This article is part of an ongoing series. In an attempt to be thorough, each video and/or course I research will be readily available to all (the free stuff). I would love to sign up for their complete online courses, so if you would like to see me go in-depth to one of their official courses, then please “buy a coffee”. I will use those funds to “advance my education” through the “prestigious” University that is Prager.
Written By: Anton Sawyer
Debunking Courses Offered At PragerU Lesson 10—“No Past, No Future”
Though I’ve never done this before, I am going to have to include a warning when it comes to the contents of this video/article. Trying to follow the logic brought about by the presenter, British author, and political commentator Douglas Murray may cause an onset of a headache—it did to me. If “mental gymnastics” were a recognized Olympic sport, then the video “No Past, No Future” would have won both Murray and PragerU a gold medal. The topics change on the turn of a dime and make the ability to follow any kind of cohesive thought incredibly difficult, but I did my best.
Because of the level of mental agility required, I do have to admit that the amount of respect I have for Murray and PragerU when it comes to their ability to utilize wordplay has jumped significantly. One of the reasons why the topics come off as being so scattered is due to the specific verbiage used and its ability to shade information that’s in each section. With double-meanings and vagueness abound, if you are someone who typically absorbs information through just basic overviews, it’s entirely plausible to see how a large number of people would accept the information presented in this course as being air-tight. Thankfully, I love dissecting verbiage, the origins of the history towards possible double-meanings, and finding out where the systemic problem with any calamity may lie. Because of this passion, I ask that you look at me as a friendly guide and take my hand to join me on this journey, I’ll also wait patiently if you need to pause at any time to take some aspirin during the read.
In an attempt to maintain complete transparency, all research and statistical fact-checking for all articles can be found in the bibliography linked here.
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To keep things clear, all statements from the video will be in bold, while all my responses will be in italics.
No Past, No Future
What kind of future do we have if we destroy our past? Has anyone who has pulled down a statue of Churchill, Lincoln, or Columbus thought to ask themselves this question? I doubt it.
One sentence in and it starts. Murray’s initial question is one that I’ve written about exhaustively and has shown that history repeats itself BECAUSE we don’t learn from our past. So, he’s technically correct in asking that question.
The other question asking about the importance of learning from the past when it's destroyed is plausible enough. The misdirection in this introduction comes from naming figures who are generally considered beloved through the eyes of history and how they’ve been attacked, in addition to naming confederate leaders when it comes to statue removal.
When researching this, Murray was right. Statues of all mentioned historical figures have either been defaced or were pulled down throughout the years in the 21st century. With the media attention mainly focused on the removal of confederate-related statues during this time frame, this is a way to try to “put the shoe on the other foot.” It also draws attention away from the fact that though the level of the media coverage towards the removal of confederate statues has stayed at a peak, overall, there have only been 270 brought down. This has still left 1,600 confederate statues/symbols to remain standing according to a 2020 study by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Conversely, when adding all the defaced/removed statues of Churchill, Lincoln, and Columbus, it’s less than 20; this provides for an incredibly skewed ratio.
The presumption that we can stand in perfect judgment over the lives of historical figures is not merely foolish and unfair, it’s dangerous. Consider what the statue destroyers are, in effect, saying. They are saying that people in history should have known what we know. That’s tantamount to saying, they should have known the future. This is, of course, absurd.
When it comes to slavery and the like, this has nothing to do with “knowledge.” Rather, it boils down to simply treating a human being like a human being and not a piece of furniture. If that information has to come from a place of intellect, and not one of human empathy, then there are far deeper issues that need to be addressed. It seems a little weird to be conflating the ability to foresee a world like Star Trek with basic human empathy and decency.
Yet more and more people believe it. Why? Simple. It’s what they’re taught. It is the fruit of an education system that long ago prioritized “empathy” over facts; that believes the ultimate point of history is not to learn lessons from it, but to judge it from the pre-ordained left-wing conclusions about such ill-defined concepts as social justice, equity, and tolerance.
Given that the concept of “empathy” (as a psychological trait) has been around since first being introduced as a concept in Germany under the name Einfühlung (meaning in-feeling” or “feeling into”) since 1873, I doubt that it’s a concept that has been utterly avoided in educational settings until the last few decades. Or, we can even go back to the Holy Bible where this same concept can be found found in Matthew 22:39 where it is written: “… Thou shalt love their neighbor as thyself.”
