Waarom de RUG een eredoctoraat uitreikt aan Philipp Blom
Waarom de RUG een eredoctoraat uitreikt aan Philipp Blom


I always think history is meaningless… unless it tells us how we
became who we are. I always want to know what something
that happened in the past… has to do with me
and the society I’m living in. We appear to be really living
at a crucial time in history… where our generation
decides the future… for many generations
that come after us. And we don’t seem to be realizing that. We certainly don’t seem to act… We
certainly don’t act as if we realize that. And I always feel
this curious dichotomy… that this is a fantastic time
for a historian to be alive. Because you see history changing,
you see history in the making. You see whole paradigms shifting,
and for a historian that’s wonderful. But it’s a very difficult time
to be a person who’s alive. Because for all those very reasons,
our lives are becoming very unstable. Our political systems may well topple. We may be very close to… not an Enlightenment,
but an Endarkenment of the world. That means that it’s incumbent
upon us to talk about that. To open our mouths, to say something
and to shake people up. And if I’m wrong,
if all this is no problem… then, in thirty years, I’ll be
the first to laugh about it. We need to understand ourselves
better, and our place in nature. We need to understand that… We need to detheologize our thinking. We’re not above nature. We’re just as insignificant
as cockroaches or rats. Nature can do very well without us,
and it will if we’re not careful. But we have one evolutionary
turbo drive, and that’s culture. Culture can make us change
the way we see ourselves… make us change our behaviour,
and how our societies work. Through that, it can
be part of the solution. Imagine a society in which
there isn’t that much to buy. And in which your status as a person
who deserves respect… doesn’t rely on the fact
that you have twenty suits… and you wear a different one every day. But relies on other things.
This is possible. That’s one point where, if we have
a lever, there we can stick the lever in. There we can begin to change
a society, the narrative in a society. But if you want to have one narrative,
and not fifty narratives in a society… you need to find sufficient
social cohesion in the society. And not only to find it, but you need
to create it, because a narrative… I’m going to repeat myself,
but it’s an important sentence. A narrative is only good if it resonates
with people’s experience. It’s no good if it comes out of books,
or from TV, or as something abstract. A narrative needs to resonate with
people’s intimate personal experience. If we can manage that, then we can
be societies that go forward.

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