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ALARMS AND DIVERSIONS FOR THE THINKING PERSON

Forum File

Saturday, July 6, 2013 - 12:01 am

The reading list

“Are we living through the end of history? Not in the Hegelian sense that Francis Fukuyama used the phrase in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, meaning that with the triumph of liberal democracy, world history had reached its ultimate goal. As subsequent events have shown, this was a case of wishful thinking by a political scientist, not a historian.

“No, I mean the end of history as the central pillar of high culture and national identity. History in this sense is not the same as historiography or historical scholarship, of which there is more than ever before. Nor is it the same as the popularization of history, history as pure entertainment, which is also flourishing. What has become problematic is the assumption that general historical knowledge, an informed consciousness of our past, is the essential framework for Western civilization. It is the decline of history in this sense that lies behind the heated debates about the teaching of history at school and university. The loss of such a temporal dimension has brought about a profound change in the outlook of the West: a loss of organic connection, not only with those who came before us, but with our place in the world. Clive James memorably described this phenomenon as 'cultural amnesia,' and Eric Voegelin adopted the theological concept of 'anamnesis' to describe our attempts to preserve transcendent memories. Yet such remembrances of time past are at best rearguard actions.”

– From “Decline and Fall of the History Men” at standpointmag.co.uk

A quiz

Why did many American women begin smoking in the 1920s?

Wisdom of the ages

We are so vain that we even care for the opinion of those we don't care for.” – Marie Ebner von Eschenbach

Current wisdom

“Nelson Mandela showed us that one man's courage can move the world.” – President Obama, in a speech at the University of Cape Town after a solemn visit to the Robben Island prison where Mandela was confined for 18 of his 27 years in captivity

Quiz answer

It was pushed by advertisers as a symbol of equality, rebellion and women's independence.

Snob words

mickle (MIK-uhl). adj., an archaic but fun word meaning great, large or much, as in: “The politician spewed mickle blather.”

Today in history

On this date in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was announced on Page 1 of the Pennsyvlvania Evening Gazette; now that was front-page news.

Now you know

The average life expectancy ranges throughout the world from a high of 84.36 years in Macau to just 31.88 years in the African nation of Swaziland.