Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Temporal Cold War

In George Orwell's classic novel, 1984, Inner Party member O'Brien tried to teach Winston Smith that the struggle to control history is over. It is what the Party says it is. Today the Daily Telegraph reminds us that this dictum is truer than ever.

Parts of British history need to be rewritten to emphasise the roles played by other races and religions like Muslims, a prominent race relations campaigner has said. Trevor Philips, the chairman of the new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, said the history of Britain did not properly reflect the contribution of other cultures. ...

Mr Phillips said: "When we talk about the Armada, it was the Turks who saved us because they held up the Armada after a request from Elizabeth I. Let’s rewrite that, so we have an ideal that brings us together so that it can bind us together in stormy times ahead in the next century."

The past, present and future are all one place. In the inimitable words of George Orwell, "he who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future." And wouldn't you know, the screenwriters of Star Trek agree.

The Temporal Cold War is a fictional conflict waged throughout history in the Star Trek universe, notably during the 22nd century AD ... it is a struggle between those who would alter history to suit their own ends (the Cabal) and those who would preserve the integrity of the original timeline.

Unlike Earth's historical Cold War, the Temporal Cold War involves countless unknown factions, each with its own agenda. Humanity in the 31st Century is attempting to ascertain the identity of their adversaries and to thwart their efforts. ... Although the scope of the war was unprecedented, most of its casualties were unaware that they were involved in an organized conflict; hence the term "Cold War". Timelines were changed frequently, with history being rewritten or significant events being erased. Eventually the struggle broke out into full-scale war.

O'Brien noted that the only thing ever worth conquering was the human soul. Mastery over the tides, the planets and the winds were forever beyond the man's power. No one should bother to try. But to rule over the mind of man, to make up into down and left into right, to put a boot into the human face -- forever -- ah! how sweet that was.


Blogger Kinuachdrach said...

How did it happen that Francis Drake has to yield pride of position to some putative Muslims on the far side of his world?

If some revolutionary had come up with a multi-decade plan to seize control of the educational system and make silliness like this credible, even other revolutionaries would have shaken their heads in disbelief. But the educational system has been successfully co-opted, without even much of a struggle.

This may point to a huge weakness in the concept of democracy in an age where government (i.e., a group of human beings) controls so much -- democratically-elected representatives are almost by definition NOT representative.

Normal people don't want to hold elective positions; those who do naturally tend to the viewpoint that government (i.e. their personal power) should grow. And if dumbing down the educational system helps, go for it!

There is probably no solution to this problem short of civil war. And it is almost certain that the victors in the next civil war will not have the judgement & perspicacity of the US Founding Fathers. Perhaps this Golden Age is doomed to head into the sunset.

9/25/2007 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

A battle for temporal control is precisely what is going on now -- countless factions contesting for a piece of the narrative, trying to define the future according to the model they hold in their minds. There's no need for these futures to send back soldiers to our time. They are already here. We can only hope that there are enough contentious factions, closely matched, that they will cancel each other out and allow the natural future of our people to evolve. IMO, this multiplicity of power points has been the secret of success for the USA. No one gets the upper hand. Economically, it is the success of capitalism.

9/25/2007 08:07:00 PM  
Blogger Alexis said...

Just as there is conflict over what the history books say, there is conflict over what constitutes manners. According to our enemies, it is rude for a host to make a hostile introduction, yet torturing diplomats is completely acceptable, even worthy of celebration. One wonders if the principal booty of modern warfare is the opportunity to write the etiquette manuals for future generations.

Apparently, the Iranian government is fuming over President Bollinger’s remarks.

It would be altogether ironic if the Iranian government starts a new war because it is so upset with President Bollinger’s comments.

It is also highly ironic that the Iranian government complains about President Bollinger’s hospitality, considering how the Iranian government is known to treat its guests. The Iranian government is known far and wide for setting new benchmarks for graciousness and hospitality through how it treated American diplomats for 444 days. Nothing done by anybody from Columbia University has sunk to the level of hospitality shown by the Iranian government in 1979, particularly a certain student protestor named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Would Mr. Ahmadinejad have preferred to have been extended the hospitality he showed to American diplomats?

Apparently, Iranian officials exempt themselves from the civilized behavior they expect from everybody else.

9/25/2007 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger Buddy Larsen said...

