We need to look at the big picture to see what is actually going on, bringing in factors which the historical actors themselves were unaware off. Systems thinking should change the way we tell our history and a holistic view yield some fresh insights. What insights and what are the political implications of their telling?
This is not a world history. Professional historians can supply those, and lots of compelling accounts going into what we know in detail for any period. Here I am trying to capture the salient factors that give shape and context to our shared human story.This is what history teaches me when I look at the big picture and take a step back.
Human beings are new to the earth and in a very short time have completely populated it. We are in danger of being overwhelmed by our success. The rate at which development is taking place is outstripping the ways of coping with it and transmitting knowledge that we learned through our evolution. We are inquisitive social primates, we are not going to stop inventing. Since we cannot stop we must learn control. This means we need new institutions, a new political economy that fits in with our evolutionary heritage but is capable of dealing with the challenges we face. A new political economy needs to be inclusive (we are all citizens and share the same fate) and it must be capable of much faster adaption. The current political-economy is just not delivering.
The long timeline
The striking thing about deep time is how recent and little human endeavour is.
Human beings are insignificant in the context of the age and scale of the universe. What we are able to do using our self-consciousness is look for meaning. We are, as well as being primates, bundles of energy (stable systems far from equilibrium) resisting entropy and we are fated to succeed individually for a remarkably short time. Realising just how short a period should instil a little humility if nothing else. (Something like the “total perspective vortex” in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy)
Looking at the long timeline it is possible to identify eight periods of time that make up the framework for our human story, these are;
- The age of the universe
- The age of the earth in relation to it
- The time there has been life on earth
- The time there have been hominids, human like rather more than ape like
- The time there have been “modern” humans
- The time from which we started living in settlements
- The time from which we started living in states
- The time from which we started industrialising
Pictorially it is possible to represent the whole in a picture, but only with a massive time/scale shift when hominids emerge, like this;
The development of our thinking begins about 3000 years ago. I wonder if it was in part a response to (justify or support?) the existence of the state, see Part 1 Review, The Human System, Knowledge and its Acquisition - Acquiring Knowledge
All history has this context whether we acknowledge it or not; our achievements are fragile and less significant than we like to think.