8/15/13

Correcting history with hindsight


Left: You shouldn't have pissed this guy off

Have you ever read about something in history and with the wonderful benefit of hindsight thought "I wouldn't have done that if I were them"? Hindsight is very underrated. Everyone thinks "Oh yeah, you can say that with the benefit of hindsight, but what would you have done if you were there at that moment in time without the advantage of knowing what the outcome would be?" But isn't that the beauty of hindsight? The fact that you DO know exactly what DID happen means you could know EXACTLY what you should or shouldn't have done if you were there. Hindsight is PERFECT. So here's my list of things I wouldn't have done and what I would've done instead, thanks to the miracle of 20/20 hindsight:

1) What I wouldn't have done: Been the wise man who brought gold. 
It seems like the wise men who brought frankincense and myrrh were a little wiser than the guy who brought gold, don't you think? First of all, baby Jesus is not going to care what present you give him anyway, not just because he's a baby, but because he's Jesus and he doesn't care about earthly possessions. He's the son of god, he doesn't need presents, let alone gold. He'd say "the real gold is the kingdom of heaven" or something Jesusy like that. Plus I bet the other two guys poked fun at the guy who brought gold. He probably saw the bushels of fragrant weeds the others had brought just as they were handing it to Jesus and was like "You've got to be kidding me". But it would've been too late because baby Jesus was probably already being all polite and thanking them for their gifts because he's Jesus and Jesus probably doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings (yes, he could talk as a baby apparently--I know, creepy).
What I would've done instead: Brought some oregano or basil. 

2) What I wouldn't have done: Invaded Russia.
This is a no-brainer. It's huge, it's cold, it's full of crazy vodka-drinking fatalistic Russians, nobody else is going to want you to have it so they'll just side with Russia to screw up your invasion, the whole thing sounds like it could result in nothing short of disaster. Okay, Napoleon was brilliant and ambitious, and he actually went as far as occupying Moscow, but he went with half a million men and came back with barely ten thousand. As for Hitler, he was no military genius or anything, but you'd think he'd have at least learnt from Napoleon. Then there was the Russian Civil War where dozens of countries sent forces in to fight the Bolsheviks, but they all messed up and the Red Army won. Moral of the story: don't the fuck invade Russia.
What I would've done instead: Literally anything else.

3) What I wouldn't have done: Pissed off Genghis Khan.
Among the things to not do, it seems like fucking with Genghis Khan would be very high on the list. You're talking about a guy who probably waged the only successful genocide in history when he wiped out the original Tatars. So what does the Khwarezmian Sultan do? He executes a delegation of Mongol ambassadors and then refuses to apologize. Nice. Guess what Genghis Khan does? He invades (obviously), and then goes totally ape shit on everyone's ass. Example: he has all his Khwarezmian prisoners' legs chopped off from the knees and then frozen onto the walls of the city that he's besieging so they can be used as ladders for his troops to climb. Then once he's taken a city, he systematically exterminates entire civilian populations. The Khwarezmian Empire is obliterated within two years. The whole brutal campaign inspires Nazi Blitzkrieg tactics.
What I would've done instead: Gee, I don't know. APOLOGIZED?!

4) What I wouldn't have done: Crucified Christ.
Don't you see that crucifixion was what god planned all along? He would send his son to earth and have him go through excruciating torment for the salvation of humankind. That was the plan, that was the whole gist. You Romans played right into his hand by crucifying him. I bet Jupiter was rolling his eyes at you the whole time. In fact I'm pretty sure that giant storm that perpetually revolves around Jupiter is Jupiter's wide open mouth screaming "IDIOTS!" Okay, yes, technically the Romans didn't give a shit, to them it was all a bizarre local matter among Jews concerning messiahs and priests and blasphemy and what not, but still, if they hadn't crucified him, St. Paul would've had a pretty thin foundation for creating Christianity later on. I mean, you can't really expect to move people into joining a new religion with a slogan like "Jesus was put under house arrest for your sins!" Of course, some other salvation-offering religion would've taken Christianity's place, like Manichaeism or Mithraism, but they seemed kind of cooler anyway, without all that "meek shall inherit the earth" stuff, which the Romans certainly would've appreciated, because they didn't want no meek people rising up and inheriting their earth.
What I would've done instead: I would've just banished Jesus to India. He would've fit right into India (and he probably would've just become Buddhist), the Jewish priests would've been satisfied because their authority would remain intact, and Pontius Pilate could've got some well-needed rest after having to deal with yet another big complicated Middle Eastern religious mess.

5) What I wouldn't have done: Sacrificed people and animals to gods
The Mayans and Aztecs ripped still-beating hearts of people and animals out of their chests; the Canaanites threw screaming children into a burning furnace inside a massive statue of Moloch in the valley of Gehenna; Hebrew mythology refers to the pre-Judaic practice of human sacrifice (Jacob & Abraham); the Arcadians sacrificed people to their wolf cult and the rest of Greek mythology is rife with human sacrifice and cannibalism (Pelops & Tantalus, Iphigenia, Atreus, Cronus, Polyphemus, etc.), not to mention hecatombs that involved the ritual slaughter of a hundred cattle, sheep, goats, etc. So how about this idea: don't kill anyone and see what happens? If the world keeps turning and if everyone doesn't get struck down by lightning and if ten-headed serpent demons don't come tearing up from the bowels of the earth to devour mankind because you didn't throw a virgin in a volcano, then maybe human sacrifice was unnecessary all along?
What I would've done instead: Just skip a human sacrifice and see what happens. When you see that the sky doesn't come falling down, you can focus your energy on something more productive, like pottery.

6) What I wouldn't have done: Alchemy
Turning metals into gold? Really? Trying to find the elixir of eternal life? Seriously? Do you know how desperately greedy you alchemists come across? Why can't you just be satisfied with plain old chemistry (which is still pretty incredible) and a reasonable lifespan? Why do you need to turn things into gold? Why can't you be content with a roof over your head, the company of loved ones, a nice warm meal everyday, and whatever time you have to enjoy life? Do you just roll out of bed in the morning all depressed, whining like a spoilt little princess going "I wish that metal doorknob were gold, stupid metal doorknob, boo... I wish I could live forever... Why can't I just live forever and ever? It that too much to ask? Meh, hmph..."? You know what you jerks should've been searching for instead? Penicillin.
What I would've done instead: Hanged myself for being a shitty person.

7) What I wouldn't have done: Welcomed the pilgrims
Gee, that turned out well, didn't it native Americans? You welcomed them and gave them yam and a big roast turkey and said "Hi, how's it going, would you like to share a meal with us?" and they ate all your food and then wiped you out. Sounds like a fair trade! You give them food, they give you smallpox and then eventually a reservation with a casino.
What I would've done instead: KILLED AS MANY PILGRIMS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE AS THEY CAME ASHORE FROM THEIR BOATS, and then fled, obviously, because they had steel and gunpowder and super mutant germs.

8) What I wouldn't have done: Still not surrendered after getting nuked.
Was Hiroshima necessary? They obviously were not bluffing with Nagasaki. In fact, was Nagasaki even necessary? If someone said "Hey, we have a bomb that can wipe out an entire city and look, here's some footage of us testing that bomb in a desert back home. You sure you want us to drop this on you?" shouldn't you just realize it's time to say "Okay okay, you guys win"? I mean, it's not like defeat would be that bad anyway because you'll get to be an economic superpower again within a few decades, and you even get to keep your emperor and everything, so what are you complaining about?
What I would've done instead: Surrendered, and then, I don't know, committed seppuku or something I guess, because I would've been Japanese so I would've had that whole honor thing going (unfortunately).

9) What I wouldn't have done: Explored continents, jungles, mountains, sources of rivers, arctic poles and other super dangerous places people have no business being in.
When you consider all the deathly encounters with animals, hostile tribes, thirst, hunger, heat and cold exposure, disease, climate, and a million other things, you'd think you'd just wait for the invention of satellites that can pinpoint and map out all that shit without you having to fend off death every second for months on end as you go there by foot. In fact I'm pretty sure Ernest Shackleton said something along those lines after rowing his way back to civilization following a year trapped in Antarctic ice. He said [and I'm paraphrasing a bit]: "Fuck doing that again, I'll wait till they invent skycraft and fly over it".
What I would've done instead: Used the word skycraft instead of airplane, it's way better. 

10) What I wouldn't have done: Showed the Spaniards any gold
Showing off your gold to a 16th century Spaniard in the Americas pretty much ensured your civilization would be destroyed and your entire population would be forced to work as slaves in gold mines. We're talking about a greedy (but also admittedly very brave and very tough) bunch of conquerors who erased two mighty empires, the Aztec and the Incan, for the sake of gold. They sent hopeless, futile, mad expeditions into jungles and mountains searching for fabled golden cities. Mexican sources from the time of the conquest describe the Spanish conquerors as being "like wild beasts that salivate when they see gold". And it wasn't even worth it in the end, because all the gold they took back to Europe just led to gold inflation and bankrupted the Spanish monarchy, leading to its gradual decline.
What I would've done instead: Hid all the gold and just greeted them with some colorful beads and feathers. 

Ah, that's better. History seems a lot better already!