Will there be any history in the future?
I am – slowly, and not even that surely – scoping out and forming characters for my novel, which thus far (as an idea) has received a 100% thumbs up from the poor unfortunates asked to judge the characters and plot. So I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead.
There are many motives for writing fiction as there are novels. For me it’s the last great unrealised ambition, a means to waking people up through identification with character and plot, and a weird need to leave something physical behind. Whatever kind of beastly regime or mad censorious Ministry comes to fruition in the future, books can be hidden ready for the time when (or if) humans revert to some degree of humanity.
There is far more to this than just my ego.
The Goths, Huns and others sacked libraries, the Crusaders destroyed ancient texts, the Jacobins demolished chateaux and burnt ‘holy’ relics, the Nazis burned books and art, and Stalin’s Little Helpers airbrushed Unpeople out of photographs. In the past, most of the important textual, filmic and photographic evidence survived to, if nothing else, make the deniers look ridiculous.
However, in the 21st Century, all the last fifteen years of history could be erased from the ‘virtual’ sector at the click of a mouse. Think about that: within a generation at most, everything could change from being fact to conjecture.
When Supreme Commander of SHAEF Dwight D. Eisenhower painstakingly photographed and documented Nazi genocide: when asked why, he replied, “Because before you know it, some son-of-a-bitch will say we made it up”. He wasn’t stupid, Ike. Equally, the Apollo Moon mission museums comprise millions of metres of film and thousands of photographs taken by the astronauts themselves.
And yet, there are millions of holocaust deniers, and cranks who say the Americans staged the whole Space exploration thing. Imagine how easy it would be to invent the past if all the news was digital, and only decaying bits of low-quality recycled paper issues remained to contradict a State view of what really happened. It doesn’t bear thinking about; however, like so much in the contemporary world, it has to be faced and repulsed.
Now, a latter-day Winston Smith is sitting in the Ministry of Truth, and joyous at what a doddle his job is. No need to destroy all the documentary footage: he just puts titles on the front and credits on the end and hey presto – it’s a Hollywood movie. If an awkward still shot shows two people together, he says “Ever heard of photoshop?”
Have you noticed how few physical photographs you have any more? They’re all in your documents folder marked Pictures, so that’s OK. Tell me, how many shots have you lost in the last decade by forgetting to back up with an off-board hard drive? How many have you printed out and framed? Since 2000, it seems, family photo album sales have dived by 65%. And as for a Cloud….well, that’s about as safe as putting a €250,000 euro deposit into a Greek Bank after 25th February next.
“History is written by the victors” said somebody at some point. From here on, history will be invented by the oligarchs. Newscorp is doing it already: 13.5m emails erased, and suddenly – quite legally – Rebekah Brooks is declared innocent of all knowledge about phone hacking. Jeremy Hunt has built a career on simply saying “I have done nothing wrong”…when there is nothing to completely contradict him. Two years ago, the Conservative Party was caught erasing policy bloomers from its records. In his role as CEO of Bell Pottinger, snowed nose-reconstructor Lord Bell is self-admittedly complicit in the planned process of changing Wikipedia entries in favour of his largely disgusting clients. You have to hand it to Tim: he can limbo lower under the ethics bar than most of us.
A physical book is a uniquely tactile and searingly honest thing. Once printed on paper, it cannot be airbrushed, edited or otherwise perverted. It sits on a shelf, and remains as a record of what was – albeit through the eyes of the author: but the reader/researchers can then view other related books….and decide for themselves what did or didn’t happen.
Compare and contrast that with the situation these days in the investment markets. The technology involved in SOL and deep liquidity pool trading is now all-powerful in its ability to hide forever criminality on a massive scale. The perfect crime has arrived, and digital virtuality alone gave birth to it.
The future is never a straight line, but rather a series of concentric circles. At the moment, the insouciant and the sociopathic in our midst remain convinced that they can change that: whether they be utterly stupid like Jeroen Dijsselbloem, or irreparably depraved like Mario Draghi, they are convinced that the rules don’t apply to them.
But they do, and they always will…..just so long as the physicality of text survives to catch them out. Indeed, that applies particularly to the link given below.