1, 2, and 3 are past, so that makes this day #4 of History Lesson Week.
This sentiment, ‘every past is worth condemning’, probably infuriates you as it did me when I first read it. I am often the one in arguments about history to defend the past era and the decisions made then. I don’t mean I approve of them, obviously I would not make many of the same decisions now. But that’s the point; I am in the present, not the past. Just as you have to take into consideration the age and mental capacity of your child when you react to what they say and do, you must do the same for the people of the past. They knew what they knew and as a result they said and did thing based on that knowledge, not based on our knowledge. So, I typically am against condemning the past, even if we now can say we don’t approve of the actions they took.
But after reading this simple sentence over a number of times I am starting to see the value in it. By condemning the past and how they acted we are saying that we have learned, we have grown, we have gone beyond their understanding. That of course can be a two-edged sword. Not all knowledge from the past is wrong and often we find ourselves as a society moving back to past practices because we have found that our ‘progress’ really wasn’t so progressive. But plenty of knowledge from that past is worth condemning.
We don’t need to reexamine if slavery is something we should bring back. It has been condemned as wrong and we will not return to it. We don’t need to investigate if the subjugation of women is something we want to reinstitute. We know they are equal to the male of the species in every way and we are not going to return to the days of them being condemned to a lesser life. We condemn that attitude and any and all rationalizations, however valid they may have seemed at some point in the past. We know now they are not valid and we will not let them be used again.
THE PAST AS PRESENT
The last point about women brings us to a dilemma. The past isn’t always in the past. We have subjugation of women going on all over the globe as I write this today. They are not allowed to vote, to drive, to own property, to have their own money, to participate as an equal member of society. The societies that are perpetrating this are still using the same arguments we once used not so long ago (don’t forget, less than 100 years ago women did not have the right to vote in the USA).
We can also find it with us today in the US and other supposedly enlightened western countries. You don’t have to go much farther than the headlines of the last week over Rush Limbaugh’s disgusting statements about one woman in particular (and be inference virtually all women in the US) to know we still have a long way to go to move past some of those same rationalizations we thought we had left behind.
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman of The Napkin Dad Daily
Quote by Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900, German philosopher