I felt a bit unsettled after the lecture on Silencing The Past. Having read the book, I-maybe naively- still considered the silences explained in the text to be a nearly extinct tool used only by historical narrators of the egocentric, imperialist past. I was not surprised by the notion of European glorification in historical narratives. Overall, the silences portrayed in the book seemed exotic and distant to me. Yet during the lecture on Monday, I realized that things like active ignorance, fabricated distractions or deviations from the truth, and historical silences in general are still occurring today. This worried me because, as Miranda commented, it sort of questions the whole mentality of modern liberalism- specifically social liberalism. It could definitely be said that today’s optimistic portrayal of interracial coexistence in entertainment and the media is a falsification of these relationships,or at least a cover-up of the past. Could such a progressive culture’s attempt at equality actually just be silencing racism rather than doing anything about it? Ultimately it’s as if society is trying to outrun the past, hoping not to become caught in a retrospective trap which would shame their ignorance.Looking at things this way, such a skirting of the race issue seems unhealthy. But what is the alternative? Is there an ideal medium between recognizing the past and the future? Have we achieved it?
The leviathan is definitely a risky and ambitious piece of literature, both in and out of its context. The risks Hobbes takes in recording such a definite opinion on human nature and society is substantial, considering the precarious times in which he lived- times when having any sort of strong resolve for much any principle could be dangerous. This said, it seems fitting that someone who valued the masses and ‘common man’ so much should be bold enough to independently try defining civilization. For as far as I know, Hobbes was in no position of authority or power (political or otherwise) at the time he wrote the Leviathan.
The text holds great potential for controversy in modern times as well. As accurate as Hobbes’ description of anarchy may be, it implies that humans are naturally selfish and bad. This position is a bold one, due if nothing else but to its bleakness. Also, it is an opinion that is easy to oversimplify and jump to conclusions about. The common interpretation of it is that people are by default innately malicious in their ‘natural state’, as malevolence is obviously linked to ‘bad’ or ‘selfish’ values. But I think it is important to note that Hobbes does not say that people will go out of their way to harm others without reason, but only in protection of themselves, or for their own benefit. And according to Hobbes’ theory regarding the commonwealth, people will only tend to do this in times of discord, war, and distrust which arise out of lack of unity. For it is not just that bad human nature creates war and anarchy, but vice versa as well. That is to say people act badly under circumstances in which they cannot trust or understand each other due to lack of a common goal. I don’t think this is much of a stretch. For lack of unity is a powerful inhibitor of empathy, which is an important factor in peace.