Back in 1982 in a class on Ottoman history at SOAS, I still remember the feeling of shock when encountering Gallipoli as an Ottoman victory – an event I had always considered a huge defeat and tragedy. A similar feeling arose when I recently considered 1864 (or the Second Schleswig War), a monumental tragedy in terms of Danish history that still haunts the country. Yet, it was one of Bismarck’s earliest triumphs in his efforts to unite the German principalities into a single nation state.
Today when historians around the world compare and contrast historical events and movements in an effort to understand history on a global scale, this dichotomy, an almost zero-sum game, where one’s loss is the other’s victory can seem to be a stumbling block.
Ethan Kleinberg in his two interviews given to André da Silva Ramos in 2016 admits that the “conflict between the desire to find commonality while also embracing difference is an unresolvable one”. Yet Kleinberg foresees that, it is “in this intersection and in this tension” that “the future of the philosophy of history” lies and that “it is theory that provides the meta-language to address both sides” (André da Silva Ramos, “Ethan Kleinberg: Theory of History as Hauntology”, 2017, p. 228 , see also brief Youtube interview from the 2nd INTH conference in Brazil).
Another possible way of addressing the issue, one that is arguably an almost impossible exercise, although worth thinking about, is to use our imagination. And imagine that in the far distant future, humans were to live outside planet earth. How will they tell our history? The history of the human race? Would it then be possible to narrate a common history?
The astronomer Carl Sagan (1934-1996) and his colleagues developed messages to be sent with the spacecrafts Pioneer 10 and 11 and Voyager into deep space. To my knowledge the history of the human race was not a topic that was addressed, although according to an article by Megan Gambino, photographs of wars were not included, despite war being “a reality of human existence”.
In my academia.edu profile, I once wrote that, ‘the concluding chapter of Paul Ricoeur’s Time and Narrative contains two phrases which inform my thinking: “one time, one humanity, one history” and ”…life itself, a cloth woven of stories told”’ (English translation, vol. 3, p. 258 and p.246). What type of history would human beings living in outer space recount to their offspring? Or even to an Other they may encounter?