An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A question of history

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
-- George Santayana

Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
-- WInston Churchill*

I'll add something to the above quotes in just a bit.

There's something that's really been bugging me. Okay, that's not quite right. "Bugging me" makes it seem far more trivial than reality, as I see an accelerating erosion. It's nothing new. Each generation has sought its share of social change, claiming that those who went before cannot possibly relate to the current times. But just in the last 30 years, it's seemed to become more pervasive, more urgent.

I believe our country is on the verge of something cataclysmic, socially. Social change? More like social collapse.

My addition: Those who don't see the parallels of historically destructive events in our current time are doomed to bring them about once more.

Let me take a look back at a couple of societies, and see what comes up.

Rome was the greatest empire of its time, and likely one of the greatest of all time. Yes, they, as all empires, sought to conquer the world, to ever expand their influence, to impose their world view upon those uncultured and opposing realms beyond the borders of their rule.

Roman Formation
from Wikimedia Commons
They had the most feared army.

They had the greatest prosperity.

They enjoyed more leisure time.

Their senate was the most well-balanced of governments.

Their culture was, by their admission, the most enlightened.

They were what other empires wanted to be, the culmination of human social evolution to that point.

And Rome burned from within while, as urban legend has it, its emperor (Nero) played fiddle.

One of the subjects on the fringe of the Roman empire was Britania. Merry Olde England.

King George III -- Alan Ramsay
from Wikipedia
England became arguably the second great empire. Its reach was far, touching all corners of the globe (yes, I know the "globe doesn't have "corners").

Its army was feared throughout the known world.

Its prosperity was among the top of any culture.

But it was ruled by a tyrannical monarchy.

A group of people packed up and left, risking everything to stand on their principles and start over in a new land.

A group of businessmen risked their very lives by signing a document that told the Mother Land of England to take their rule and shove it. Most of them died for these actions. But it spurred a revolution that resulted in what many call the greatest nation in history.

That new land is the good old U. S. of A. America, land of the free, home of the brave.

It is where the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free come by the boatload.

It is the country that sends its benevolence to every war-torn and disaster-ridden crevice of the world.

It is the country that sends its might to bear in the defense of democracy and opposition of terrorism.

It enjoys the highest levels of prosperity and leisure.

It is also a country that is tearing itself apart at the seams, while its leadership looks on with a mix of disinterest and pot-stirring.

It is a country whose CEOs live in a different world, where profit takes precedence over principle.

It is a country whose government members are more interested in self-preservation than preservation of its citizens.

It is a country that is becoming increasingly divided, following these noted leaders in caring not for their fellow man, as long as they get theirs.

So, look back at the above lists. See any parallels? Rome fell, burned. The principles of England left for a new land.

Oh, how far the mighty have fallen.

There are no new lands to which we can flee.

Will we become another chapter in the histories of fallen empires? Or will we come together to stand on principles again?
Winston Churchill

“When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the sibylline books. It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong–these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.”
—Winston Churchill, House of Commons, May 2, 1935
* The top quote, often attributed to Churchill, apparently never happened. It's the bottom quote that is most likely the source of the first. But the message is the same, regardless.

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