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Corrected 12 July 2010

Mr. Bush is not alone in forgetting or simply disregarding history. Congress people share his shortsightedness. And so, by and large, does the American public. This is not a new phenomenon. For example, Czeslaw Milosz, winner of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize for Literature, shared his thoughts on this subject in his acceptance speech:

"Our planet, which grows smaller every year with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that defies definition, chracterized by a refusal to remember.... In the mind of modern literates ... who know how to read and write and even teach in schools and universities, history is present but blurred, in a state of confusion.... [E]vents of the last decades, of such primary importance that knowledge or ignorance of them will be decisive for the future of mankind, move away, grow pale, lose all consistency, as if Friedrich Nietzsche's prediction of European nihilism found a literal fulfillment...."

A quarter century later, Milosz's words proved prophetic. But then he read history. Is there a message here?

Most of us remember some or all of Vietnam, the Cuban missile crisis, and Hitler's career beginning with Munich. But how many of us remember much of anything else? What Milosz had in mind is that a historical perspective is not, or never was, in our minds. This is true in spades for America, but affects other nations as well. It was also all too true of us on this web-site before 9/11.

Of course one reason for that is that we have become fat, dumb, and happy in our material successes, in our dominance of the world, in our history of Manifest Destiny, of America First, of American Interests, of our increasingly exclusionary society. "If it was not invented here, forget it" the NIH factor goes. So why do we forget even what we ourselves experience, like the fact that dominoes did not fall after Vietnam? We were not chosen by God. If we were, then he made a very poor choice.

A major problem in the Middle East today is that we never understood ourselves and our role in earth-bound society, not to mention Islam, with its schisms, its Shari'ah governance system, its traditional response to foreigners who exploit them in one way or another. It is true, the Islamic world is less developed, has yet to have a reformation. It is also true that as a consequence, the Islamic world feels inferior, not all individuals for sure, but the Mullahs and average Muslim at large. Such feelings make them more, not less dangerous. Alienation and humiliation does that to people. We should not be surprised.

If all we do is go into the voting booth with the attitude: "What's in it for me?" we will in the end get what we deserve: "Nothing". The same answer applies if we judge character by what a person looks like, sounds like, or promises made. It seems compelling to elect the wise administrators, whose performance shows wisdom, both in influencing people, and in setting direction after appropriate consultations and briefings by those who know the way out of the burning building, the terror metaphor.

Insular perceptions, born of arrogance, discourage us from reading the history of nations engaging in empire or economic colonialism. Surely something like this happened when Bush II ignored his wiser father's advice on Iraq. The only good we can find in that is the the Neocons have now had their chance. Like the Titanic, they hit dangerous waters of which they knew not. Surely this was a case of Historical Amnesia, a historic event in itself. Will it wake us up? Probably not for long.

If we ignore history, we do so at our own peril.

See: Tea Leaves for how to read politicians.

For the 1980 Nobel Prize for Peace, see: Adolfo Pérez Esquivel


The article is very good.
However, the Peace Nobel Prize for 1980 was not for Milosz, but to the Argentine Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.
Please amend the fact.
Keep striving for peace!

Hugs from Buenos Aires!

Posted by bohemia on Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 14:41:27

Duly corrected. You are correct! Thanks.
Milosz won the Nobel Literature Prize.
Hugs back!

Posted by RoadToPeace on Monday, July 12, 2010 at 20:14:07

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