This means that per PragerU, the teachings of Jesus Christ have to be viewed as “ill-defined concepts [of] social justice, equity, and tolerance.” I’m being somewhat facetious given the fact that I know how little self-awareness PragerU has when it comes to these things, so there’s no way they would be able to see the connection between the two.
Apart from breeding ignorance, this kind of education invites the student (the child, really) to be judge, jury, and executioner over issues that they (and increasingly their teachers) know little or nothing about. Because no one has bothered to teach them the nuance, complexity, and context that is that history.
OK, so if you feel that the teachers of America are so grossly underprepared when are sent to the front lines when it comes to having a thorough understanding of the topics they’re going to teach, then you would have to drill down to the systemic issues. It would require looking at the entire collegiate system for future educators, its accreditation programs, how each state is falling short of expectations, etc. to fix this issue. Plus, the part about the child being the judge, jury, and executioner is what teachers are paid to do. Teachers encourage autonomy for children in allowing the development of critical thinking skills throughout their growth into adulthood and then empowering them to use those skills in a practical application.
It also breeds arrogance: “I know things these people did not know. Therefore, I am better than they were. They have nothing to teach me. In fact, I must teach them,” and down comes the statue. A new, “better” history must take the place of the old one.
This is one of the main contributors to the gold-medal-worthy performance in the arena of mental gymnastics I mentioned earlier. Using the decryption techniques we’ve already established as a baseline, this entire portion is a mess of gobbledygook misdirection which I have translated for you. “Because I have empathy towards another human being and refuse to treat them like furniture, I have a higher moral ground than those historical figures found to be on the wrong side of history and therefore can learn nothing from their ignorance. In fact, though they have been dead longer than my great-grandparents have been alive, my removal of their statue will teach them a lesson beyond the grave.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?! I believe the presenter is confusing teaching a lesson to those who are dead with teaching a lesson to those who still perpetuate the ideologies which should be dead.
In America this impulse has culminated in the 1619 Project—an initiative started by The New York Times and now in schools everywhere—which attempts to make the arrival of the first African slaves into the American colonies the foundational date of the American Republic. 1776? The American Revolution? In the new history that was just about protecting the Founders’ slave interests. These men—some of the most remarkable humans to have lived at any time—are to be understood simply by their attitude towards this one issue.
For outrage to be present in this section, it requires a specific viewpoint when it comes to which news outlets you trust, and what kind of education you want your children to have. If you are someone who views things like winning a Pulitzer Prize for writing contributions (writings which shed a light on some of the most horrific parts of America’s history as it pertains to slavery) as a major achievement and worthy of further examination on an intellectual level like the 1619 Project; then this idea isn’t going to draw much rage.
Now, if you are someone who believes that everything the New York Times publishes is fake news, or that we should teach historical events like Moses helping the founders write the constitution, or even that a test question like “How do prime numbers illustrate the principle of ‘one flesh’ in marriage” is completely valid, then the thought of ANY part of the 1619 Project being taught anywhere is blood-curdling.
And when it comes to the idea of 1619 versus 1776 as the nation's founding, I am completely neutral. Not only can I see both sides of the argument, but I also feel there are way more important issues impacting my life directly (i.e. struggling with healthcare costs due to a chronic illness) to get too emotionally upset if the year we recognize the beginning of the US were changed.
When it comes to Murray’s claims about the Revolutionary War, he’s kind of right. However, there is so much shading when it comes to the “nuanced facts” that he seems to be such a big fan of, that more context is needed here. War is never black and white. It’s rarely a “good guy versus bad guy” situation. Were some of the reasons mentioned in this PragerU video legitimate when it comes to the American Revolution and slave owners’ interests? Yes … ish. Of course, with how centralized slavery was to our new economy, it would have been impossible to have it separated from land ownership and the economic realities of the cost of war—no matter who won. This is just one example. It’s crucial to remember that when viewing this course, every “fact” only tells half the story.
The 1619 Project seeks to portray America—the freest, most prosperous nation in world history—as exceptional only in one respect: in so far as being exceptionally bad. This is a purposefully destructive view of history. It is one intended to pull down rather than build up. A healthy, humane, and—in the truest sense—liberal mind does not view history as a mere playpen for our moral judgment. It recognizes that people in the past acted on the information they had, just as we do today. Sure, it would have been nice if the Founder of America had abolished slavery in its Constitution. Some, in fact, tried very hard to do so. But had they been unwilling to compromise, there would be no Constitution and no United States. All the sacrifices of the revolution would have been lost. So, a compromise balancing the interests of the northern states and southern states was reached. It would have been nice if the Japanese had surrendered before atom bombs were dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they didn’t. President Truman had to make his decision based on the information he had at the time—that an Allied invasion of the Japanese home island would cost at least a million lives, both American and Japanese.
