“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)


One of the reasons I write is to help educate the younger generation about the world. I love studying history and trying to learn from the lessons of the past. Apparently, this may be a growth industry. According to an article on Yahoo, there are a fair number of people, more specifically Twitter users, who believe Titanic was just a movie. This has made me wonder if there are other events from the last hundred years that are equally misunderstood or missing from the world history classes being taught in colleges for the going rate of $300 per credit hour. I guess I shouldn’t blame it all on higher education or the lack thereof because frankly a lot of kids don’t go to class or read the books. For those who chose to sleep-in, I would like to offer my services as the professor of remedial history of events that matter. The last 100 years have been pretty interesting and much of that history is still impactful today. Let’s take a look at just a few events and the lessons we learned.

The Titanic disaster is a great example of why arrogance is something we should all avoid. The ship was built by men to be “unsinkable.” This was actually more of a marketing term than an engineering specification because no ship in history had ever been proven to be unsinkable. None the less, passengers from all over the world and from all manner of education, class and color eagerly booked passage on the grandest ship ever built.  Around midnight of April 14, 1912 the ship struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean and sank, in spite of all the marketing promises to the contrary. Here’s where arrogance compounds the disaster. The White Star Line, the owners of the ship, in their wisdom and utter conceit, decided that lifeboats weren’t all that useful on a ship that couldn’t be sunk. They had a few but not nearly enough to save more than 2000 people who had put their lives on the line by boarding this epic failure. This point remains the only real lesson mankind learned from Titanic; all ships are now required to carry enough lifeboats for everybody on board and no marketing department has ever used the word unsinkable again. Only 1500 people lost their lives before we learned the real danger of arrogance.

A few years after Titanic, the Great War broke out in Europe when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, of Austria, was assasinated. Why anybody decided to call it the Great War is beyond me. It was as miserable as any war can get and nobody ever won anything. After many horrific years of chemical weapons, trench warfare and suicidal charges the warring nations finally decided enough was enough, especially when they hardly had any men left to fight after the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918-20 decimated their ranks. In all, more than 50,000,000 people died from the worst flu outbreak ever. Scientists now theorize that the flu started at Fort Riley in Kansas and when the soldiers shipped out for Europe the epidemic went global. People of all ages, races, class and education level died along with the soldiers in the same fashion with vomiting, diarrhea and breathing problems. In fact, more soldiers died from disease than from actual warfare. Here’s the lessons we need to remember about the Great War and the Spanish Influenza Epidemic that effectively ended it; there are no great wars and wash your hands. That’s right, washing your hands is the single most important thing anyone can do to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. This lesson only cost us 50 million lives but at least we all wash our hands now, don’t we?

Many of us are familiar with the Great Recession of the last few years where unemployment has been around 10% and housing prices have crashed and Wall Street has lost everybody’s money, except their own. Well, in 1929 it was even worse, but at least in those days the brokers did the honorable thing and killed themselves by jumping out of their office windows on Wall Street. Even the people they unfortunately landed on were better off for not being around to endure the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It was so bad we don’t even use the word depression in the media anymore. That depression lasted 10 years and was only replaced by an even bigger tragedy called World War II. WWII began because we never really settled the Great War and there were a lot of bombs left over and angry old men around who wanted to see whose country had the toughest young men. Here’s what you need to know about the Great Depression and WWII; war is good for business and it takes our minds off of negative things like low wages, corrupt financial institutions and incompetent governments.

The other byproduct of the Great Depression was a maniac named Adolf Hitler in Germany. Hitler was a first class psychopath who managed to persuade a whole country that white supremacy was a divine right and entitled him and his followers to do things to other people that were less than hospitable by most standards. His hatred was not limited to dark skin or religious beliefs either. No, he pretty much hated everybody equally and his hitlist included Jews, Poles, Hungarians, Russians, Frenchmen, Belgians, Gypsies and used car salesmen. (I think it’s a pretty huge irony that his master race and his car company, Volkswagen, gave humanity the Thing.) Anyway, Adolf and his cohorts tried their level best to rid all of Europe of sub-human races like the aforementioned groups and with traditional German ingenuity he mass produced human slaughter houses. This monstrous act became known as the Holocaust. The name does not come close to describing the tragedy. No one knows for sure but some estimates put the number of dead in the tens of millions and that doesn’t include the ones who died in battle. Hitler was such an abject coward that he hid in a bunker in Berlin for months while Germany was pummeled by the Allied Forces. His master race was defeated by men of every other race who came together to rid the world of this monster. At the expense of another 25 million people mankind evolved again by realizing that evil exists in the world and all it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing until they have no other choice. Good men defeated absolute evil once in the 20th century, let’s all hope we never forget what it looks like and what it costs.

I hope I live long enough to see mankind come to the realization that death and destruction are poor substitutes for communication and understanding. We have the ability today to bring all the people on earth together and moreover we have a common cause, continuing life on this planet, to motivate us like never before. Hatred, fear, arrogance, greed, ignorance and bigotry are the enemies we must conquer if we are ever going to make peaceful coexistence a way of life. Let’s rise above our ignorance, learn from the foolish mistakes of the past and help each other find a better way.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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4 Responses to “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)

  1. gwenna says:

    I look forward to more history lessons! You only have a few more decades to cover! Thanks!

  2. You say that we should learn from history. I agree. But why does, “war is good for business and it takes our minds off of negative things like low wages, corrupt financial institutions and incompetent governments” sound so much like today’s current events?

    And I was going to call you on the carpet (especially considering your copyright notice) for “all it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing” with no attribution, but a quick Google search says it is attributed (in some variation) to at least four different men at different times, none of which whom was Gandhi, which I thought it was.

    Oh, and wash your hands, Teenage boys, pull up your damn pants!

    • grhgraph says:

      I couldn’t find a specific attribution either. The line about “War is good….” is exactly referring to today. I could have used Eisenhower’s comment, “Beware of the military/industrial/political complex.” Did you know that was his original written line but his staff made him change it so he wouldn’t offend Congress.
      Guy

  3. Pingback: Sunday 18th December (2) – Drowned Hogg Day

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