“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived. But if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” So wrote the American author Maya Angelou. A fellow writer, James Baldwin also noted: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” These were both reminders that we need to know our history in order to understand perhaps where we are today and how we came to be where we are; that we need to understand reality and to face it in order to progress. Such advice seems particularly pertinent in these, at first sight, very confusing times.
History is important. In centuries past this statement would have seemed self-evident. Ancient cultures devoted much time and effort to teaching their children family history. It was thought that the past helps a child understand who he is. Modern society, however, has turned its back on the past. We live in a time of rapid change, a time of progress. We prefer to define ourselves in terms of where we are going, not where we come from. Our ancestors hold no importance for us. They lived in times so different from our own that they are incapable of shedding light on our experience. Man is so much smarter now than he was even ten years ago that anything from the past is outdated and irrelevant to us. Therefore the past, even the relatively recent past, is, in the minds of most of us, enshrouded by mists and only very vaguely perceived. Our ignorance of the past is not the result of a lack of information, but of indifference. We do not believe that history matters. But history does matter. It has been said that he who controls the past controls the future. Our view of history shapes the way we view the present, and therefore it dictates what answers we offer for existing problems. Let me offer a few examples to indicate how this might be true. Understanding history and the implications of events
By doing this we can hope to extract some guiding principles. History never repeats...
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