History repeats itself. Really?


The passage of time has divided people in two broad categories. Some, noticing that history seems to be repeating itself, became despondent, at least apparently:  “We learn from history that we do not learn from history”, while others, confronted with the same thing, reached a rather different conclusion: “Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”

In fact the two are not that far apart: It is “us” that don’t learn much from history and, similarly, it is people from amongst ourselves that ‘are doomed to repeat the lessons of history, precisely because they failed to make much sense of them in the first place’…

So, is there anything that can be understood from all this?

First of all that ‘no, history doesn’t repeat itself’. It’s us who play it again and again, until enough of us make enough sense of what has happened to be able to push the whole circus a little further down the road. And sometimes even that is not enough, a whole chapter becomes forgotten and we have to play it one more time….

Secondly we should never forget that more things can be learned during a single lesson. So even if something seems to be safely tucked away during the passage of time we should never forget it had taken place. Who knows when it will yield a fresh meaning? But we cannot extract that meaning unless we remain aware that that thing had happened…

So, going back to where we started, people actually learn from experience, only not always the proper things and certainly not all the useful things at once… and that’s why ‘history repeats itself’: we really need to learn the distinction between the useful, the annoying and the truly dangerous!