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The historical scale in political thought

My experience from social life proves to me more and more every day that many of our political disagreements are mainly based on the different historical scale we use to develop our political arguments. When the questions are not philosophical, someone, in some way, uses a different scale from someone else in order to interpret the world, human societies, economic theories, and systems. Often, the disagreement is simply a matter of knowledge on specific issues, and as such, it is difficult and impolite to expose the ignorance of one’s interlocutor, as no one has absolute knowledge on any issue anyway. However, it is quite important to use the right tools, and perhaps discussing how these are chosen is equally useful.

The evolution of politics is nothing more than the history of our societies and the thought that shaped them, which is fueled by reality, generating new ideas. The interpretation of causes and outcomes is of paramount importance in order to be able to interpret the future and propose solutions for a better one. Many of us agree on the present, some on the past, and very few on the future when it is larger than the next day.

Whether we talk about the past or the future, we perceive the present as a moment in this evolution. All of us? No! This is a first level of historical scale, or the level of complete absence of any historical scale in political thought. Each thought, of every individual, is political, regardless of how immature it may be. Thus, the thoughts of people who see the present as an eternal state are political and contain the complete absence of the historical scale of social evolution. They do not know and are not interested in learning about yesterday, even if it concerns a few years ago. They cannot predict how the proposed solutions might work in the future, because they only see the absolutely necessary solution of today. These are people who are more easily swayed by populism, very likely the majority of modern societies.

If we want to see the first, primary level of political thought under a historical scale, we find those people whose ideology is their personal experience. Obviously, this approach lacks many aspects, such as the ability to combine social experience or the experience of humanity in a series of issues and concerns, yet it focuses only on a moment that corresponds to the time span of a person’s life. Whether it is a teenager or an elderly person, many people judge solely based on what they have seen in their lives, always being absolutely certain about the facts, without wondering if these are part of a larger historical curve or even data points within the limits of statistical error. The obstacle one encounters when talking to these people is the answer they give, which resembles “these things happened, they are in the past,” referring to historical events that played a dominant role in shaping modern societies.

The next level, which is the first one that can be encountered in political and economic theories considered serious by a broad audience, is the scale of the current socio-economic system. In every political system, those who benefited from it wanted to believe that the current socio-economic formation would be eternal. They contemplate tomorrow with scientific tools, but with limited data and countless axioms for the boundary conditions of human societies. They judge the prosperity of a society based on its ability to function well on a specific economic basis, considering it eternal. Even if they know well that each system began at a given moment, they want to believe that there is no end. Today, this happens with capitalism, which is described even as a reflection of “human nature” in many serious discussions, but earlier in history the same was done in other systems. Perhaps the most remarkable example is that of Plato and Aristotle, who believed that slavery is a natural state.

This retrospective brings us to the next level, which contains similar arguments, however on a much larger historical scale. There are people who take the known human history to date, with the findings that have been revealed and the progress from the first societies to today, as the absolute known curve of evolution. They associate exploitation with the nature of human societies. A very characteristic example is that in several cases they refer to writings from antiquity in order to support that “it has always been like this, we have never changed,” obviously referring to writings from exploitative societies, since there is no writing before them.

However, there is another historical scale, which takes into account the entirety of our species’ evolution, from our first steps on our hind legs to our expansion across an entire planet, an evolution that includes only a small fraction of known history and a small part of it concerns the period of human exploitation. On the subject, being passionate about history, when someone asks me which history I like the most, I answer “the modern one, the last 6,000 years.” When we start to see our species through this lens, exploitation begins to look like just a phase, from one type of behavior, nomadic, to another, social. Every beginning is difficult, and in about 300,000 years of Homo sapiens’ existence, only a small percentage corresponds to the timid start of social life. As we believe we will exist as a species for much longer than we have managed so far, who can say that we have found everything for the continuation of our presence in the world? The absence of any certainty on this question is simply scientific maturity and the assumption that we will find a way to untangle ourselves from any self-destructive behavior that seems more natural than any “eternal economic theory.”

Finally, there is the real historical scale, the one we know to date, the truly natural one, the history of the universe. Only when we see everyday, contemporary, historical events as a moment, a passage from one time to the next, do we begin to acquire the ability to design the curve of our political evolution. Thus, in this question, there are others, such as what is right and what is wrong, what is fair and what is unfair, however, the perception of what is possible and natural changes completely in relation to the first or last levels of absence of the natural historical scale.

If we want to understand anything in human societies, we need to examine it as a moment, a passage, extending the known scales. If we want to understand human nature, we must extend our scale to life itself, then to the known universe and all the knowledge we have about what may exist beyond it. In this way, we can talk to each other and openly express our views on the evolution of tomorrow that needs to take place today, not to provide a final solution to our historical evolution, but to bring the next step closer, a step unknown but certainly one of progress.

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