NEVER BEFORE IN HISTORY
How often are we told that what we’re experiencing is totally without precedent? We are witnessing, it is asserted, something altogether unique. Nothing like it has ever occurred before. So noteworthy, it is destined, therefore, to “go down in history” for this very reason.
That kind of talk is all too common. The greatest scandal in history – the most powerful army assembled since the beginning of time – the most sinister conspiracy ever hatched – the worst atrocity of all time – the most impressive list of achievements ever. Everyone invokes “history” to sound serious, to add substance to their remarks. But do they ever offer any proof, any specific evidence from the past? Do they ever consult with historians? Are they even interested in learning about those parallels the past might actually offer?
“History,” when so invoked, stands mute, takes no steps to engage with the issues raised. “History” is wise for doing so, understands that such glib references to the past are merely verbal devices, argumentative ornaments, not in any way considered judgements History is, after all, about meticulous research and considered interpretation, not overheated evidence-free rhetoric.