I wish i could find the quote --it was Gary Kasparov, chess master and Russian dissident, saying something like, 'in the natural world, the past is fixed and the future mutable, but in the USSR the future is fixed, and the past mutable'.

Something like that, tho better said.

9/25/2007 10:28:00 PM  
Blogger Kirk said...


I remember a quote along the lines of, "Only the future is certain--the past keeps changing", but I have no idea who to attribute it to.

9/25/2007 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger davod said...

Trevor Philips is a bit late. The Brits have been revising their history books or some time.

I would suggest acedmia in the US has been contributing to the slanting of history for some time as well.

9/26/2007 02:25:00 AM  
Blogger John B said...

"Parts of British history need to be rewritten to emphasise the roles played by other races and religions like Muslims"

I wonder if the sacking of Baltimore with the defenseless villagers being sold into slavery in Algiers will be part of this new history? Didn't think so.

"Not content with attacking ships and sailors, the corsairs also sometimes raided coastal settlements, generally running their craft onto unguarded beaches, and creeping up on villages in the dark to snatch their victims and retreat before the alarm could be sounded. Almost all the inhabitants of the village of Baltimore, in Ireland, were taken in this way in 1631, and other attacks were launched against coastal villages in Devon and Cornwall."

"for the 250 years between 1530 and 1780, the figure could easily have been as high as 1,250,000 - this is only just over a tenth of the Africans taken as slaves to the Americas from 1500 to 1800, but a considerable figure nevertheless."



9/26/2007 07:59:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I have no problem with mentioning parts played by Muslims in history... as long as they include the massacres by invading Muslims in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks in 1915, and so on. Crediting Muslims with the defeat of the Spanish Armada is just plain stupid, though.

9/26/2007 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Das said...

Retrofitting square history to fit the round peg of multiculturalism.

How are they going to make the many Turkish raids on the Greek Isles into feel good history? Not much feel good multiculturalism there.

A good friend of mine is Romanian. He was showing me a book that featured aspects of Romanian rural life going back centuries (many of these aspects lasting up to and including his childhood 40 years ago); I noticed that peasant kitchen utensils were often made of light carved wood. He said that for centuries the Turks came down and raided Romanian villages looking for slaves, catamites and fresh Janissarys (troops made up of young Christian and other foreign captives); you had to travel light or leave it behind when you headed for the Carpathian mountains.

My friend also remarked that while Europe was going through its heroic & great ages of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment the Balkans were heavily taking it in the A-- from the Muslim Turks. A slight note of resentment there, but none the less true...

9/26/2007 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger jane said...

The West should undercut the fundy Muslim world and Islamism by teaching One thousand and One (Arabian) Nights-- exotic, erotic, and not jihadist Allah-centric.

9/26/2007 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

Our own history has so many slender turning points, events that could have shifted either way that playing the contingent history concept is disturbing as well as enlightening. Fukiyama put forward an 'end of history', while not seeing that there is no inevitable end to it. That future, however, is fleeting through this knife-edge present to become, suddenly, history. Political forces that utilize the morphing of history soon find, themselves, to have *none* also. There comes a time, and not that far down the road, when even those in power do not understand themselves or those they have come to rule over, and the only goal of continuity of power then becomes upset by *any* new discovery.

That sort of future was written about by Larry Niven, and the ARM which has a special section to seek out and sequester new technology before it disrupts all of society. Even space access does not change that, although it starts to loosen things up as those that go beyond the reach of Earth are beyond the reach of the State. The ARM re-writes history deeply, removing wars, conflict, ethnic struggles and puts forward a bland, homogenous past before then... and that keeps things stable right up to the point humanity confronts its first interstellar race. It is armed to the teeth. And a revolution in human culture must take place for sheer survival, lest we get put on the dinner plate in a real way.

That bland, moribund future, where even those in power are afraid to open the ancient, centuries old history books to learn the true past of mankind, is one where there are still humans but they have lost the sense of being aware of just how deadly the universe is. By containing the human spirit, it is an attempt to get rid of the blood of warfare and conflict and nearly sacrifices the species to the first species that just doesn't see it that way.

