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On historical amnesia

Summary

Nick Spencer warns of what happens when we forget who we are and where we come from.

Summary

Nick Spencer warns of what happens when we forget who we are and where we come from.

Transcript

George Orwell famously once wrote that he who controls the present controls the future, and he who controls the past controls the present. Where we’re going, how we should shape society, depends on our sense of who we are, what we value; and our sense of identity in value and purpose like that is invariably predicated on where we’ve come from.

If we are totally amnesiac about our past, a) we are being dishonest, and b) we are giving a kind of a malleability to the future that really isn’t there, and is actually quite worrying. The future should in some sense be a continuity with who we are and where we’ve been. And so writing out our Christian past is not only bad history and slightly dishonest, but it gives us a bit of a carte blanche, tabula rasa for the future. And that in itself is problematic. Those societies that have sought … I don’t know what the Latin plural of tabula rasa is – but those societies that have sought to forget the past and rewrite the future, as many did in the 20th century, tend to do so at significant human cost.