Current events definitely means that sometimes being a historian gets as demoralizing as it does a whole lot easier. Virtually everything on the front page reflects what we are covering in my survey class.

This is not actually a good thing, pedagogical advantages aside.

Take, for example, the financial crisis and the recession. As a historian teaching about the Great Depression this week (causes, responses, legacies, and so on) it is certainly helpful to have this crystalline example of structural inadequacies, greed, bad policy, criminality, incompetent leadership, and suffering to show as a resonant endpoint to all that flourished back in the 1920s and after.

It also rather effectively counters residual progressive historical sensibilities (not to be conflated with the current (mis)usage of the term "progressive"), as things really have not improved at all by so very many measures.

The same goes for the issues of unionism, nuclear safety, American liberal-capitalist internationalism, and on down the line. The disintegration of Detroit is alone something so sublimely wrought that it would be hard to invent it as a historical example.

I emphasize change and complexity over both space and time in my history classes, but just as useful can be the fusion of change and continuity. Anything that helps break the cycle of both linear and progressive history.

In this regard, I've found Kurt Spellmeyer's Buddha at the Apocalypse: Awakening from a Culture of Destruction an interesting take on the notion of progressive change. In it he counters linear habits of mind in some creative ways, especially by tracing the way varieties of apocalyptic thought have influenced all manner of thinking and action. For one think, it breeds what he calls "the mind-set of disposability" rooted in
"free market economics, technology gone wild, and religious fundamentalism-- all three keep our eyes fixed hypnotically on the future as we imagine it. But this habit could be our fatal flaw. Counting on the future reassures because it lets us disconnect from a world of change that will always be unpredictable."

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