Does history keep repeating itself?

Let’s think a little more about the idea that there is nothing new under the sun. If so, does history repeat itself and is Heraclitus wrong when he says that “we never step in the same river twice?” There seems to be considerable evidence on both sides. Santayana said that: “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it” and Hegel said that: “What experience and history teach is this-that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.” Both Hegel and Santayana imply that history keeps repeating itself because of the folly of humans. We do not learn from putting our hand in the fire so we keep getting burned as we put our hand back in the fire. The constant wars between people would seem to validate this rather negative view of humans.

A good friend of mine had a sign over his desk that read: “There are no mistakes, only lessons to be learned.” I loved his optimistic and hopeful view that we can learn from our mistakes and continue to see life as one big educational experience. Nevertheless, there are an abundance of people who do not want to go to school or who think that once they have finished school, they will never need to pick up a book again.

Marx once said that “religion was the opiate of the masses.” Today, it seems that sports are the opiate of the masses. Millions of people watch TV daily to view basketball, soccer, football, golf, tennis, hockey, baseball, and NASCAR racing. How many of these same people will watch any political debates, documentaries, the History Channel or take a class again in some new subject or language? How many will care enough to learn about the politicians who make decisions over their lives? How many will bother to learn the “statistics” of the candidates the same way they learn the stats on their favorite players? We complain about our politicians as being unreliable and weak, but how many of us blame ourselves for the government we get? I once heard it said that “people get the government they deserve.” If most of us would rather watch the latest football game, should we really condemn the mediocrity of the politicians we elect?

What have you done lately to take part in your government? How much effort do you spend on learning about the people running for office? Do you spend money on campaign contributions or do you just let the “big shots” fund the candidates? What are you doing to help stop history from repeating itself?

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