Historically Collective Madness

Once again we dive into the strange alleys of the internet to discover things that are as fascinating as the sun and the moon 🙂 Or not!

In any case, I was collecting crypto related articles to practice writing, which by the way, I post here and stumbled on these gems for this week. The idea was to find out a little more about last year’s collective euphoria that plagued each and every human I knew — the crypto madness — broadly speaking, the currencies, NFTs and Crypto based games; when people suddenly started dropping out of the woodwork and asking me to start NFTs and what not. “Humbug!” I said.

But the writing on collective madness below is so on point. I was a much younger person when the Dot Com bubble had burst, and much too ignorant when the real estate bubble had crashed, but I think the feeling in the financial markets or any market of the times must have been similar to that of the Crypto boom last year. Gives a whole different meaning to ‘History repeats itself.’

But I digress. As is always the case on the internet. I started with crypto and ended with history. haha Enjoy reading fellow passengers 🙂

How a “Collective Madness” in 18th Century France Led to Financial Ruin and a Scheme to Lock Up Women and Ship Them Into Exile

Excerpt — In Paris, the year 1719 was characterised by what a prominent aristocrat who lived through it all described as “delirium,” sheer “madness,” a veritable carnival of money and speculation. In an attempt to indicate how widespread that “delirium” became, Voltaire, who experienced the collective madness firsthand, called it “a contagious disease, an epidemic.” As the “contagious disease” of 1719 spread like wildfire through French society, Parisians went mad for money and windfall profits. And because this sickness was founded on France’s colonial ambitions, money madness sealed the fate of the women who were deemed “fit for the islands.”

Defending History

Excerpt — Some millennials and others in the lately arrived Z cohort might wonder why anyone would feel a need “to understand the culture that took root over much of Ireland in the century following the Famine”. They might say, yeah yeah, we know Ireland was a place of Stygian darkness ‑ especially in relation to all matters sexual and reproductive. But isn’t that weird stuff all in the past? Hasn’t social liberalism conclusively triumphed in Ireland? What’s the point of going on about it? Shouldn’t we be focusing on more important stuff like housing and cycle lanes.

I would agree there is not much to be said for “going on about it”, although one can understand why those who were directly damaged might feel entitled to make a few points. In any case, there are good reasons for going beyond reflexes of outrage and denunciation, however valid, to engage in a process of historical and cultural unravelling. The potential outcome from such engagement would be an enhanced clarity in relation the specifics of our society’s inherited social, cultural and political character. Such historical engagement would be beneficial because, after all, all efforts to promote and realise social vision, whether broad, such as the ideal of social justice, or narrow, such as the minutiae of urban planning, must act on and from this inherited base.

Polybius of Megalopolis: History Isn’t Always Written by Victors

Excerpt — The common saying that history is written by the victors is of uncertain origin. Whilst it may be true that the victors in a conflict (or, at least, those with superior power) can have a stronger influence over the prevailing version of events after the fact, it is certainly not true that historical accounts only ever emanate from the victors. This is perhaps especially difficult to appreciate in an age where information is more widely available than ever, and public expression of opinion (and thus of varying versions and viewpoints) is now far more widely accessible than it has ever been.

However, on rare occasions we are still able to glimpse historical views from the ‘other’ side. One particularly interesting example of this in action is the Greek second-century BC historian, Polybius of Megalopolis. Not only was he not one of the victors, but he was an eyewitness and active player in the events he describes. He did find favour with the victors, but not immediately. It is believed he began writing his famous work of history in the 150s BC, after over ten years’ detainment in Rome. In his work, he seeks to explain the Romans’ successful rise to power to a primarily Greek audience. He dwelt among the victors (the Romans), he conversed with them, and, in the end, they in turn sought his help.

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