A Trivial Comedy for serious people archives

The peasants are revolting

You have to enter the House of Poetry in the flesh, the battered and flawed flesh.

I was trying to find some purpose for what I was doing here last night, as I stretched on my friend's bed and played with my stomach (all those stretch marks, all those flaws). I could tell that my face showed that my heart was breaking. I kept looking to my friend for reassurance and got none. There's no real purpose, no more than a carrot has purpose. "Why do you study history?" Is that I enjoy it enough?

I was furious in my class. I probably behaved poorly, inasmuch as I did behave - I stared sullenly at the ground, I spoke passionately about how wrong I thought people were. I am so tired of hearing the thoughtless excuse for history - that we study it so that "we won't repeat ourselves."

I was very uncompromising on this point, and I took tremendously serious offence with it. I think it neglects everything about history that I love - the subtlety and difference between events, the specific things that lead up to events. I'm tired of hearing every genocide, because many thousands or millions of people were murdered, equated directly with each other. They are different things, with different causes and different after effects.

And I guess, yes yes yes, if you are in government you had better understand History to the best of your ability. You should proceed with caution, though, when people make such elaborate comparisons between contemporary welfare policy and the supposed fall of the Roman Empire.

Historians are putting forth an agenda. They are putting forth some idea about humans, but they have to be about real humans. It's the combination of the theory and the concrete that I've really enjoyed.

I am not crazy when I say that I don't mind the yoke of history. History demands both creativity and incredible dependence on evidence. I enjoy the restrictions on absolute creativity. Reining myself in is one of the most perversely pleasurable things I have ever done to myself, in all things. Exercising restraint is so difficult but it pleases me. Through submission I find freedom.

They think I shouldn't feel like I owe anything to the past. But I do! I feel very responsible towards the past. I know they're dead, I know they aren't around to hear any of us, but I don't care. I feel responsible towards the small lives that have washed away. I don't just mean the forgotten composers and scientists - some (usually popular) historians seem to love to vindicate historical figures - but I just want to be true to these people. As true as I would want to be if they were sitting here beside me.

2002-12-11, These peasants are revolting

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