Odd How History Repeats Itself
by Tracy E. Hill, Ph.D.
Clearly, I’m not a history buff nor pretend to be. However, last night I watched a couple of history programs on PBS. All of which by the way, are incredibly interesting and well worth the view. The first show was The Roosevelts: A Film by Ken Burns. I learned that although Franklin and Eleanor sired several children, their marriage was rife with discord and discontent. And I was surprised at Eleanor’s perspective on her husband’s rising power in politics. But hey, I’m a psychologist so I tend to focus on the human side of history while learning. And then there was a brief mention about the Great Depression and in 1932, hundreds of thousands of veterans stormed and demonstrated at the Capitol in the hopes of receiving their promised ‘bonus pay.’ It looked and felt so much like 2021. My eyes widened in surprise.
Ken Burns educated me yet again but this time with The Dust Bowl program. And once more, I learned how devastating the Great Depression was not just for city folk but the farmers in the southern plains as well. Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and eastern Coloradoans saw cash in crops of wheat. Unfortunately, they over-tilled and mismanaged the land which played a hand in nearly a decade of devastating dust storms that destroyed crops and brought famine to many families. And then, I sat and watched the show as children, adults and farmers were told to and complied with wearing masks to work, to school and everywhere they went to protect themselves from “dust pneumonia.” My eyes widened more. This was not the Spanish Flu from the early 1900’s. This was now several decades later. Mask wearing was real and happening.
There are plenty of examples of history repeating itself and unfortunately, those examples are rarely good. From military blunders, economic failures, pandemics, assassinations, school shootings, racial injustices and so many others the list just grows. But the real question is why?
Is it that we forget so easily so we repeat our mistakes? Is it that some turn a blind’s eye? Could it be that others use history to improve upon the devastation or disharmony they seek? Pew Research Center states, “The more things change, the more they stay the same; and the future will flow from current trends.” I am still trying to wrap my head around this. It says something but then nothing at all. Or maybe I am just not clever enough to understand it. In terms of matters of the heart, home, and mind I feel it is true that things change but remain the same. For centuries we strive for love, peace, happiness, health and family. We hope for a safe place to rest our heads at night, warm clothes on our backs and our stomachs satiated. And in order to achieve Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, things do not change all that much. We work hard, put a roof over our heads, find love through swiping left or right (or by actually looking up), and stay fit and healthy through a nutritious diet, exercise and plenty of sleep . Yet to me, technology, industry, innovation, manufacturing – so much of the world has evolved and mostly for the better. Future innovation does not stem from the unfortunate and historic blunders that we as a world continue to repeat. Does it? I do not believe it does.
So how do we stop history from repeating itself? My answer is this. Never again. Never forget. קיינמאל מער .קיינמאָל פאַרגעסן.
Photo credit by Ronda Darby @ronda.