Monday, April 6, 2009

Using historical counterfactuals to treat dysthymia

Here's a brief list of my strangest wishes:

I wish that the British had defeated us in the American Revolutionary War. Even better, I truly wish that war had never begun. I'm always bummed out when I get to that part of history when we declare war. And even though I know fully well that the Americans will win, there's always this funny little irrational part of me that keeps cheering on the Brits.

I also wish that Jesus had not died on the cross. I'm very attracted to various theories that he actually did not die on the cross at all but survived the crucifixion. My favorite story is that he was spirited away and eventually ended up in India. I probably began entertaining this comforting historical revisionism after reading the Laughing Savior and the Last Temptation of Christ when I was a teenager. The unlikelihood of this wish really bothers me especially during Passion Week. Could Maundy Thursday be any more depressing?

More personally, I wish that I had not bothered with a graduate education. That was a waste of time and money. Oh well, that train has left the station and now I have to put up with the consequences: poverty, disillusionment, anxiety and guilt. *sigh*

I suppose I can pretend that Jesus survived (No one can really prove otherwise) and just try not to dwell on the Revolutionary War (sucks that I have to teach about it every effing year) and maybe pretend I don't have this damn degree and just imagine that my enormous worthless debt is because I had some kind of gambling problem or bought a couple houses, forgot to ensure them, and then lost them both to very localized flooding.

5 comments:

Daniel Wilcox said...

Hi Hystery,

Given your intriguing statement that you wish the British had defeated us during the ARW, you might find the Mennonite historical book Twas Seeding Time interesting. It shows how Anabaptists of various sorts responded to the ARW and demonstrates the ambigous ethics and uncertain character of the war.

Why do you wish the British had won?
(Though I am in the middle of reading a book on the Thirty Years War, you've hooked my historical interest about your view of ARW).

And why do you regret your graduate education?! How was it a waste of time? (I understand the money part as I have relatives who are still paying off the loans for their BA's).

But how was it disillusioning?

Your Friend,

Daniel

Hystery said...

I believe that the Revolutionary War was a mistake. In addition to the deaths directly related to it, it had a devastating affect on the indigenous peoples of North American continent. Sullivan's campaign against the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) people was one of the first of many retaliatory and genocidal acts of the new American government against Native Americans. Now loosed from British restrictions on western immigration to the interior, white settlements bled into the interior of the continent leading to more war, more death, more injustice. Given the disgraceful legacy of British and European colonialism in Africa and Asia, it seems unlikely that the interior would have remained too long unmolested, but one hopes that powerful groups like the Haudenosaunee might have been able to broker deals that would have given them advantages lost to them following the Revolutionary War.

The war was also fought primarily for the benefit of the wealthiest men of the colonies. Far from being "revolutionary" the same men who controlled wealth and political power in the colonies were the same men who controlled wealth and political power in the new United States. They used the lives, bodies, and souls of poor men and their families to fight their battle against the British. Then, when they were finished with them, the often failed to compensate those men for their years of service. Worse, when those men deserted, rebelled, or rose up in protest against them, they had them imprisoned and executed.

I also believe that is possible that slavery would have ended in North America earlier if we had remained British. All the men and women who tried to escape to freedom behind British lines could not share in other Americans' happiness at the colonists' victory. Slaves were emancipated in the British empire thirty years before the Emancipation Proclamation (which only freed slaves in rebelling states).

Finally, I don't think that the violence of that war was at all justified given the advanced degree of democracy already enjoyed by the British people including their American colonists. It turns out that not all Americans benefited from the war at all. Women for instance, lost legal rights following the war and did not regain suffrage until 1920. British women over 30 gained suffrage two years earlier. My great-grandmother, a suffragist, a farmer, a schoolteacher, poet and painter, came to the United States as a young woman. She turned 30 in 1917. If she'd stayed in England, she would have been allowed to vote the next year. Because she came to the United States, she had to wait until 1920. Hardly seems fair.

Karl said...

A Neo-Marxist Anglophilia fantasy:

If the British had won the Revolutionary War, we'd probably be freer. With free or low cost education, we wouldn't go into the workplace terrorized by debt, so that we'd just take a low paid position, and work hard to keep it just to pay it off. In a sense, if we work jobs to pay off debts, we're not free.

If the British had won, we would probably have national health care, and be freer in yet another sense. If workers are terrorized to work hard to keep their jobs for fear of losing access to health care, for themselves or their families, then they're not free.

If Jesus had lived, his enduring, philosophical message might still have a deist element, but it might make us concentrate on a God within, rather than a despotic, Demiurge who is "Wholly Other,"again, we'd be freer. To have absolutist advocates of a Wholly Other deity, who deify even his printed word, make us less free because they would use the democratic process to insert and codify their interpretations of a deified book of writing - which would take away the rights of many, and do take away the rights of many. People who live under a system where absolutist religions' precepts are written into law, are not free.

If we are not free, how can we have "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?"

Let's give this country back to the U.K.

Aeron said...

I missed it. treat dysthymia? do you feel better? i'm confused. How?

Hystery said...

How is it possible not to feel better after playing with historical counterfactuals? Granted, they may not be able to treat hard core depression, but they kick dysthymia's ass most every time. ;-)