We are constantly urged to be optimistic when entering a new year, and to put the old things aside. Can we do that? After all, we have centuries and millennia of problems and failure and pessimism to overcome. But read on, and see if we can be optimistic.
The past is behind us – and we cannot go back in time to change it. However much we want to. Everything wrong that has been done in the past: the mess of the Beer Flu Pandemic and Panic, the toleration of the Black Lives Matter and the AntiFa Movement, the bravery and foolishness of the 6th of January and the stupid, evil reaction to it, the pitiful excuse for “honest” and “secure” elections in 2020 (and past years) all all in the past – immutable.
As are events much longer ago than one or two revolutions around good ole Sol. Including the claimed “racism” of American colonization and founding. The evils of the wars of religion in the 1500s and 1600s. The English and British rule of Ireland and India. The burning of Jerusalem during the Roman-Jewish War. ALL OF IT.
BUT we do NOT have to repeat the mistakes of the past. And one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to try to “fix” all the mistakes of the past. It is a serious error to “pay back” the descendants of people who were mistreated in the past – especially by mistreating the descendants of those who abused them. We cannot repent of those past errors by committing NEW errors.
So what can we do? We can learn from the past – in order to avoid making the same and similar mistakes in the future. The Army calls that “applying Lessons Learned.” That is why mining safety and health people pay so very much attention to teaching people about how miners were killed, injured, or made ill in the past. Not to make “restitution” for the unsafe conditions and unsafe acts which caused those things. Rather, to PREVENT similar problems and results in the future.
American philosopher George Santayana is the source of the oft-quoted: “Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” What he actually wrote is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Sadly, it is forgotten far more often than it is quoted: every day we see politicians and bureaucrats, soldiers and leaders, and everyone demonstrating the truth of the observation.
Today, when children are taught virtually NOTHING about history except whatever the current fad for flagellation of the people of the past? They are unable to remember what they have not be taught. But since those teaching them (parents as well as “professional” teachers) were never taught much and do not remember what little they were taught? The mistakes are repeated again and again.
So at the root of the failure to learn from the past is a failure to communicate. Why do people not communicate well? There are many reasons including a failure to teach them to communicate: both to speak and to listen.
So, looking forward to the year 2022, perhaps we all must consider doing the following:
- Learn to communicate better and teach others to do so.
- Learn both history and what the mistakes in the past were – not to castigate those long-dead (or even still alive) or to punish their descendants, but to not repeat those mistakes again.
- Learn to accept personal responsibility for our own actions, and not blame others for what we do now and in the future.
- Forgive people for what they (and their ancestors and nations) did in the past, instead encouraging them to repent – to turn away from those actions and ideas in the future.
In specific and practical terms?
- Don’t let people blame their parents and grandparents for their actions.
- Don’t let politicians and leaders blame their predecessors or the voters for their actions.
- Do forgive people for their past errors WHEN they truly turn from them: stop doing them.
- Be prepared to defend ourselves against those who continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.
- Hold people – even (and especially) politicians and businesspeople and bureaucrats – responsible for their own actions. (And perhaps even make them obligated to try and fix their own mistakes!)
- Be responsible for your own liberty, exercising your own freedoms – and making your own mistakes.
- Teach and lead by example AND word: not just children but anyone whom you come in contact with.
“But that’s too hard,” I hear people say. “I can’t because X and Y did this to me, and to my ancestors.” And of course, “That’s not my job.” So eighth?
8. Verify the truth or falsehood of others ON YOUR OWN.
You and I are ultimately responsible for our lives and liberty and even property. We must hold ourselves to the same standards we hold others. In 2022, and all the time.