The other night I sat scouring the internet for history websites and blogs; job hunting and searching for potential places of employment. I am very familiar with the Website --> About Us -->Employment Opportunities/Jobs obstacle course.
But one thing I noticed.
In the news, the world is falling apart. Pop-culture pages find mindless things to smile about, telling us stories of Angelina Jolie’s nannies and the next teenage heart-throb. On the other end of the spectrum (though maybe not far removed from our society’s current obsessions), history blogs have sky-rocketed. They are flourishing, in fact. At first glance, I am overjoyed. People are finally interested in history! But wait a minute—people are finally interested in history . . . The unfortunate side of things is that retrospective tendencies tend to develop at the end of a great thing. One must wonder what this says about our culture; what ideas go racing through the minds of the human race.
It is possible that I am just more attuned to all things “public history” since receiving a degree in that field. Maybe things have always been this way. But I think not. Looking back, the world (or at least the Western world) has been very focused on dreaming ahead. For centuries peasants and kings have eloquently prophesied about how the future would look, sound, feel. Just look at the works of authors like H. G. Wells, George Orwell, Jules Verne and Edward Bellamy.
As I sift though pages and pages of “history” and “public history” blogs, I can’t help thinking that an intense focus has shifted to an understanding of the past. Too see where we have come; to give an account of what has already happened. It’s a little overwhelming if you think about it for too long. But mostly it’s fascinating—what the human mind will do for the sake of self preservation.