All things as stories we choose

Today people say there is no history “as it really was.” A story is a human construction, and its truth is mostly a matter of acceptance by the relevant community. So if that’s so, why shouldn’t those who accept that the human world is a human construction, to be remade in accordance with desire, try to dominate the historical profession, and exert their control to create historical truth as they see fit? Isn’t that a natural part of the effort to reconstitute the world to fit human needs better?

It’s a line of thought that has serious consequences. The Left—those who hold such views—dominate intellectual life to the extent they have become the mainstream. Even after the collapse of communism historians, apparently with the belief that they’re doing what’s right, resist discussing communism as it was. After all, if remaking the world in accordance with desire is a good thing, how could communism have been basically wrong? And if we want to reconstruct the future, why not start by reconstructing the past? The dominant faction in the profession therefore suppresses interpretations that are too strongly adverse to communism and, when it becomes awkward to ignore or deny the evidence altogether, engages in damage control.

I’ve touched on the implications of similar issues in connection with Australian history, but those implications extend far beyond the historical profession to the whole of thought and life. In today’s world, people believe that to be rational and responsible is to trust the experts. That belief is behind the present crisis in the Catholic Church. After all, if tradition and the Pope say A, and the experts say not-A, all intellectual culture now says that it is the experts who should be believed. That’s true even with regard to questions, like the truth, origin and correct interpretation of Christian belief and morals, that are much less readily settled by objective factual inquiry than questions experts routinely fudge, like which Australian settler or which communist did what to whom when.

Modern expertise is an effort to reduce the world to a single system of uniform principles that can be clearly stated and manipulated—by experts, as it happens—to control events. When modern experts study the bible and the history of Christianity they therefore interpret everything they see in accordance with that effort. They don’t see revelation, miracles and the finitude of man, they see natural, social and psychological causes of a kind they think they can deal with, resulting in beliefs they don’t take literally but think they know how to modify the better to suit human needs, including the needs of a reformed and improved system of human life.

Since it’s predictable that modern experts will see things that way, why view the fact they do as evidence of what the world is like? Why trust their speculations or even—except in self-defense—pay much attention to them? Their personal authority in matters other than the natural sciences might be persuasive if they could back up their claim to know how to understand and manage human affairs by results, but they can’t. They would be worth listening to if they were notable for integrity, but the ones the press covers, at any rate, don’t seem to come up to the most ordinary standards in that regard. To all appearances, the modern academic approach to religion is as good as scientific socialism, as beautiful as academic art produced by a committee, and as true as political correctness. Why give it any credence?

1 thought on “All things as stories we choose”

  1. Why give it any credence,

    Why give it any credence, Jim? Because too many people in to many positions of influence do. Though they may be few and far between compared to Joe and Jane Average everywhere in America, at least, they — alas — happen to be the gatekeepers of information, especially in the press.

    One of Shakespeare’s villians in one of his plays started off his plans for fixing society with “First, kill all the lawyers.” If the Bard were among us today, would he not have revised that speech to begin, “First, kill all the experts”?

    Comments, please.

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