Don’t you absolutely love pithy quotes? They always get me thinking either because I agree with it, or because I don’t.
Today I went wandering down the mental pathways of history because someone repeated something I’ve heard a million times before, the ubiquitous quote everyone has heard and at which, we automatically nod in agreement. Everyone says it, so it has to be true, doesn’t it?
Everything that is happening or will ever happen, has happened before. That most people don’t remember and have never read any history is sad. Yet I have come to believe that ignorance of history has little bearing on what we (collectively) do.
I love history. I want other people to love it as much as I do, if for no better reason than to give me more people to talk to who share my passion. As a history buff, I want to believe if people knew history, they would not repeat the same bad behavior, make the same errors as we’ve made in the past.
That’s wishful thinking. We think a lack of knowledge is the root of the evil but there are other reasons. The biggest one? Ego.
Lack of awareness or failure to remember is a symptom, not the problem.
It’s our human determination to prove history wrong which is so destructive. More to the point, we — humankind — want to prove we are above or outside history, not subject to its rules. This stubbornness is at the core of many of the most monstrous, terrible things we do. We keep trying to prove we aren’t subject to the same forces that have directed the past.
Not remembering history does not condemn us to repeat it. Refusing to accept the outcome of history because we want what we want — usually in combination with greed and a lust for power — that is what condemns us.