I hate that line about “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it” because as far as I can tell, it’s people and cultures which can’t forget the past who keep repeating it, like Confederacy-loving parts of the American South, the perennially war-torn Balkans or Caucasus region, caste-ridden areas of south Asia or any overly religious culture. Let it go and move on – that’s a key to happiness.
This piece in Slate discusses a new book which makes that same point, titled “In Praise of Forgetting: Historical Memory and its Ironies.” I like this from the author (David Rieff) in the interview:
The mass murder of the Jews of Europe in the 1940s did not prevent the near genocide in East Pakistan, or the country that became Bangladesh, in 1971. It didn’t prevent the Khmer Rouge from killing a million people in Cambodia; it didn’t prevent the Rwandan genocide in 1994. As far as I can see, we don’t learn much of anything from the past. And if people say that we do, I have frankly one answer for them: Syria.
I truly don’t understand—I’m not being disingenuous or rhetorical—I don’t understand how people got it into their heads that [knowing about] the crimes of the past provides some kind of prophylactic against crimes committed in the present. I see literally no basis for that. I think this is an exercise in mass wishful thinking.
Yes, yes, yes. I may have to actually buy a new hardback book.