I’m sure you heard the famous quote before by Santayana “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I can bet that more than half of you are rolling your eyes thinking, here we go again back to boring school history. Truth is, yes history is boring. History is the story of the past; people back then have never experienced the technology or social structure that we take for granted today.
Never before has mankind been as connected and educated as ever before. I can literally talk to someone from the other side of the globe and actually see what they are seeing. Not only that, but you can virtually hide your identity and be whoever you want online without anyone knowing the troll you really are when commenting on YouTube or 9gag, yes I’m talking to you “Hayal”! So how is history relevant today? Why do we say that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it? Are we going to repeat the things our ancestors did… which was… riding horses and swinging metal blades? Truth is we will and may never go back in time to really learn from our ancestor’s mistakes. Each mistake or achievement made was done at its own time and will never be the same in another place. There is a time and place for everything, and the past..well it’s the past.
However, imagine this, imagine you wake up one morning with absolutely no idea of anything that happened the past 25 years. You wake up from your bed as if you have been in a long coma, and you can’t even recognize the faces of your loved ones or make up the objects in your room. You would be filled with fear, uncertainty and doubt. You wouldn’t know what’s what and who’s who. People will call themselves your loved ones and yet you can’t even remember their names or faces. You may as well struggle the next few days walking again, constantly bumping into glass doors, and burning yourself more than once because you never learnt what fire is. You will be lost and most likely in a facility where they would have to teach you why not to touch fire 101.
You see history is the same concept, if we wake up not knowing anything about the past we would have lost so much knowledge that would otherwise enable us to survive and grow as a species. History is not just dates and names of people who did this and that, but rather the lessons learnt and actions explained in all our lives. As an example, say you decide that you would like to invest your money on a new phone. One of the first things you would do is look into the options available and then into the company’s history. You would look into reviews and maybe talk to your friends about their own experience with that phone. How is the battery? How is customer care? Does the phone have bugs? All the knowledge you will get will be based on other people’s previous experience or history with that phone itself. This information will enable you to decide whether you wish to invest on a new phone today or wait until for a newer model phone is released.
Think of history the same way. People throughout time have made decisions and actions which they have either rejoiced or regret all their lives. What history provides us is the review and comments section of everyone’s choices in the past. Is it worth doing such and such, what will happen in the future if I did buy or undertake a certain action now. History can teach us what will happen if we end up discriminating against a minority, are unjust in our rule, decide to build a big wall, follow ideas blindly, are rude to others, or even commit a crime or murder. There is a lesson to be learned in everything in life, and history is the key to those answers.
History doesn’t have to be that boring name and date memorization you did in school, as a matter of fact you don’t even have to memorize any name or date. All you need to understand in history are the actions and choices of people and their consequences. By doing so, even if you wake up from a coma you would’ve prevented yourself from touching fire because you learnt from history the consequences of doing so.
Recommended more reads:
A Little History of the World – Ernst Gombrich
Why history matters – Penelope J. Corfield
The importance of history – David Crabtree
Why Study History – Peter N. Stearns
Featured image by: LaurensSpruit