The Soviets airbrushed individuals from the record, destroyed newspapers, imprisoned those that dare speak out, and they wound up not creating a vibrant culture, but impoverishing everyone and seeing decay around them. They could not airbursh the Poles, however, and they just saw the Soviets as yet another Empire that would die on Poland and they would see their country free, again. Communism could only be contained by the West and not all that well... but it could only be brought down from the inside, by workers in Poland decrying their state of being as no paradise. Their strength in their religion let them do that, and their knowledge as a people, that they were free, and needed to survive this regime as the people had many others.

It is that very stagnation of sameness that leaves such regimes open to small changes that suddenly spread and take them down. With China and Japan that had to come from the outside, an intrusion of something other, and even with that China still exists in power structure only slightly changed from 300 years ago or more. And yet that history has seen immense bloodshed and repression and brute force means to gain control... only to have it slip again in a few generations.

Ramasses II rewrote the battle with the Hittites, carved in an accounting of it that only has proven false with the discovery of the Hittite diplomatic archives and their carvings of their struggle with Ramasses II. While we remember Ramasses II to this day, for the great works under him, his Empire is dust today. Across Meso-America one can wander amongst the ruins of multiple cultures that put forth their written views of the world, carved in stone, and once decyphered it has proven to be: political propoganda. And their glory and power for being able to control the present of their time is also gone.

Apparently those that control the present can control the past... but when you deny yourself the richness of your past, your future becomes limited. Controlling history is not a recipe for everlasting glory and control, it is one for failure. Best that those seeking a homogenous world and control by such means remember those that have done so before them.

Deny the blood and you inherit the dust.

9/26/2007 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

History, they say, is written by the victors. Except for modern history, which is written by the media with all the snapshots, sound bites, so called expert analysis, and two minute pundit riffs trying to tell the story before the next commercial break or within the 1.5" x 6" column they were allocated in the news paper.

In this war, history is still being written by the media. They create a narrative that equates to the knowledge of the masses and trickles down to the polls. Yet, somewhere amongst the narrative is the true story of the war, written in "0" and "1" bytes on the world wide web. It was hidden except to the few who knew that the narrative on the air waves did not match the whispers of communications from the front.

9/26/2007 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Piss off a liberal, learn history. I'm an amateur living historian and interpreter of the material and social culture of mid-19th Century America, and I can tell you from personal experience that deviance from the politically correct orthodox Accepted Narrative is bitterly resented.

But when you have first-hand contemporary sources, all they can to is foam at the mouth.

9/26/2007 01:19:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

A Jacksonian,

That is the refutation to Orwell. A manufactured past, a manufactured reality cripples a society's ability to cope with change. Cultures which create a fantasy world view are caught at unawares by reality, which exists whatever they pretend. Tolkien's Sam, in literary dialogue with Orwell's O'brien, had the same riposte:

"Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

9/26/2007 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

As we see, history is written by the winner of the last war. Unless the winner can't write.

Magnificent stone fortresses surround astronomically precise pyramids poised on ocean-side peaks by the Pacific in Central America. The winners left nothing to tell us who they were, but they managed to prevent us from reading the writing on the pyramid stones.

Erasure of history has accelerated, along with everything else. Half the people in America believe ahistorical myths from just 7 years ago. That long ago decade's history fades under new facts:
- Al Qaeda had nothing to do with Iraq (Al Shifa bombing, NY indictment, innumerable policy statements to the contrary)
- There were no WMD's in Iraq (10K air missions per year thru the '90's, multiple UN resolutions, Operation Desert Fox used more Cruise missiles than Desert Storm to the contrary)

It's weird talking to people who remember a different history than you do, from just the last decade.

Willful ignorance - perhaps the ultimate solvent that washes away history.

9/26/2007 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Much of Star Trek takes place from +-2250. If you go back in American History--that's the period of the French and Indian wars when the empires of Engand and France contested out on the boundaries of the known world in places like upstate new york & western pennsylvania.

For some reason this is significant to me. Like maybe the Earth will be able to control things in space for about 250 years before things fall apart.

That is we are roughly 500 years from columbus. The american indepence of 1776 neatly divides that period in two.

Current thinking holds that we will be 500 years filling up the solar system before the technology gets good enough to go to the stars.

Things might go faster than that.

Hard to say.

9/26/2007 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Mətušélaḥ said...

A temporal shift of time and space has indeed occurred. You’re no longer who you are and where you are supposed to be.

Welcome to the alternative reality of The Twilight Zone. Better known to its long time residents as Dar al-Islam.

9/27/2007 09:29:00 AM  

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