Sunday, October 05, 2003

Okay, so look, listen, whatever, look, here's the problem, right? History can't be accurate, ever. Period. 'Cause, look, right, you've got what happened, and you've got why, maybe, but the why is predicated on looking at what you think happened, and then searching out a cause. From that perspective, history is just chasing your ass around corners. So, yeah, like an accurate history would have to involve knowing what the fuck was going while it was going on, really, like you'd have to have a reporter strapped down with camcorder, voicecorder, notebooks, pens, satellite uplinks, laptop with uplink modem for previous, etc. for EVERY person on the fucking planet doing anything, which, of course, includes pretty much everyone. So, yeah, you'd need to double the population of the planet just to keep accurate tabs on it.

'Cause, listen, look, you can't know what's going on after the fact. You can't. You can maybe know 70% of what happened, and maybe you can convince yourself that that's enough, but it's not ever, really, gonna be enough. Ever. Doesn't work like that. Like, seriously, what were the last couple hours in Hitler's bunker like? For real. We figure we know, stories about cyanide pills and pistols up against the soft palette, but, really, it's just supposition. And, honestly, if you're a sociopath that most of the world is looking for, being dead is awfully convenient, wouldn't you say?

So, yeah, we can't know what's happened, and so it follows that we don't know what's happening now, which automatically implies that we'll never be able to know what's going to happen next. So, yeah, we're fucked. Seriously fucked. We can't see what we've done, don't know what we're doing right now and we'll never have the faintest fucking idea of what we're going to do, right?

Okay, so, as flawed as our record-keeping process is, we just keep on doing it 'cause we've got shitty memories and we know that we'll lose track of things if we don't. And the Web is kinda funny 'cause it's just that thought taken to an extreme. Really, take away the flash games and the porn (which, yes, is a goodly damned chunk of the web I admit), and mostly what you've got is a giant information dump in the form of archived reports, blogs, photos, news stories, press releases, webjournals, critiques, reviews, etc, etc. Endless shit.

The problem is, and I think this has become more and more apparent over the last decade or so, that no (or almost no) news sources (or bloggers or reviewers or whatever) are unbiased, nor are their viewers (readers, whatever), so even if the facts of a particular matter are straight, their interpretation will be twisted in a thousand different ways, the causes will be in dispute, the outcomes will be argued over, figures involved will be afforded differing signifigance in the reportage, again based on personal bias in the mind of the reporter(s). But regardless of the inherent flaws, it's really all we've got.

And somewhere in this, from this, we're supposed to glean some information about the world around us. Specific information about things that are happening. Events, as we like to call 'em. But we already know the context, right? We know that green means go and you don't eat the garnish and it's not polite to pinch gramma's ass in public. Imagine, if you will, trying to figure out reportage of the world without that context as a backdrop. I refer to Seattle for this one, 'cause it's one of those things that you're just supposed to know. Parking signs. Nearly all of 'em read something like "No Parking East of Here". Or West of here. Or wherever of here. Which isn't a big deal to figure out once you've lived here a little while (there's water in the middle of town, so as long as you know where that is, you've got a pretty good idea as to which way is which), but until then it's just one of those things you look at and drool.

You get it, right? It's late and I'm kinda tired, so bear with me. This is important. Essentially, there is no history. Really. The documents and accounts are so flawed as to be practically insignificant and the interpretation of them is so riddled with personal likes and dislikes as to make all but the most intrinsic data (and I'm talking like the sun is bright, ice is cold, beef is dead cow, like that) is suspicious. And, most importantly, we, you and me and whoever else is reading this, don't know the context of these things. We don't know the life of a seventeenth-century bootblack or a fifth-century priest or a third-century prostitute. We can be told the basics (name, sometimes, some family, perhaps location, sometimes manner of death), but we don't know the smells and tastes and feels of those worlds. We don't know what made people happy or what made them sad (and dude, if you even THINK about arguing that one, try to picture future historians puzzling over Pokemon games or botox price charts), we don't know why the politics of the day could matter so passionately to them, we don't why they worked so hard to live lives that ended hundreds of years ago. That's all the past; how the hell could it matter?

None of this is really new news, but I was working on the travelling spaceman/oral history thing tonight and it struck me kinda hard. That we're all working so hard to do stuff that nobody'll ever be able to figure out for real. Seriously, try to picture your life as viewed by some archeologist a couple centuries from now.

Really, it's pretty goddamned funny.

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