History and Famous Quotes: Why Bother?


The Metamodern. World: History and Esteemed Quotes.

“That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended – civilizations are built up – excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and the cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin.” – C.S. Lewis

By EJ Wickes
Image (above) from “Streams of Sand” by Evelina Pentcheva

It gives me a great feeling of satisfaction to post on social media remarkable quotes by the most notable minds throughout history. We’ve all done this at one time or another. But to our surprise, many of the classic quotes that permeate the internet are quite often unsubstantiated by any historical documentation. For example, one quote often used by gun rights activists in defense of a well armed citizenry has been frequently misattributed to a Japanese general from WWII.

“You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.” – Isoroku Yamamoto

We live in a society that chooses to live along side of and cling to commercialized wisdom for the sake of a meme share. There are so many examples in history to learn from; so many great men and women who have published or had their wisdom published for the sake of their species’ future. For all their lifetimes of service to humanity, their brilliance might just as well have been reprinted on cocktail napkins.


I had an English teacher in high school who would always write a new quote on the board every day. Her name was Miss White. As a matter of fact, on some days I would learn more from one of those quotes than an entire day of sitting through the rest of my classes. I have always been moved by the quotes of great men and women from the past and present. Statesmen, comedians and philosophers alike have all made their mark on history throughout the ages. One of my favorite quotes of all comes from Horace Mann. Mann is often attributed to being the Father of American Education.

“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for Humanity.” – Horace Mann

History is recorded (or revised) by the victors. Even as history becomes debated and reinvented there will always be historians uncovering the dark truths that are spun by “civilized” man. Even as investigative journalists are able to squeeze their exposés between the cracks of the corporate media’s floor boards, we still choose to ignore or deny any of our misguided policies. Insincere apologetic rants filled with condescending patriotism. And still – we allow ourselves no freedom to take advantage of the lessons to be learned from the past.

“Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” – Mark Twain

Currently we are engaged in a geopolitical quagmire the likes of what we haven’t seen since WWII. Historians of the future will no doubt be writing about life as we know it in pre-World War III America. If we keep heading down the same slippery slope of past fallen empires we will surely become another statistic from a more dystopian future’s past.

“In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.” – Edmund Burke

Posted below is a video from a Book TV C-SPAN2 interview with Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh. The interview was aired on October 16, 2006. Almost ten years ago this discussion was foreshadowing the events that have come to fruition; including the conflict with Syria and the eminent threat we’re nurturing between us and Iran.

“Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.” – Machiavelli

Scot Ritter is a hard corps conservative. A Reaganite who stands behind his personal ideals whether you agree with him entirely or not. Ritter, hosted in a forum of liberals and sitting along side of Seymour Hersh, another member of the so-called “liberal” media. His direct analysis of the events leading up to the Iraq War will raise many an eyebrow. His presentation does not offer any apologies for the Bush and Cheney Administration in any way. Both commentators are consistent and aligned in their unanimous critiques of both the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” – Voltaire

Here is a lesson from the not too distant past. The issues discussed in this video are corroborated by other interviews and current events already taking place. History is about cause and effect. When we experience a bad effect logic would dictate that we review our actions from the past to see where we went wrong. But instead history gets framed out of the public discussions as a matter of conventional media wisdom. It shouldn’t be difficult to see the effects of the causes of our actions through history, let alone these past ten years. Unfortunately, more than a thirty second soundbite is much too challenging for a goldfish’s level of concentration to endure.

“Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up.” – Undetermined



“We find that at present the human race is divided into one wise man, nine knaves, and ninety fools out of every hundred. That is, by an optimistic observer. The nine knaves assemble themselves under the banner of the most knavish among them, and become ‘politicians’; the wise man stands out, because he knows himself to be hopelessly outnumbered, and devotes himself to poetry, mathematics, or philosophy; while the ninety fools plod off under the banners of the nine villains, according to fancy, into the labyrinths of chicanery, malice and warfare. It is pleasant to have command, observes Sancho Panza, even over a flock of sheep, and that is why the politicians raise their banners. It is, moreover, the same thing for the sheep whatever the banner. If it is democracy, then the nine knaves will become members of parliament; if fascism, they will become party leaders; if communism, commissars. Nothing will be different, except the name. The fools will be still fools, the knaves still leaders, the results still exploitation. As for the wise man, his lot will be much the same under any ideology. Under democracy he will be encouraged to starve to death in a garret, under fascism he will be put in a concentration camp, under communism he will be liquidated.” – T.H. White, The Book of Merlyn: The Unpublished Conclusion to The Once & Future King

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