The Past Didn't Go Anywhere


        "The past is never dead. It's not even past." -- William Faulkner

This week the world learned that the Cold War didn't really 'end', per se, and that the Neolithic revolution isn't quite complete.

Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, has been issuing increasingly bellicose statements designed to bolster his country's influence in the region and on the geopolitical stage. Offering ideological throwbacks to the days of the Soviet Union, both by his domestic policies and things like his latest promise to aim much of his apocalyptic nuclear arsenal at targets in western Europe if Bush proceeds with his strategic missile defense shield.

And from the far reaches of the Amazon rain forest, we get news of a nomadic band of foragers who were not previously in contact with any representative of the 'outside world' (i.e., our global civilization).

Even without juxtaposition, these two bits of news seem to overwhelm our comprehension of history as something that progresses in a linear fashion. And when considered side-by-side they starkly reveal the vastness of human cultural experience (and thus, the vastness of human cultural possibilities) that are available to us.

To me it seems almost tautological to say that the past is inevitably with us, as a part of the present. Just as it would be to say that the future will also contain elements of what we know now.

U.S. hegemony is waning, after several years of bungled attempts at creating a 'new American century', and a return to a multi-polar geopolitical power balance is undoubtedly in our near future. And to go from a multi-polar geopolitics to a unipolar geopolitics and then back to multi seems to represent a significant turning point in the level of complexity of our global civilization, a sort of Hubbert's Peak of geopolitical complexity.

So, the world hasn't heard the last of naked savages or saber-rattling Ruskies... it's all coming back around again. We hear often that 'you can't turn back the clock', that progress is inevitable, that history is linear... but the past is still here, for us 'return to' for reference, for strength, for understanding. To make of it what we will. Life is full of second chances. Will it be that those who understand history are condemned to watch others repeat it? Or can we learn from our previous mistakes? Will our decline be a graceful one... or will it be even more violent and tragic than our scramble to the summit from which we now descend?


 
sources:

Cold War Unicorns

Backdrop to G-8 summit: Russia-West tensions

What's Up With Putin?

Putin Threatens to Target Europe

Uncontacted Indian Tribe Found In Brazil's Amazon