This entire section means that for the first hundred or so years of America’s existence, nobody had received the information of “I don’t like to be beaten, so maybe this other human being doesn’t like to be beaten”? This nonsense segues perfectly into catastrophizing the complete disintegration of our nation.
He’s right in the fact that the world we have now would not be exactly the same as we’ve come to know had there been no compromise on slavery. But, if the GOP has taught us anything, it’s that our nation was built from the bosom of God. If that’s true, then the abolition of slavery would have only been a mere speed bump in HIS plans for divine intervention and creating the greatest nation in history. Either way, white people always find a way to dominate and subjugate minorities when possible. If African-American slavery had been abolished from the get-go, I’m sure the founders would have found a way to shift that responsibility onto the indigenous peoples already here or the like.
The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have nothing to do with slavery. The conflation of the centuries-long subjugation of black people by whites with the atrocities suffered as the result of a wartime attack is not only mind-boggling but also kind of sickening. If the ONLY measuring stick we’re going to use to make a simile out of two tragic historical events is that “a lot of people died based off inhumane choices due to terrible, yet accepted societal standards,” then we could realistically compare the holocaust with 9/11.
Of course, the woke mind abhors these subtleties. It knows that is it right and that everybody before our current age—year zero—should have known better. Anyway, they were all bigots. Why should we give them any benefit of the doubt, let alone admire them or learn from them?
Bwahahahaha! Did he just say “subtleties?” Throughout this entire course, he’s been using “facts” like a sledgehammer. A great example is when he states that to a woke person EVERYONE before year zero (not sure what that means), was a bigot. Really? How many times have Isaac Hopper and John Brown—two white men who were key contributors to the Underground Railroad—been excoriated by the woke crowd over their bigotry? I mean, according to Murray if you are white and from before “year zero” you are automatically a bigot. I will agree with him in the fact that we can most definitely learn from bigots—when it comes to learning what not to do.
Well, maybe because, like everyone else, the great figures of the past did the best they could under the circumstances in which they found themselves. That their efforts largely succeeded is why we are here. When someone tried to give Sir Isaac Newton credit for his world-changing discoveries in physics, the great man demurred. He said he was only able to achieve what he did by standing on the shoulders of the “giants” who went before him. Today’s Left rejects Newton’s humility. It doesn’t believe that we stand on anyone’s shoulders.
Did PragerU just say that if it hadn’t been for slavery, we would have never known the great success of the civil rights movement? Yes, they really just said that.
It imagines that if we could only liberate ourselves from the dusty, misguided, and misinformed ideas of the past then we might see further, fly still higher. This view is wrong. Divorced from our we would be utterly lost. We would not rise but plummet. We would be forced to start again with far less insight, and with far poorer examples as our guides. Ironically, thanks to the statue destroyers, the great figures of the past have never looked greater. I’m Douglas Murray, author of The Madness of Crowds, for Prager University—end credits.
At the end of the day, this PragerU video has nothing to do with learning from history; it’s about accepting/normalizing the horrific mistakes of our nation’s past when it comes to slavery. To be honest, while listening to the presentation, I swore that at any point Murray was going to come out and say something like, “And this is why you should buy the new Blu-Ray re-release of Disney’s ‘Song Of The South.’” The arguments made for allowing that racist piece of Disney history to be resurrected are the same that have been used to justify the keeping of statues of confederate soldiers erect. In both cases neither Disney, PragerU, or the GOP at large are understanding that this isn’t a historical context issue, it’s a human decency one. There’s no way you can look at the development of mankind and say that our empathy as a species didn’t exist until people like Martin Luther King Jr. arrived and therefore everyone before that time should get a pass. Though history and societal norms may have changed since our country began, you can’t justify a slave owner raping his female slaves repeatedly because he “didn’t know any better,” no matter how bad PragerU may want you to think that.
And judging from the content in “No Past, No Future,” that’s exactly what they want you to think; all followed with a good old dose of forgiveness—Christian style of course.
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