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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Monday, 8 December 2003

Topic: Bush

History: What you don't know can't hurt you. Maybe. Maybe not.

Are these posts too detailed and full of odd historical references? Is Iraq going as badly as Vietnam did for us? Were the events of September 11, 2001 parallel to the attack at Pearl Harbor? Will the French experience in Algiers help us deal with things in Baghdad, as the Pentagon hopes? Is Bush repeating the heresy of Manicheism that the Christian church rejected centuries ago?

"History never repeats itself. It only seems like it does to those who don't know the details."
Edmund S. Morgan - Edmund S. Morgan is Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale. His latest book is Benjamin Franklin (Yale University Press)

I came across this Morgan quote on Josh Marshall's site Talking Points Memo - and Josh thinks he remembers the wording pretty well. If not, it's a good thought. Knowing what happened in the past, and why, and what it led to, could be useful. Or not. I think it is. Morgan seems to think the more you look at details, the more you see things just don't repeat themselves.

Should one be aware of what happened before in similar circumstances? Does the past inform the present?

I don't know, of course.

But we are led by a man who prides himself on following his "gut instincts" - who doesn't like details, or books, or folks who think about things that came before. Not a curious fellow. Let's call him spontaneous.

That has its charm, of course. Hell of a way to run a country - willfully ignoring detail and complexity and what happened before. But dynamic. And that certainly appeals to people. No one is ever bored. Some are dead - but no one is bored.

For other views, over on the History News Network Quotes About History we get these:

"A country without a memory is a country of madmen." - George Santayana
No, we're not led by madmen. They know exactly what they're doing. Some of us don't like what they're doing exactly, but that's what elections are for. When they work properly.

"History, history! We fools, what do we know or care...." - William Carlos Williams
Hemingway's friend and fellow WWI ambulance driver, the doctor (MD) and poet from Patterson, New Jersey who writes about that red wheelbarrow and that ripe plum, is just being bitter here. Well, no one liked that First World War. A bad business.

"People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them." - James Baldwin
He should know.

History. Yeah, yeah. Who cares? I just like knowing about things, about people and events. My problem.

Posted by Alan at 19:50 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Tuesday, 9 December 2003 13:30 PST home

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