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Can we learn from history?
I’ve never read the book “Why Don't We Learn from History?”, but this question often comes back to my mind.
I was reading this interview of Edgar Morin: he says the current situation is similar to the one before World War II. Several commentators made such comparisons. And, of course, other commentators made counter-arguments. It’s impossible to know who’s right, until events unfold and things appear to be obvious, even inevitable with the benefit of hindsight! Because none of these commentators has lived in the period they talk about. They compare their own lives and their perception of current events to what they can read about previous events. The absence of a feedback loop probably makes it impossible to learn from history.
But Edgar Morin is an exception: He was born in 1921 in a family of Jewish origin and joined the French Resistance in 1940. So he knows what he’s talking about when he concludes:
J'ai vécu le somnambulisme dans la marche au désastre des années 1930. Aujourd'hui, les périls sont tout autres, mais non moins énormes, et un nouveau somnambulisme nous assujettit. Selon la formule d'Héraclite : « Éveillés, ils dorment. » [I experienced sleepwalking in the march to disaster of the 1930s. Today the perils are quite different, but no less enormous, and a new sleepwalking is subjugating us. According to the formula of Heraclitus: “Awake, they sleep.”]
And this is scary…