Making History Disappear
When I was younger I was fortunate to have been taught the value of history. Its perspectives, its meaning, the reasons that things happened in the past and the way things got to where they are now. It is all part of the value of understanding history.
It’s great in our modern times that we have so many ways to learn about history. History channels on TV, history websites, documentary movies and books written about some of the most influential people and times in Earth’s past.
But also it seems today that we are more eager than ever to erase parts of history. By distorting it in those same places that supply it, and even more so by erasing its reference in the culture we live in. It is a delicate balance for sure. Our racial and political prejudices make for what seems valid reasons to just eradicate any current reference to those things deemed unacceptable now. As they may have seemed right in the past, today they may seem very biased, cruel or insensitive to how things are in the “now.”
But we are in the times of the “information age” where information is readily available at the push of a button. We have to be careful to understand that just because we have an abundance of information – doesn’t mean we have an abundance of “knowledge”. Erasing the past entirely for the sake of the future would be most difficult, but erasing the memories of what those things are in the past can be very easy. In the course of that effort, the generations ahead will be unaware of what brought them to that point.
So my advice to my kids?
Understand history and respect it. My father and my wife’s father both fought in World War 2. They are remembered by their children, but as my kids grow up and they have children they will have a different perspective. Even the veterans of the Vietnam era will only be a fact in the history data that will exist on the Internet or in books or movies. It may only seem like another fiction book or story to some of them
When history gets erased, it will open up the opportunity for it to be repeated. With no lessons learned, generations ahead will not understand the perspectives on which we got to where we are… they will go in and blindly misunderstand the reasons for things.
Erasing history and the references to things around is can be labeled as “progress” or “the correct thing to do” – and that is always going to happen. But it has accelerated because we live in the age where an abundance of information and opinion is shared with everyone. So everyone’s opinion is supposed to count, but with regard to history- the basis for formulating those opinions are lost in history (or the lack of its understanding).