Reading history is sobering stuff. Religion, nationalism, ethnocentrism – all of these contributed greatly to wars. But this also provides a lot of perspective on modern behavior. Here we are ensconced in yet another war. It is regrettably our nature to thrive on conflict; we’ve done so for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years.
My husband and I had a wonderful conversation on the topic of using history to provide context for modern ills. And he wondered out loud, what would the world be like without these institutions that create and perpetuate conflict? Certainly, the world would be a much different place. What we do in this world is often criminal. We have the intelligence to exploit it, but lack the wisdom to utilize it.
But even at the individual level, we have many alternatives and we choose to act on our baser or finer feelings in a seemingly random manner. One moment we are doing good deeds, and the next we are being wilfully deceitful. People are complex; we are amalgams of good and evil, in varying proportions. This is not a chemistry lab where there are fixed measures for concocting compounds.
So you see, it all comes back to Spiderman. With great power comes great responsibility.
Perhaps this should be the title for my next history paper.