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But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

History In a Nutshell

Update, 8/24/15:  Quote of the day, via Robert Reich on Face Book:

"In all civilized as well as barbarous countries, a few rich and intelligent men have built up nobility systems by which, under some name and by some contrivance, a few are enabled to live upon the labor of the many. These ruling classes have had many names -- kings, lords, priests, fund holders, bankers -- but all are founded on deception, and maintained by power."

-- Amos Kendall (1833)

A Brief Summary of Human History

History is the chronicle of human cruelty.   There are two over-riding and inter-related themes:  Oppression and War.


In every place and time there has been a struggle between a small elite group possessing wealth and/or power and the rest of the population.   The elite use their advantage to dominate, oppress and exploit the labor of the majority for their own gain.  Although there have been brief, occasional, exceptional periods when the playing field might have appeared to be more or less equal; by a large margin, the elites have stayed way up on top.   The tools they use to maintain their advantage are execution, incarceration, overt brutality, brainwashing, propaganda and scapegoating minorities.  And there are always willing servitors to do the dirty work of the elite in exchange for some advantage in status or creature comforts. These advantages are large from the perspective of those who come to enjoy them, but insignificant from the perspective of the elites, who grant them with the flick of a finger. Sadists and sociopaths naturally migrate into those rolls. 

[As an aside, I’ll mention the U.S.A in the few decades following WW II as one of those exceptional times.  I can’t pin down a specific date when it ended: historical corners are never turned in such a crisp and definitive manner.  But if you peruse the tool list above, it’s clear that the exceptional period is over and the oligarchs are once again in the driver’s seat.]


War is armed conflict between or among differing groups. There are three types of war: conquest, civil war, and revolution.


One group, usually a nation, state or tribe, wants something that another group has - material wealth, land, natural resources, a population to be enslaved - and engages in armed conflict in an attempt to take it away from them.  Generally, the aggressor group uses some cover to incite the population and get them ready and willing to die on the next hill.  Nationalism, racism and religion, alone or in combination are usually all that it takes.  

Civil War

One group inside a country or region wants to dominate the other group.  In general, neither group has any particular merit.  Death, rapine and mayhem ensue until one side is either destroyed or gives up.  Regionalism, clannishness, racism and religion, alone or in combination are usually all that it takes.


This one is different.  The oppressed minority somehow manages to acquire enough man power and weaponry to challenge the ruling elite and their servitors.  Usually, by the time is’s all over, there are no good guys left.

So there you have it: all of human history in a nutshell.  Did I nail it or slam the hammer down on my thumb?

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