Have you ever pondered on how historical events seem to unfold through unfortunate circumstance, chance reputation and right person-in the right moment-at the right time? Connecting the dots can be fun, aggravating, mind-bending and scary. Here are just some of the things that clouded my brain recently:
One of the most famous ancient findings establishing laws in Babylonia, is Hammurabi’s Code (18th century BC), famous for its barbaric punishments (this is where an eye for an eye was born) and its invaluable contributions in legal precedents like establishment of minimum wage and being innocent until proven guilty. Alas, it’s not all good; to start with, the whole thing was engraved on a phallus looking column (according to some). It has been referred to as one of the places where patriarchy was incepted and spread, describing women as objects or property, amounting to less than men and having less rights.
Now, most of this comes from Jennly Slate’s Little Weirds, hardly a historical resource, but according to her understanding and documentary watching (not verified) this ancient world leader abruptly decided to establish a set of laws, some them good, others bad, that also demeaned womens’ value; they were not equals to all human beings. Slate describes it as a chance circumstance that has unfolded and maintained over the centuries; the opinion of one man conquering the mindsets of billions over the eons. In reality, Hammurabi was not the first misogynist; perhaps he was just reflecting on society stereotypes at the time. Civilisations before his time had been patriarchical and gender discrimination would’ve materialised in his absence too. So what if Slate’s version isn’t true and it wasn’t just the one priviledged male; in any case, it was several. Little fires spreading through time and space, shaping societies and minds.
On to another paradigm, Darwin and Hitler. The 19th century saw rise to evolutionary theories based on a few finches and other animalia of the Galapagos, connecting apes to humans and humans to superior humans. Natural selection enabled the smartest and most competen individuals to conquer their peers and competitors and spread their own germs (genes) through a community. An observations-based theory on the human species, to some has been a gospel, to others a heresy, and to others like Hitler, a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere. Is it a coincidence that shortly after Darwin published his musings on genetics, an alt right supremacist turned to eugenetics, believing one race to be superior above all others? Was it unjust in his mind to ensure the continuation of a superior species rather than an inferior one?
What most of the world has accepted as an evolutionary tale at the genetic level, Hitler transposed to a racial fight lead by the one visionary able to grasp this struggle: himself. Only he wasn’t the sole perpetrator; others before and after his reign have and will continue to act in similar – if not as bold – ways, stepping onto the basis of science to validate unscientific, unethical and unjust actions.
Which takes us to a more recent example; one of an inordinate amount of american late night tv shows, of unprecedented interest in keeping up with news cycles that did not affect us Mediterraneans, and of wishful thinking: the Trump administration. Oh. My. God. No audience has ever, in the history of humanity and televised presidencies, been exposed to a higher number of blatant lies by a head of state. It was just extraordinary. Every day you would tune in and some other scandal would emerge, but every single time, this guy would get off with no visible scratches. It was a time of paranoia among his cult-like group of supporters, teemed with irrationality and obscenity. How much of a happy accident is it that Trump came in power in January 2017 and by June of that year the first major MeToo waves started? After all, Harvey Weinsteins of the world had been into their rapey activities for decades by that point (who can forget Cosby?), but this case was the one.
The one to get the ball rolling, the avalanche starting, the jenga bricks falling. And it wasn’t confined to gender discrimination; the presence of a single over-priviledged, delusional, over-confident and worst of all, unreachable old white male in the oval face, prompted explosions of protests against all kinds of social injustices, from sexual harassment to Black lives matter. One single idiot in a most priviledged position created a chain of events leading to a Swedish ASD 16-year old to a UN climate summit and a Nobel peace prize nomination. “How dare you?” she yelled at them, and they almost heard her; at least someone in Hollywood did and actually recreated those days in an alternate universe.
For sure, some of those old lads were traumatized, but nothing significant has changed yet. And some people started reflecting on their behaviour and whether it actually falls into the sexual harassment regime. And, hopefully, entire nations have started acting and voting with a higher level of consciousness about their present decisions affecting their futures. However, the true effects of what has occurred in the past decade remain to be seen; this is where the wishful thinking comes in. We connect dots and interpret chance circumstance as it really is – no accident at all – in retrospect. And so we must wait for events to unfold and hope for the best; that a very negative global experience will eventually lead to something wonderful. A more just, clean world, with teenagers enjoying their high school years and our futures in trusting, wise hands.
Disclaimer: this could be all conjecture, factually wrong and/or fictitious.
It’s not over ’till the fat lady sings!