“And there is nothing new under the sun.”
History, it is often said, moves in cycles.
This only appears to be the case for the uneducated observer; he accepts it as fact merely because he has heard it so often. But the truth of the statement is beyond question for the student of history. The same pattern plays out over and over again, like an endless parade of variations on a few universal themes. Most of these themes pertain to the centralization and disintegration of power: Some individual or individuals ascend to authority through virtue, grow lazy, and are thus corrupted; their virtue grows old, society decays, and they are finally replaced (at least, it is hoped that they are replaced).
Although we may be tempted to posit some quasi-mystical mechanism as explanation, the true cause is probably far more mundane: History repeats itself because history is the story of humanity, and humanity never changes. Each seeks what he believes is best, but because each individual is unique, each seeks something different; each seeks to reform the world according to his own will- and this cannot be accomplished peacefully. In some sense, human interaction is a zero sum game, for the more a man accomplishes his goal of reforming the world in his image, the less the world appears to be right to others. For this reason, the following truth becomes clear: So long as man is individual, he will find himself in conflict with other men.
This is not said with regret, for it is has always been conflict that has provided man with the best motivation for self-discovery. In conflict, man is forced from complacency; in conflict, man must awaken from his slumber- or perish. And so the best men always are found, as Nietzsche knew, "five steps from tyranny, near the threshold of the danger of servitude." For if man is not compelled by circumstances to discover his own inner potential, he never will.
Competition then- even dangerous, and yes, even deadly, competition- not only among individuals but between groups, cultures, nation-states, and societies, is man's best friend and most trusted teacher. The study of history proves this beyond doubt, for where peace has been secured for long periods of time, there is no longer found any forward development. Man evolves only where he must evolve, else he does not evolve at all. And so it becomes brutally apparent that there is nothing so disastrous to the human spirit as a long and lazy period of prosperity.
We should learn something from this.
For this realization should instruct us both in good times and in hard times: When things are good, we ought to seek out new difficulties, and always prepare for misfortune; when things are hard, we ought to be grateful for hardship, knowing that hardship prepares us for greatness. It is certainly a far cry from what is told to us these days. After all, our overseers would prefer us to be weak; the weak are easier to exploit. But such a state of affairs cannot long last.
The wheel of history continues to turn, for there is nothing new under the sun.
~ Joshua van Asakinda
1 May, 2018