A group of dissident historians once offered a remedy to the nationalist populism resurgent today: a pluralism that respects the legitimacy of multiple political currents and the rights of minorities at home, and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighboring states abroad.
Satire is among the most powerful tools for bringing the powerful back down to earth, and al-Jahiz from ninth-century Iraq was a master of the craft. Beyond his powerful connections, his financial independence may also have helped make him one of the few writers who could speak freely, not only about the maladies of their age but also its various classes and subclasses.
Ralph Bunche’s hands lay behind some of the signal features of the postwar order, from peacekeeping to conflict mediation to his most significant and lasting legacy, the one that made both peacekeeping and mediation so often necessary: the dismantling of European empire.
When tourism became a source of hard currency, the Romanian Communist Party designated Dracula’s castle a destination for foreign visitors who, as readers of the Victorian novel by Bram Stoker, paid dearly to shiver in the chilling bath of torture victims' screams piped through the walls.
“History is not a simple lesson. You cannot just take the 13th century and say, ‘Okay, we should do that now.’ It was a different world, but it's important to know that it was not always like this. And I think the nomadic experience in life and culture and politics and all gives us so many different views of how we can organize ourselves as human societies.”
“The nature of war is hatred and fury, but it’s mitigated very quickly when a new enemy comes to the scene. The idea that we should chase all of these Nazis and punish all of them, was wrong. Because it meant that while there was still rage, while the war was still remembered, the Allies wasted their time hunting all sorts of small fry. If you really want to punish war criminals, choose the people who were the worst and focus on them. The people who operated the gas chambers, the concentration camp guards — if those people were executed, I would have been happy to pardon all other Germans.”
“There are tales of a statue in Cadiz which speaks, or cities of bronze in the desert. I don't think that people in the past were necessarily naive or necessarily taken in by these kinds of stories, but the world was much more mysterious. There were lots of places where most people had never been and would never go and really weren't quite sure whether these things existed or not.”