Erasing History - Who? When? How?

In a thread about a controversial Intel ad (featuring black sprinters “bowing” to a white office worker), Walloon argued that noticing racism perpetuates its existence, and Derleth asserted that it’s possible to erase history, and offered the British and Norwegians as an example of grudges no longer being held.

What’s the tipping point?

Why are the Sunnis and Shi’ites, Jews and Arabs, Serbs and Croats, Protestants and Catholics, and American blacks and whites seemingly locked in an eternity of conflict while other opposing factions make peace and move on?

Is it possible to “erase” history?

Or does one group just beat the tar out of another until all opposition ceases?

First of all, the term “erasing history” is very disturbing to me. It has some very 1984-ish associations which summon up images of holocaust deniers ranting about “the Holohoax” and Soviet commissars cutting out encyclopedia articles and pasting in new versions revised for political correctness–you know, the whole “Oceania is at war with Eastasia, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia” thing.

I think what you really mean here is, can nationalities, races, ethnicities, religions, etc. put aside old grudges and learn to live together in at least relative peace? Yeah, sure. But both sides have to want to do it. As long as someone sees an opportunity to squeeze political advantage out of keeping old animosities alive–“waving the bloody shirt,” as it was called in the wake of the American civil war–it’s going to keep going and going and going …

What’s that old line? It takes two to make a peace but only one to make a war?

Both sides need to be at the point where they want to bury the hatchet (not in your fool haid, dog!) to make progress.

Some cultures are more concerned with history and the past than others. Speaking of the socialological mean of a normal distribution, for instance, Americans tend not to have much memory or concern with history while the Chinese, on the other hand, have very long memories.

Well, how long can you hold a grudge against the Norwegians, for chrissakes.

As long as you can see the ruins they left behind them, I guess. And it’s not much more remote than the Crusades. Oddly though the Vikings are thought of quite fondly over here - it probably helps that they’ve eased up on the raping and pillaging. :slight_smile:

Just when you thought it was safe

So, are you asking that if we could sort of Control+alt+delete the world and reset things so that no one remembered being pissed off at anyone else for past wrongs or differences whether the same fissures would set in?

I dunno exactly what I’m wondering. Sorry.

The thing about “well if nobody would remark on unintended racism, the whole thing would sure go away a lot quicker” seems like a terribly convenient remark coming from a white person. But, OTOH, maybe harping on minor points may be a huge distraction.

And then the question of what DOES make people eventually get along - is it that they somehow become enlightened en masse? Is it simply a matter of economics, that peace is cheaper than war (although maybe it isn’t)? Is there true forgiveness?

I realize it’s impossible to make a simple, comprehensive statement about this. I just wondered what the levers are.

Tragically, the only way that two groups that hate each other ever seem to get past their history is by joining together to hate a new enemy.

Well, where did all the hate for the left handed go ? It was there for centuries, and now it’s not. It wasn’t because the left handed were all killed off. It seems to be possible for prejudices to vanish.

The U.S. and Japan went from enemies to friends pretty damn fast. It can be done.

I don’t really care for the phrase “erasing” history. Conditions can change wherein two groups hostile to one another are no longer hostile. France and England used to be bitter enemies/rivals but in the late 19th or early 20th century they pretty much figured that they didn’t have anything left to fight about and they came to an accord. They history between England and France wasn’t erased but conditions had changed making it so that remaining bitter enemies didn’t make much sense.

The Irish in the United States were looked down on until the Civil War. These days I don’t think the Irish suffer from any form of serious discrimination here in the U.S. Sure, things can change.


What may have helped more is that they are the Brits, to a great extent. The Danelaw covered, what, the northeastern third of the country? And once William the grandson of Vikings wandered over to take control, (bringing several thousand of his closest friends with him), it got pretty difficult after a few generations to hold a grudge against your own ancestors.

Considering some of the things you’ve posted in the past, it’s hard for me to tell when you’re being serious and when you’re being ironic. Do you really believe there was mass prejudice against left-handed people?

But American-Japanese hatred was never a historical issue. For most of our history, the United States and Japan got along pretty well. The twenty year period in the thirties and forties was an aberration and we’ve since gone back to our more usual relationship.

A good example of the rule I gave in my previous post. France and England hated each other for centuries but they finally buried the hatchet when they both started to fear Germany (and then the Soviet Union) more.

Seems like Islam still nurses a grudge about the Crusades. P.J. O’Rourke claimed to have seen an anti-Western flyer in Somalia showing two men on horseback - the symbol of the Knights Templar.

But the Mongols arguably inflicted more damage to the Arabian Empire than the Crusades ever did (that argument being: “they destroyed it”). However, you never read of anyone hijacking jets and flying them into yurts.

So I get the impression that historical grudges are for suckers. If someone had figured out a way to use anti-banana vitriol to sell mortgages we’d be at war with Guatamala instead of facing a recession.

To me, “erasing history” sounds like “the stuff you weren’t taught about in History class.” You know, like those 8 times my relatives took arms against the government in Madrid during the last 200 years? Only 2 of those times were mentioned in History class, and then it was like tiptoeing over coals…

I have seen people from two different groups set aside their differences, agree to disagree, realize that they’re actually saying the same thing with different words; I actually see it every day. But my experience is that pushing problems under the carpet just leads to them festering - if people know “why was my grandfather pissed at his grandfather,” they can say “oh puh-leeze!” and get out a box of dominoes for a nice game; if all they know is “our grandparents hated each other so we continue because it’s Tradition,” that’s when we need to bring out the big box of lube.

… but nuking people to make friends with them seems awfully drastic …

I think part of this is that the dominance and exploitation or perceived dominance and exploitaion, be it economically, politically or culturally of one group over another in most of these cases has not been sufficiently resolved.*
It is not really about forgetting past slights, erasing history, but in exacting real change to create more equitable societies and in attempting where needed reconciliation.

*That’s the worst sentence I’ve ever written in my life!

Depends. If you happen to be a whale …