Why I don’t care for the past

It’s common for people to consider the world to be getting worse and to long back for a past golden era in human history. I have been very susceptible to this mentality myself throughout much of my life. The thing I wish to explain today is why I no longer subscribe to this mentality. I’m proud to consider myself a child of the revolution. We have eradicated social institutions that should not be rebuilt and deserve no sympathy or nostalgia of any kind.

To start with, let me explain why I do not miss the monarchies of yesteryear. It’s popular in conservative and nationalist circles to long for the reinstatement of various overthrown monarchies. I myself, have no desire to see the monarchs return to their thrones. Royalty, are the most cruel, vicious and reprehensible specimens of humanity you can encounter. The most fitting place for a monarch is beneath the ground, where they cannot disturb us, so long as we make sure to eliminate the traces of their memory.

European monarchies tend to be easier to romanticize than Eastern monarchies. Consider that in China, a monarch would have a harem and a series of eunuchs to serve as his slaves. The last Chinese emperor, Puyi had his eunuchs wear their genitals in jars of brine around their necks. He would force them to kneel down and eat dirt from the floor, insisting that as the “Lord of Ten Thousand Years”, he was free to order anyone to do what he wanted. He also enjoyed having them flogged. A history like this is generally overlooked by ivory tower pseudo-intellectuals who long back for some sort of arbitrary hereditary order they know from little other than idyllic paintings and anecdotes.

Nonetheless, the tragedies imposed by European royalty are just as horrifying. Consider the most vicious of royalty, King Leopold II of Belgium. King Leopold administered Congo as his own private property, the Congo Free State, for 23 years. His private army was used to enforce rubber quotas on the local population. People who failed to meet the quota would have their hands cut off and be left to die. Entire villages were eradicated in this manner, it’s estimated that millions of people died while Congo was administered as King Leopold’s private enterprise.

King Leopold II is hardly the only genocidal monarch we have had however. In 1725, King Frederick William I of Prussia ordered that all gypsies above the age of 18, men as well as women, should be hanged without trial. This is a state ordered genocide, enacted by a monarch. In 1710, Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor, ordered that all gypsy men should be hanged without trial, while the women and children should be flogged and banished forever. In 1721, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI proclaimed the women should be hanged without trial too. In 1774, Maria Theresa of Austria proclaimed gypsies should be forbidden from marrying other gypsies, while the children over the age of five should be taken away from their parents and brought up in non-Romani families.

Mutilations were widespread, in places where gypsies were not murdered they had their ears cut off, to make them identifiable as gypsies should they return after being banished. In other places, the gypsies were hunted as animals, a practice that started in the 16th century. For example, a great gypsy hunt covering four districts of Jutland took place on November 11, 1835. In this hunt, 260 men women and children were killed. Important to note here is that these hunts were effectively the equivalent of how aristocrats traditionally hunt animals. An aristocrat might make a list of animals he killed during a hunt and mention casually in passing that he shot a gypsy woman and her infant too.

To eradicate gypsies and other nomadic people from the Netherlands, hunts were organized too. These were called “heidenjachten”. This is how gypsies in the Netherlands were eradicated, but nobody in the Netherlands today seems to be aware of the fact that this occurred. As an example, on march 16 1709, Gelder en Overijssel, two Dutch provinces, agreed that “heathens” could be hunted down by forces of either province on territory of the other province. During three hunts, fifty gypsies were caught. Twelve of the women were branded, ten men were tortured before being murdered. The decapitated heads of gypsies were placed on poles. The last known hunt was in 1728, after that time, the gypsies had been eradicated from the Netherlands.

Unfortunately, this type of behavior seems to be a universal rule in history. Those who are outsiders, can be violently eradicated. Consider how in the mid 19th century, Californian villages created financial rewards for people who would kill and decapitate Indians. Pioneers would go out on horses and return with the heads of various Indians they slaughtered hanging from their horse, to collect their reward. Many massacres were organized, while the women and children of the Native Indians were generally used as sex slaves. As an example, the two pioneers Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone had enslaved a group of Pomo and used their daughters as sex slaves. When Kelsey and Stone were eventually killed by the Pomo, the American army went out to hunt down the Pomo and eradicate them.

But what then, of the aesthetics of the past? What about the glorious architecture and music of the Baroque period? None of this appeals to me either. I’m not ashamed to say I generally don’t consider classical music interesting to listen to. If you’re a smart sophisticated person, you’re supposed to listen to Handel or Mozart’s compositions. I have no desire to listen to such music. Am I supposed to ignore the fact that Handel and Mozart wrote operas to be sung by eunuchs? The Catholic church was opposed to the idea of having women sing on stage, so ten year old boys with good voices were castrated to ensure their voices would remain high-pitched. What appeal could music have to me that was designed to be sung by people who were irreversibly mutilated as children? Would you listen to music that was composed to be sung by Mengele’s twins? With what authority can a Pope speak, if his fear of women leads to an epidemic of child mutilation, to fill his Sistine chapel with the voices of disfigured men?

