Does History Tell the Future?

There are questions I can’t answer: is the frog the farmer’s friend, does history tell the future?

Many believe that history repeats itself, and looking back there is evidence of that, but telling the future is something else again.

I have been reading Black Sea, by Neal Ascherson.

Appearing on television discussion programme A...

Appearing on television discussion programme After Dark in 1987 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is not a work of marine biology but a history of the human activity in the Black Sea area over hundreds of years. It is full of detail and constantly interesting, but I was struck by these passages.

‘Tomorrow it will be the turn of the customs officers and frontier guards of the European Union to be outwitted and “hunted” by ten million illegal, inaccessible, fast moving aporoi immigrants.’ (Page 56)

‘That nightmare survives in the new Europe after the revolutions of 1989. It survives as Western fear of all travelling people, of the millions pressing against Europe’s gates as “asylum-seekers’ or “economic migrants”, of a social collapse in Russia which would send half the population streaming hungrily towards Germany.’ (Page 76)

The  Black Sea was published in 2007.


‘A politician is an arse upon which everyone has sat except a man.’
So wrote ee cummings.

We can infer from this quotation that ee cummings was not impressed by politicians. He is not alone in that, though few have put it so forcefully.

I find politicians irritating for many reasons. They frequently evade answering questions, they are often deliberately vague, they frequently misrepresent the policies of their opponents, if anything damaging they have said is quoted against them it has always been ‘taken out of context’, and here in the YUK (Yunited Kingdom) they have been guilty of gross abuses of their expenses, so much so that a few have ended up in jail. If a critical report is published about their activities their custom is to write it off as based on out-of-date figures (whether it is or not). None of this endears them to the public.

We have recently had the case of a YUK politician, Grant Shapps who, to put it politely, seriously misrepresented the recent visit of a UN special investigator. For chapter on verse on this regrettable incident, follow this link.

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The German elections have just taken place and Angela Merkel has been re-elected with an even larger majority. One feature of German elections over the last few years is that young people have participated in them less and less. I don’t know why that is, though young Germans I have heard asked this question often reply that they don’t trust politicians. One young man went so far as to say this: ‘If I would be a politician I wouldn’t trust myself.’ If the Pirate Party was standing, it hasn’t done well.

But Angela’s success over the years is remarkable, so many people clearly trust her. If I lived in Germany I would probably trust her myself. So how trustworthy is she? She has one major u-turn on her record, the decision to make Germany non-nuclear in the light of the Fukushima disaster. Before that she supported nuclear power, but Fukushima caused her to analyse technical papers on the subject and, as a result, she seems to have concluded that safety could not be assured. Now if Angela was your average politician we might readily query her conclusion, but she has a degree in quantum chemistry and a PhD to boot. She may well be the most intelligent politician on the planet. (I am told that here in the parliament of the YUK, lower house thereof  – the one that contains the elected politicians – there is only one scientist out of over 600 members.)

Other than that, we have her response to the crisis in the Eurozone. Bailing out Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus has required a great deal of money, the largest amount coming from German tax-payers via the German government. But this was not supposed to happen, and wouldn’t have if the Bundesbank had anything to do with it. Meanwhile Angela, while giving the impression she was resisting such transfers, has gone along with them to save the Euro. I would guess this policy will continue under the new government, since Greece needs yet more money and Portugal looks as though it is going the same way.

So Frau Merkel sometimes talks tough to reassure the taxpayers, but quietly pays up. On this one issue she is not to be trusted. Why? The reason might be that the Euro, being a weaker currency than the Deutschmark used to be, has made German exports more competitive, and Germany relies heavily on exports. Germany has probably profited more from the Euro than any other country in the Eurozone, but this may be a hard message to sell. Nonetheless, you could say that on this issue she has sung two songs in different keys at the same time. And it is for this reason that an anti-Euro party was recently set up in Germany and, from a standing start, has done quite well.