Changes History, Part 1
By 119694_avalanche Press
119694_avalanche Press VP Lys Fulda recently
asked us, "If you could change one moment
in history what would it be and why?"
Here are our answers.
Lys Fulda's Answer
The largest fire never occurred at the library
The Great Library of Alexandria is usually
shown in movies to have been destroyed in
one large fire, but there were actually multiple
fires. Changes in the way government controlled
the city didn't help. The first major fire
was in 47 B.C. and while the library was rebuilt,
it never regained its full glory.
Now it may seem heartless to choose this event
to change. Why not eliminate Hitler, Stalin
or some other tyrant? Millions of lives could
be saved. There is one thing that helps advance
populations, transcend situations, and help
overthrow evil every time: knowledge. In the
short time I have been alive I have seen Pluto
lose planet status, dark matter become real
from its preliminary status as sci-fi, and seen
advances and inventions to numerous to name.
In the next 30 years things will change completely
Knowledge is Good. O. van Corven’s
rendering of the Great Library.
We will never know how much the knowledge
lost in Alexandria could have advanced societies
everywhere. We will never know how much the
philosophy and literature there could have
Forty thousand people have left the Communist
Party in China largely because one book is
circulating that covers the history of the
party’s atrocities. This is not the
first time that one book changed history in
a large and positive way. How many texts that
held the same power were lost? People are
very dear and special and often affect the
world in great ways. But knowledge and information
can last for centuries, and people cannot.
Vice President, 119694_avalanche Press
Mike Bennighof's Answer
I used to be fascinated by several potential
“turning points” of human history,
but then I had to go and get a doctorate and
ruin all that. At least it wasn’t a
football factory that turned me into a “trained
historian,” so I did learn, by brute
force, a good bit about viewing things from
a historical perspective.
That’s a long way of saying, I don’t
really think changing one moment in history
really matters much. Human beings have an
extraordinary capacity to lie, cheat, steal
and murder, to do evil to one another, often
cloaking it in the name of lofty ideals. Of
course, I’ve given up the academic lifestyle
and make a living selling people the means
to change cardboard history. And there are
indeed many crucial moments in history. But
a lot of things go into making those moments.
Humans are chaotic creatures. They don’t
always act in their own self-interest, and they
don’t always act in a manner consistent
with their past behavior. So, for example, had
the Supreme Court ruled differently in Bush
v. Gore in December 2000, and had Al Gore led
the United States into an unpopular war, perhaps
we would be longing for that Texas governor
who spoke so firmly against foreign adventures
and “nation building.”
An Austro-Hungarian assault squad ready
for action. Was it necessary?
If I have
to choose a moment, and Lys says yes I most
certainly do, I’ll pick one that’s
not original to me. I’ll accept Niall
Ferguson’s thesis that the First World
War starts a chain of events of unprecedented
disaster for human development. From the carnage
of the Great War, through the political disasters
of fascism, nazism and communism, through
the even greater slaughter of the Second World
War and on into wasted decades of the Cold
War — the loss to humanity is staggering.
The millions of deaths, the trillions of wasted
dollars, the untold economic and social damage,
the science not discovered, the art not created,
all these things can be traced to the insane,
bloody warfare of 1914 to 1918. Iraq, Palestine,
Yugoslavia, Rwanda — all the killing
fields of the last two decades take root in
the Great War.
Ferguson posits that a quick Central Powers
victory could have spared mankind all that.
Yet that’s impossible to say. How would
the European empires have dealt with the social
forces unleashed by the post-industrial age?
Might they not have turned authoritarian anyway?
What would be the status of women in a world
where they were not mobilized for two wars,
or of racial minorities in a United States that
maintained its isolation? How would predatory
capitalism have evolved without the intervention
of wartime government controls?
America’s shame, last century
version. Hatred’s roots run deep.
The answer is this — there is no magic
bullet to “fix” history. We’re
each responsible for our history, for how
we teach our children and how we act toward
others. We build the broad social forces that
shape events, we are the wave. You want to
change history? You make it every day, so
start right now.
Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
President, 119694_avalanche Press
More in this series: