When history looks back on you, assuming you’re not a direct perpetrator of injustice, which statement will be made about your life?
“They stood up for what was right, even though it was unpopular.”
“They couldn’t really help it, they were just a product of their time.”
I found myself wondering this a couple of years ago, and this post has been sitting in my drafts ever since. I can’t remember which thorny ethical issue first sparked the internal conversation I was having, but at one point I found myself pondering which way the tide was going to turn and whether I’d find myself on the wrong side of history.
Then I thought, even that isn’t the question I should be asking, though. Because there’s no guarantee that the good guys are going to win. We’re seeing so many stories of dystopia nowadays that it feels like fiction is bleeding out into the real world. What if hate does win, at least for a while? Then by doing what you think is right, you might end up on the ‘wrong side’ according to society.
And what if the issues we’re grappling with nowadays – the political dichotomies that seem to be polarising by the minute – don’t have straightforward answers? What if it’s not as clear-cut as choosing a single option? What if you think something is wrong in some instances and right in others?
What if your own viewpoint doesn’t align with the views of most of your friends? What if it’s unpopular in the current political climate?
What if the other side win?
The older I get, the more I’m of the opinion that I don’t really care what other people think. Mark Manson has a theory that the older you get, the fewer fucks you give, and I think that’s probably true.
So when I ask myself what the history books will say, I should rephrase the question. After all, the likelihood of me (or you, or most of us) actually being mentioned in the history books is very small. But if you’re not leaving a legacy, then all you have is now. And if all you have is now, it makes sense to live in a way that sits well with you now and not worry too much about who’s going to win whichever battles are currently being fought. To carve out your own little path and stick to it. To work out where you stand on issues that are important to you, and constantly to work on yourself.
At least that way, if nothing else, you can say you were true to who you are. And that is one of the most fulfilling feelings you can have.