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Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Those Who Cannot Learn From History....

"Those who cannot learn from history," wrote George Santayana, "are doomed to repeat it."
In the wonderful BBC series: "World War II, Behind Closed Doors", more of the truth of what actually happened while hundreds of thousands of people were being killed becomes apparent. Of course, so vile a regime as Hitler's had to be stopped, but, as the programme shows the behind the scenes subterfuges between Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill - often playing each other off against the others - there is the overriding sense of three power-hungry little boys moving toy soldiers around in a game. Sadly, the game is all too serious and not one of the three little boys in old men's bodies seems to have any care whatsoever for the millions who are dying. The usual presentation of immediate history is usually a gloss over a power-seeker's plans and the truth only come to light years after the event.
All of this really begs the question - how long before individuals stop being led by those playing out their games on the world stage? How long before we stop being told and start to think for ourselves?
Hitler could never have done what he did, on his own. Nor could Stalin. Nor, for that matter, could Churchill. And each of those people, in their own country, convinced the masses of ordinary people that they were acting for their benefit, for the good of the country and on their behalf. Supposing the people had just said, "We live our own lives. We have no reason to attack another country, or to be governed by another country. We just get on and do what we do - not told what to do, not telling anyone else what to do. We care for and respect one another." Then the boys would have had to return to their toy boxes.
Of course, that is so simplistic and I am merely naive. But to my mind the real naiveté lies in thinking we cannot think for ourselves. For centuries millions of people have gone to their deaths in someone else's cause - and the ultimate cause, when all the propaganda is stripped away, is usually some weakness in the leader, that he desperately tries to hide behind a mask of strength. Jealousy, fear, something from childhood he never outgrew. Millions more people have willingly handed over their power to other - we need to be told what is good for us, what is bad for us; how we should raise and educate our children...and who knows these things better than we do ourselves?
To return to the original point; it seems that history is now to be played down in Primary Schools. How will have any sense of identity, and means of learning from the mistakes of our forebears, any means of knowing who we are? Without history, we are like people with no idea where we came from; no past experience to guide us. Perhaps that's the plan - after all, in so many regimes where tyrants rule, history is re-written or wiped out altogether.

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