Food For Historical Thought
from Michael Crichton's Timeline
Now Doniger paced, using Kramer as an audience of one. “We are all ruled by the past, although no one understands it. No one recognizes the power of the past,” he said, with a sweep of his hand.
“But if you think about it, the past has always been more important than the present. The present is like a coral island that sticks above the water, but is built upon millions of dead corals under the surface, that no one sees. In the same way, our everyday world is built upon millions and millions of events and decisions that occurred in the past. And what we add in the present is trivial.
“A teenager has breakfast, than goes to the store to buy the latest CD of a new band. The kid thinks he lives in a modern moment. But who has defined what a "band" is? Who defined a “sore”? Who defined a “teenager”? Or “breakfast"? To say nothing of all the rest, the kid’s entire social setting – family, school, clothing, transportation and government.
“None of this has been decided in the present. Most of it was decided hundreds of years ago. Five hundred years, a thousand years. This kid is sitting on top of a mountain that is the past. And he never notices it. He is ruled by what he never sees, never thinks about, doesn’t know. It is a form of coercion that is accepted without question. This same kid is skeptical of other forms of control—parental restrictions, commercial messages, government laws. But the invisible rule of the past, which decides nearly everything in his life, goes unquestioned. This is real power. Power that can be taken, and used. For just as the present is ruled by the past, so is the future. That is why I say, the future belongs to the past."