“What the Founding Fathers actually meant was…”
“Well, if you really read into the Bible, you’ll see that Jesus meant…”
“We’re not meant to eat wheat. If you knew what our paleo ancestors used to eat…”
We hear remarks like these all the time, in casual conversation on politics, religion, history, to the point of cliché. They all share a common theme: to put it simply, things aren’t going as well today as they were yesterday, so if we simply figure out what people were doing yesterday, we can get better!
When I used to teach, I would occasionally drive home three “rules” of history.
1. There is no Virgin Land
2. There are no Indigenous Peoples
3. There is no Golden Age
I’m going to focus here on the final of the three rules (the other two I may get to later). The quotes I opened with were fixations…