Seven: “Appreciating the lessons of history”
They say that history has a habit of repeating itself. Of course I’d agree with that to a certain point, but some things are and should be allowed to be fresh and unique in their own way as new ideas and trends come into the way we live. Without doubt, there’s a lot we can learn from history and I think it serves its purpose in that sense and should be studied and taken seriously with a high level of respect and dignity.
Context is essential for looking at history, before we make our own judgement based on that time versus the way we are now. A couple of years back, I looked into the concept of historical revisionism, something truly different in the way we look back at history. Although revisionism is very much heavy critical thinking for the most part, it’s something that makes us think deeper about a time instead of just accepting whatever it is we hear, in the way history is written about. I actually posted that study to my blog if you fancy reading it here for a bit more understanding: https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/a-look-to-historical-revisionism-commemorations-and-1916-ireland/.
Now, recently someone told me that having a history degree is something unique and special, providing a better and more profound world view. Doing a degree in something I understand can open your mind to independent and different thoughts around an era and of course is highly academic, but I don’t think it’s essential that everyone have a degree in order to appreciate and learn from history.
Getting back to history repeating itself; originally, I found that concept a very scary thing. That mistakes could be made again and even the sense that humans never learn. Could that be the case? I know for sure that that world view isn’t the best for us in general. But I think that if we all kept our eyes on history, potentially we could avoid this repetition and even stand in the way of allowing history to repeat itself when it comes to the things we dislike or are uncomfortable with. If we all gave history the time and respect it deserved, we could all lend a hand in spotting things in politics and even socially that feel a little too close for comfort, that we may have seen before historically.
History has shaped how we live and who we are, that fact can’t be denied. To really understand the present and look to the future, the past is as important as any other contributing factor. Quick thinking and irrational decisions really stand out historically and can be spotted fairly easily.
I went to visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam recently and it was something I’d always been drawn to seeing obviously because of the mark the Holocaust and World War II made in our history as a people. The heartache of the innocent and the wrong of the powerful, those ideas stick. Being in the house itself felt solemn and I will admit that some parts of it brought up emotions in the pure sense of wrong and the desperation of this family who had their world turned upside-down.
A particularly interesting part of the tour was at the end though when everyone was invited to sit and watch a stream of comments from previous visitors and admirers of Anne Frank’s story. The message hit home that this cannot and should not be let happen again. The idea of history repeating itself was stuck in my mind that day. We hear a lot in the world’s media about changes to immigration laws, the strife of refugees and just a lot of underlying unrest with the rise of right wing politics that people don’t necessarily voice publicly.
I think looking to history might help us contemplate better the time we’re currently facing. I watched some of Martin McGuinness’s funeral last week, attended by those of opposing views as well as family, friends and admirers. Really, I had never seen such a positive farewell in the form of a service. I do firmly believe hatred can be conquered and if we don’t try to do so, each and every day – we are doing our history a disservice.
All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/