Sunday, November 12, 2006

NaBloPoMo 12

NaBloPoMo 12 -- A Contest!

Apropos of a conversation over at Pilgrim's, today's post is in the order of a contest. Can't promise anything but glory, but oh, what glory it is. We were thinking ... people keep saying that we learn history so we can avoid making the mistakes our forefathers have made, but historians? We're like Rodney Dangerfield. We get no respect. I think that also makes us like the Cowardly Lion, which is probably more applicable. So... I've got a phrase or two, and am looking for someone to put them together in a cool and groovy kind of way so we can make T-shirts a la Cafe Press or some such. I'd also like about 5 volunteers for a panel of judges.

So here's the phrase:

"If we're all supposed to learn from history, why is it that no one ever listens to historians?"

If you don't like that one, we did have a couple of others for people to play with:

"Historians: ignore us at your peril"


"Historians: ignore us and people die"

What do you all think?

Update: New submissions in the comments!


Jonathan Dresner said...

I once said, "Be interested. Or be surprised. Your choice." Tack a "History:" on the front of that... Then there's the recent endorsement by a well-known administration official.

Of the ones you've got, I like the first best, though the second one is decidedly snappy; design would make a big difference. The third one's a bit more psychotic-sounding than I'd be comfortable selling to my History Club....

I'm not judging Clios this time around, so I'd be happy to serve as judge.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

I vote for Jonathan as judge!

The only thing I don't like about the first one is that it takes as a given the idea that no one ever listens to us, which we don't really want to reinforce.

What about a "got milk?" sort of reference? On one side: "Don't make the same mistake twice." On the other: "got history?"

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I like it! Except that it reinforces the notion that history repeats itself ...

Ancarett said...

History: Not the Same Old, Same Old

There's also the classic: "Well behaved women rarely make history"

Jonathan Dresner said...

"What experience and history teach is this -- that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it." -- G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History: Introduction

Seriously, though, I think the second one of the original nominations -- "Historians: ignore us at your peril" -- is the best balance between pithy and ominous, suggesting the patterns of history without implying cycles; it also invokes the power we have to shape perception in the long run..... Though my own "History: Be interested. Or be surprised. Your choice." covers kinda the same ground.

Now we need to think of some good images to suggest the follies of historical ignorance.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

I really like the "Be interested or be surprised" idea - although would you consider rephrasing it as "Be smart. Or be surprised"? I like the concept of interested better, but smart sounds more snappy.

And, apropos your last comment, what about a list of examples? Imagine this (tinker with the list as needed):

Thermopylae. Roncesvalles. Sarajevo. Vietnam. Iraq.

History: Be smart. Or be surprised. Your choice.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Actually, a list of historical surprises on one side and the slogan on the other mighe be good. Was Thermopylae a surprise, though? I'd say they pretty much knew they were screwed. How about Salamis? Oh -- wait, though. should it be a list of times people were surprised when they shouldn't have been? Because I'm thinking only Iraq is really not surprising. OK, and Sarajevo. Which Sarajevo?

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Well, I was trying to think of something more specific than "World War I," so Sarajevo was just shorthand for that. And yes, I was trying to think of moments when people should have anticipated the outcome when they didn't, to tragic effect... perhaps the Charge of the Light Brigade? That sort of thing. (You're right, Salamis would be a better example than Thermopylae.)

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Ooo! (sorry, this is way more fun than class prep...) I was trying to get away from battles, and thinking more of the way that historians (as in the case of Iraq) have a better sense of what's likely to happen in any given situation. So on one side, a list of avoidable mistakes: Iraq, global warming, "the war to end all wars," whatever, and the caption: "Shoulda seen it coming."

On the other side: History. It's not just about the past.

(Or, that would work just as well with the "Be smart. Or be surprised.")

Anonymous said...

Not an entry (not nearly pithy enough), but at least an answer to your question comes from Benjamin's "Theses on the Philosophy of History":

"For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably. (The good tidings which the historian of the past brings with throbbing heart may be lost in a void the very moment he opens his mouth.)"

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