When it comes to this history, I feel somewhat more understanding these days towards those who feel resentment and anger over what was done to them for generations. It’s not possible to understand the impact of a trauma if you have not experienced it yourself. I feel no desire however, to harbor any sort of tolerance towards ideologies that date back to the past and seek to perpetuate the endless cruelty and power struggles that characterize most of human history. As an example, some are drawn to Islam because of slavery, while entirely disregarding the Arab slave trade.

I similarly, feel no desire to maintain the European ceremonial monarchies, let alone the Arab monarchies. Does a monarchy deliver us increased tourism revenue? Yes, but what use is that to me, compared to the reality of a world in which children learn that we fondly cherish the memory of having one man rule over other men, endowed with such a privilege by birth? How can it be a mistake, to eradicate institutions and traditions that merely serve to illustrate one man’s power over another? The past that I encounter in our collective memory, is only one that I could wish to make a clean break with. I struggle to come to grips with the reality that it could once exist, I fathom to imagine one could wish to pass the memory itself onto the future. The tyrants are only truly dead when they do not even remain as a memory in the minds of those they terrorized. Why do we cling onto the memories?

In a similar manner, we are supposed to believe the environmental crisis of our time, is caused by modernity. The reality is however, that the environmental crisis is a consequence of the remnants of our past. Christian Europe had no desire to protect the environment we lived in. Forest coverage in Europe reached a bottom in the middle of the 19th century, after which a reevaluation of values led us to set up efforts to restore our environment. Most European nations had programs aimed at eradicating wolves from the country. The wolf didn’t go extinct due to unforeseen circumstances, the wolf died out because the animal was actively hunted down. I can walk around today, in an environment with more forests than a medieval prince would encounter in his lifetime. The reason the world we live in is dying, is because it is filled with seven billion people. It is filled with seven billion people, because we have been taught for generations that we have a religious obligation to fill the Earth with more people, even though we are unable to deliver these children the chance to live a life worth living.

I do not look towards the past any longer. I look instead, towards the future. The future is daunting, it is filled with challenges. Those challenges however, can only be addressed if we have the courage to look towards the future, free from the shackles and dictates of the past. How would our future look if we had understood as early as the year 1900 that a woman has no obligation towards God to complete a pregnancy? The challenge ahead of us would have been easier, but we can not allow those who sought to hold onto our shackles to take delight in the failure they set us up for. When the master looks at the slave wandering off towards the horizon, the master hopes the slave will succumb to a fate worse than slavery.

We now live in an era where man crafts his own destiny, free from the constraints of culture, religion or hereditary servitude. We are even overcoming the constraints imposed upon us by biology. Mental disorders can be addressed through modern medical knowledge, to deliver productive and fulfilling lives to those who would otherwise be incapable of participating in society. In every place where we look, we see that shackles are being broken.

Consider, why are millions of young people around the world leaving the countryside to live instead in slums in the city? To us the slums look horrifying, but they know better. Upon entering the city, people are faced with an abundance of liberty and choices. Hereditary privileges and obligations fade away and people become able to create innovations. These innovations allow them to improve their quality of life and give meaning to their existence.

None of this is new however. The renaissance era had cities founded by pirates in Madagascar and the Caribbean, who crafted new languages and forms of government for themselves. The pirates went out and specifically targeted slave ships, to free the slaves and have them join their crew. These were people living on the margins of society, constantly faced with the threat of death, as the established empires sought to get rid of them. Today however, their revolution has succeeded. I see no reason to identify myself with the colonial empires from which our nations descend.

The era we live in is said to be individualist, but individualism is merely a pejorative for a society in which every individual is free to live out their lives to their full potential, freed from constraints imposed upon them by culture, society or tradition. And those in turn, who do not feel comfortable carving out a destiny for themselves in life, are free to join others on a voluntary basis, with whom they feel a strong sense of affinity. Cultures and nations dissolve in our era, but what replaces them is a diversity of voluntary forms of association. The era I live in is one where your country of birth says less about your identity than the Decentralized Autonomous Organizations you have invested your money in do. I will have citizenship in nations whose governments exist entirely on the Internet. If you are not chained by attitudes and notions inherited from the past, the future ahead of you is glorious.

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