwashed barbarians steal their gold and smash their china, the last thing that goes through their mind is, “how did this happen?”
We history buffs then get to study it in retrospect, from a comfortable distance. And we play all the parlor games of arguing over why Rome fell and why the Vikings disappeared and why WWI was started, blah, blah, blah. But there is a human foible we often find at the core of every irony-laced story in the human journey. Hubris.
The old, biblical chestnut, “pride comes before a fall” is universal truth. And you can watch it play out all around you.
One of the reasons I believe the human story is some sort of an art piece, being watched by someone (or something), somewhere, is because of its delicious paradoxes and contradictions. The tower of Babel tale is a recurring theme: man believes he can become God. Man builds structure to prove he can become God. While he’s building something grandiose, man forgets how to speak to his neighbor in the process.
Man then has to disburse and start all over …because man has a tragic flaw.
No one believed a rag-tag group of colonists could form their own country in the face of the greatest empire the world had ever seen …but then the United States was born. All the experts believed the American Civil War would be over in an afternoon. After all, Americans just didn’t have the stomach for bloodshed …then it lasted four more years and claimed 600 thousand lives. No one believed the Titanic could sink …then Leo DiCaprio proved them wrong.
In the macro AND the micro, we see conventional wisdom defied all the time. The underdog wins the championship. The short guy gets the super model. The kid from the bad side of town becomes a millionaire. Madonna wins a Grammy. It’s all around us.
We are currently witnessing a complete meltdown from people who still cannot believe Donald Trump became president. I was asked the night of the election if I thought he even had a snowball’s chance at winning. I said I thought he not only had a chance but was going to win handily. It isn’t because I’m all that smart of a person …it’s because I read history. And when I saw him using Twitter more effectively then everyone else and going places the other candidates weren’t going and dominating the news cycle (for better or worse) I thought to myself, “this looks like history in the making. I’ve seen this before. He’s the guy no one sees coming.”
At some point the hand wringers are going to have to accept some facts and get on with their lives. The recounts and constant arguments about doing away with the electoral college are getting tiresome. The guy and the thing nobody saw coming …happened. It always does.
If history holds true to form, the people in the Trump administration will become accustomed to their new governmental roles. The sheer momentum of Mr Trump’s agenda, and the movements and shifts of the country, will probably yield some positive results …for a while. Then there will be set backs. There always are. Then there will be challenges and challenGERS. There always are. And if those in power get too comfortable there, someone from nowhere will rise up and completely overtake everything no one believed could even be touched.
This is how the earth moves.
I’ve lived cautionary tales. I’ve been the one no one believed in …who went on to surprise everyone. I’ve also been the one no one believed could fail …who failed epically.
The lesson for me is to realize you are never there. Comfort only exists in the happiness you cultivate around you. The more faith you put in outside forces, such as government and institutions, the more you are going to be let down.
And I NEVER get on a ship they say cannot sink. I NEVER get in an airplane they say cannot crash. I never bet money on a team they say cannot lose. I NEVER trust anyone they say is above reproach. And I NEVER …say never. (see what I did there)
I’m paranoid because I read history. And history tells me …anything can happen.