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Memories of the 28th Century

Ignoring History

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Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (George Santayana)
Those who do remember the past are condemned to watch in horror as those who forgot the history repeat it.

Recently the knowledge of history seems to have diminished. I probably have been wasting my time, but I recently posted a blog post about Afghanistan, because there is so much history that suggests that invading Afghanistan is a bad idea. Similarly, it has been known for a fairly long time that there is nothing to be gained by annoying Russia or China, but Trump seems to enjoy few things as much as annoying those countries. For thousands of years professional diplomats have been preferred for dealing with other countries. When a major country acts as China has in the South China Sea, there are indirect ways to express displeasure such that the offender backs down, but Trump decided to go with direct confrontation. Similarly, Trump has been unnecessarily confrontational with North Korea, and the ham-fisted dealings with North Korea are some of the reasons why China has been less conciliatory than it might have been. A clever diplomat might have connected those two situations and come out ahead in both.

Similarly, the sanctions that were imposed on Russia as responses for the theft of Crimea probably werenít sharp enough to be effective, but Putin is a strange guy, so it is difficult to determine what might be effective. But anyone who knows much of the history of the Crimean Peninsula wonders how best to handle it. I understand that Crimea has been conquered nineteen times (I won't vouch for the precision of that number, but that is in the right range), and it has been ruled by others for most of history, and most of those conquests resulted in a change in culture and population.

Trump isnít the first completely incompetent president that the U.S.A. has had. Well, maybe he is more incompetent than any others but not by much. Those who have studied history already know that he will go away at some point, and he will not have done much; although the federal government may be plundered by the pirates he has for advisers, but they will be caught. Putin will continue as he has, plundering Russia with complete impunity. Someday Russia will have decent government, and the past century will called the time of loony government.

History also shows us that North Korea is the place to worry about. Kim has nothing to lose, or so he thinks. We can't bomb North Korea back to the Stone Age, because it's already there. But China is very interested in making North Korea quiet and peaceful.

I started writing this piece about learning history, because I wrote a letter to a newspaper criticizing a column that falsely accused Jeffrey Amherst of of using biological warfare. scroll down to the comments. I have written and sent off many versions of the same letter to a variety of places. I don't care about Jeffrey Amherst, but I happen to live in a town that was named for him, and it annoys me to see see the libel repeated again and again. It appears that the people who write such things choose to avoid remembering history. Some of them may, in a general way, hate people who might be regarded as holding a philosophy that is different from what they believe, and Jeffrey Amherst lived in a very hierarchical society, as did everyone in the 18th century. And many people mistake efforts by the British to save the Indians from the colonists as trying to do damage to their cultures; although they were trying to prevent the elimination of those cultures as a result of colonists moving in and taking over, which happened after the American Revolution. If the people condemning Amherst knew the facts, then they probably would think quite highly of him.

There has been quite a lot of history forgotten, and humans being the limited creatures of habit that they are history does repeat remarkably often. I don't know whether remembering the past would change that, but it would provide a better, more complete, perspective. The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, tried to erase the past by destroying writings, but that didn't work. More recently several philosophical movements have tried, and are still trying, to eliminate the past or to remold it into something that pleases them. They have had limited success. There are many people who have no idea what happened in the past, and that is fine with them, but there are many other people who learn as much as possible about the past in the hope of finding a way to alter the future. Then there are the people who use Humpty-Dumpty's philosophy toward words for history as well; they think that history is what they say that it is, regardless of actual facts.

Updated 09-12-2017 at 02:28 PM by PeterL



  1. kiz_paws's Avatar
    Well written and thought-provoking, as always, Pete!
  2. PeterL's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by kiz_paws
    Well written and thought-provoking, as always, Peter!
    Thanks, I'm glad someone likes it.
  3. Rashmi_trivesh's Avatar