Saturday, 4 April 2009

Thought for the day

Thought for the day on Radio 4 is often stimulating, but one I heard yesterday was a good wake up call. The UK's Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, spoke very powerfully of the cycle of history. It has a nasty habit of repeating itself as soon as it fades from human memory. This is something I am all to well aware of myself as in my own chosen profession and career I have seen lessons learned in blood and lives change the face of our operations more than once - and I am now seeing those who have displaced, replaced and otherwise assumed the posts us "dinosaurs" have left discarding everything we learned and adapted to deal with - and now they are repeating the mistakes that cost my generation so dearly.

The Chief Rabbi used the Passover tradition, where the Jewish gather the family and tell the story of the Exodus - an event 33 centuries old - to their children and grandchildren. Why is it important that they remember such ancient history?

Perhaps most importantly it is that event that defines them as a people, they passed from being a suppressed minority into being a nation that not only has its own history and traditions, but came to be the "chosen" of God. Secondly, as he pointed out, nations that forget or abandon the teaching of their national history, that do not give their children and their children's children that same sense of identity soon cease to exist. He pointed out that British History and perhaps more specifically English History is now taught, if at all, in a derogatory manner, emphasising the worst and denigrating the finest achievements. If that continues, we have no hope of survival, for the tide of history will engulf us in a morass of the mistakes of the past.

His second example was the Great Depression of 1929. Those who lived through it vowed it would "never happen again" and, as long as they were alive it was a promise they managed to keep. But, and this is telling, one of those survivors wrote in 1954 that it could happen again - as soon as his generation was no longer around to recall how it had happened and what had caused it. And now, 80 years on, it has happened again - and for all the same reasons.

Our present UK government suffers from a peculiar form of hubris. They do not believe that there was ever a "great Britain" and they do not believe that there is any purpose in studying history. Both of those doom this nation to oblivion - unless some of us make the effort to keep that history in perspective, keep it alive and, perhaps most importantly, keep alive the lessons that it teaches. If we do not, there are any number of really nasty events that are likely to be repeated.

1 comment:

  1. Our current Prime Mentalist obviously thought there was a point in studying history. The history of the Scottish Labour Party no less. That was an example of his great foresight. It made him into the marvellous economist that he has become. He has kept one eye (his glass one) on history whilst he has shafted the United Kingdom. At least he doesn't sport the title of 'doctor'. It should be 'graverobber'!


    The above was posted by a former colleague, friend and reader. As Blogger rejected it for some strange reason he e-mailed it and I gladly post it.