You Say Revisionist, I Say Post-Revisionist

There are three historiographical views which can be taken on a historical event. The orthodox view is characterized by the initial reaction people have to an event, a reaction which is often (always) too reactionary. The Revisionist view often comes decades later, with historians giving a somewhat opposing account of a historical event, saying “actually Hitler was alright,” or “maybe the USSR wasn’t evil and therefore doomed to fail.” the revisionist account itself is too reactionary to the orthodox view, so more decades down the line Post- revisionists seek a happy medium, often (surprisingly enough) ending in a place pretty close to the orthodox.

This is all, of course relative, and a gross oversimplification. Any event will ignite multiple opposing views from the start. What is the “orthodox” view to one group is the “revisionist” view of another. Nevertheless, it’s a useful schema, and you get the general outline.

People love to be revisionist. they love to stand against the crowd and say “I think differently, I am ahead of the curve.” being orthodox is being conformist, and no one I know thinks conformity is a desirable quality (there are many in the United States who do, but they don’t travel in my circles). Hipsters are revisionists: they stand against all that is accepted, and relish in each absurd new trend which overturns the old in some way. Anarchists are revisionists: they are completely against the orthodox view of hierarchy and enforced order.

I must say that I think it is a very pretentious thing to say that you think differently from others. I’m certainly guilty of this myself, but as they say, it takes one to know one. When you start perceiving patterns in society that you think others are unaware of they begin to seem as objects, cattle being led through a routine. These are dangerous thoughts to dwell on.

Recently a biography of Gandhi came out that raised quite a stir. I should probably say it was a book review of the biography which caused the stir, but I don’t actually know much on the issue. in any case there is a great upset over the portrayal of Gandhi, insinuating a homosexual relation with his close friend, and noting some of Gandhi’s odder habits (publicly sleeping in the same bed as his granddaughters, giving enemas left and right). Many people get excited to see a saintly figure such as Gandhi be brought down, but I think that we all just need to relax a bit. Gandhi was a great man and the proof is in his work and his actions. That may be the orthodox view, but it’s also the post-revisionist one.

I am wary of those who say “everything you know about history is wrong.” I think that It’s an extraordinary thing to say that everyone in the world is insane except you (and a chosen few), and a claim such as that requires extraordinary evidence. The fact of the matter is that history is something that billions witness and write about, and it is quite implausible that something is radically different from the orthodox view. Things change of course, and there are paradigm shifts, but once again I must say that claiming you are on the forefront of a paradigm shift is quite pretentious, and once again I must admit that I am guilty of this myself.

In a sense all I’m really saying now is that I’m so non-conformist that I don’t conform to the non-conformists. I’m so revisionist I’m post-revisionist. I’m really the most pretentious of all these people, but it’ll be years until they realize that.



About Prometheus

I write about the coming technological singularity and its implications for our sense of identity, individuality, meaning, and existence. I argue that the most significant aspect of the singularity is the convergence of our consciousnesses into one superconsciousness, and that we should be very happy about this.

Posted on May 19, 2011, in Values and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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