How do we know who is on the right vs. the wrong side of history today?

It is heartbreaking for me to encounter responses to this question that sidestep discernment and wisdom around this issue. Sure, obviously history is written by the “winners.” Sure, folks at different ideological extremes have opposing views of what is “right,” while also expressing the same level of confidence in their views. Sure, people’s attitudes about behaviors, events and priorities change over time. All of this is true. But the conclusion that we should, therefore, abandon all hope of perceiving or understanding “who is on the right side of history” seems to me a rather lazy, cynical, and irresponsible excuse for not paying better attention to the human condition and civil society — and becoming more educated about them. In fact, such casual surrender to willful or despairing ignorance seems to reflect the sort of solipsistic nihilism that has routinely gotten folks into trouble…and indeed often places them on the “wrong” side of history.

So how do we discern who is on the right or wrong side of history? Of course we could begin with our own personal values hierarchy, but that wouldn’t be entirely helpful — in isolation, what do our own personal value or morals have to do with the larger arc of human history, after all? What we can do instead is look back over the history of human existence and civilization and track what the core characteristics of “right” and “wrong” have looked like, and observe how those tendencies have played out over time. Through that lens, we can assess who ends up occupying the “right” and “wrong” sides of history itself, and we can then attempt to project those standards and patterns onto current events.

Although initially requiring a lot of careful research, it’s a relatively simple exercise once the data is compiled. This process is in part what my book Political Economy and the Unitive Principle sets out to do, and you can read it for free below:

At the risk of oversimplifying, I’ll summarize the main points:

1. Humans are prosocial critters, and thier prosociality has been key to human survival and the evolution of civilization itself — and also relatively uniform in its expression in terms of promoted behaviors and social mores (sure, there is variability, but the broad strokes are the same).

2. There is also a predictable progression of the individual and collective moral maturity process that reflects ever-widening spheres of inclusion for our prosocial impulses (i.e. we include larger and larger spheres of interaction and relationship in our caring as we morally mature).

3. As long as conditions are supportive, that moral progression is a natural, easily observable phenomenon in individuals and across every society we know of…and continues in those around the globe today. However, that progression is not fixed, fast, orderly, or immune to regression…it is instead messy and organic, and often slow (hence we need remember the “long” part of “the arc of the universe is ***long***, but it bends towards justice”.

4. Despite the “messiness” of our moral evolution, it then becomes quite clear who or what is on the “right” or “wrong” side of history — it is simply a matter of mapping those people and events within a progression of prosocial characteristics. To that end, please see this chart:

Lastly, those who have developed even a little bit in terms of their moral maturity will quickly recognize what is or is not prosocial in both modern times and history — that is, what is or is not beneficial to civil society over time. **However, this level of discernment and wisdom may seem mysterious or perplexing to those operating in the lower strata of moral development.** Those who aren’t as advanced shouldn’t be belittled for that (unless, perhaps, their arrogant willfulness demands it…), but instead encouraged to heal, mature, and grow.

For further reading, I would also recommend this essay:

The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty

And for a deeper dive into my own theorizing about the nature of love — which is the basis of prosociality — and the human condition, please check out this book (also free to read):

True Love

My 2 cents.


Trackback specific URI for this entry

This link is not meant to be clicked. It contains the trackback URI for this entry. You can use this URI to send ping- & trackbacks from your own blog to this entry. To copy the link, right click and select "Copy Shortcut" in Internet Explorer or "Copy Link Location" in Mozilla.

No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

No comments

The author does not allow comments to this entry