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The historical scale on political thought

Experience from social life proves to me daily more and more that many of our political disagreements are mostly based in a different historical scale that we use for the development of our political arguments. When the questions are not philosophical, someone, somehow, uses a different scale to explain the world, human societies, economic doctrines and systems, than another. Many times this is a matter of knowledge and therefore is difficult and mean to reveal any ignorance of another person, as nobody can hold an absolute knowledge on any topic. However, it is quite important to use the right tools and therefore there should be some discussion on how we choose them.

Political evolution is nothing more than the history of our societies and the thought that shaped them, nurtured by social reality and making a new one. The interpretation of the causes and the results is a key ingredient in order to predict the future and suggest the solution for a better one. Many of us agree on the present, some of us agree on the past and very few agree on the future, when this future is longer than the next day.

No matter if we speak about the past or the future, we understand the present as a moment on this evolution. All of us? Not really. This is a first level of historical scale or the level of the absence of any historical scale on political thought. Any thought, of any person, is political, no matter how immature it can be. Therefore, thoughts of people who see the present as an eternal state, is political and it contains a total absence of the historical scale of our social evolution. They don’t know and they don’t care to learn about yesterday, even if this concerns one or a few years ago. They cannot predict how suggested solutions can work in the future, because they just see the absolutely necessary solution of today. These are the people who more easily are lead by the populism, very probably a vast majority of our modern societies.

If we really want to go in the first, primitive level of historical scaled political thought, we find those people that their experience is their doctrine. Obviously, this approach lacks many advantages, as the ability to combine the social experience or the human experience on many issues, however it focuses only in one moment, which is our personal lifespan. No matter if it is a teenager or an old person, many people judge by what they have seen in their lives, being absolutely confident about the facts, not even wondering if these are just a piece of a longer statistical curve or even data points on the edge of error bars. The barrier that one can see while talking with those people is the answer “get over it”, about historical events that played a key role on shaping our contemporary societies.

The next scale, which is the first one that can be really encountered in actual seriously considered political and economic theories, is the scale of the actual socioeconomic system. In every single political system, people who profited on this, wanted to think that this system is and will be eternal. They think about tomorrow with scientific tools, but with limited data and many assumptions about the limit conditions of human societies. They judge the prosperity of a society by its ability to perform well in a given economic base, considering it as eternal. Even if they know well that it started at some point, they want to believe that it will never end. Today, this happens with capitalism, that is even pictured as a reflection of “human nature” in many serious discussions, but earlier in our history it happened in other systems. Maybe the most brilliant example was this of Plato and Aristotle, who believed that slavery was a natural condition.

This brings us to another scale of very similar arguments, however in a much larger historical scale. There are people who take the actual human history, the known one, with its artifacts and progress from the first societies until today, as the known curve. They associate the exploitation with the nature of human societies. A very characteristic example is that in some occasions they refer ancient writings in order to support any argument saying that “it was always like this, we never changed”, referring of course on writings from exploitative societies, as we don’t have scriptures from earlier ones.

However, then there is another scale of history, which takes into account the whole evolution of our species, from our first step on our back feet, to our expansion on a planet, an evolution that contains only a tiny fraction of known history and a fraction of this with human exploitation. Actually, as a passionate about history, when I’m asked which history I like more, I say “the contemporary one, the last 6000 years”. When we start to see our species through this prism, the exploitation starts to seem only a passage, from one kind of behavior, the nomadic one, to another, the social. Any beginning is difficult and in around 300000 years, only a tiny fraction of them corresponds to the beginning of our social life. Then, we expect to live as species much more than we achieved so far, who can say that we found everything we needed to keep on? The absence of any confidence on this should be just scientific maturity and the hypothesis that we are going to find the way to get over a paradoxal self-destroying behavior seems to be more natural than any “eternal economic doctrine”.

Finally, there is the true historical scale, the one that we know until today, the really natural one, the history of our cosmos. Only when we see the daily, contemporary, historical events as a moment, a passage from one time to the other, we start to be able to draw the curve of our political evolution. Then, within this question, there are others, as what is right and what is wrong, what is fair and what is unfair, however, the perception of what is feasible and natural changes completely from the first or last points of absence of the natural historical scale.

If we want to understand anything in human societies we need to examine it as a moment, as a passage, by extending the known scales. If we want to understand human nature we should extend our scale in life, then our universe, then all that we can know about cosmos. Therefore, we will be able to talk to each other and speak loud our thoughts about the evolution of tomorrow that we need it to take place today, not in order to give the final solution to our historical evolution, but in order to bring closer the next step, an unknown one but surely progressive.

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