Many times we wish we could freeze time, little moments in our life that meant something more than the rest of the charade that is life. Other times, we wish we could erase time or even change it.
Throughout history and still today, we produce time capsules in the form of books, pictures or even films. Who knows, this blog might still be around in 20 years? (or perhaps not). With such extensive coverage of the world's events and one day never the same as the other, one still finds a red thread in the lives of mankind.
Be it the slaves of Pharaoh, victims of Pol Pot, Hitler, various presidents/prime ministers of so called free democratic countries, one thing is the same no matter where in the world it takes place or what period of time; mankind is still mankind.
What do we then learn from history, and what awaits us? Some would say that history teaches us to better identify the wrong in the world, however this not automatically meaning "improved methods of solving and preventing". We are very keen on establishing and defining events in the world. What is genocide and what isn't, what terrorism is and what isn't, what a democracy is and what isn't. Naturally even here history becomes our reference, the terrible holocaust, the massacres of innocents in Bosnia, the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. Yes, it was all a case of genocide and now we proudly say that we have established that Darfur in Sudan is also a "clean cut" case of genocide because history says so, the books say so and so do all the experts who dedicated their lives to better defining what the problem is, after it's already taken place.
In all fairness though, it is said that the first step to solving a problem is defining it. The next step would be finding out the reasons for it. Perhaps it is there our carriage comes to a halt, our wheels stop spinning. We find it hard to agree on why there is a problem and can therefore never get to the part where one sits down and solves it. For how do you solve a problem that in fact has two faces that are not identical twins?
- "A" says it is due to nations wanting to demonstrate power and instil fear in "enemy" nations that subscribe to the "western way of life".
- "B" says it is due to nations feeling scared and insecure with unstable neighbours, some war struck and therefore initiate nuclear programs in order to maintain "stability" in the region they reside.
- "C" says it is because of the major super powers of the world having nuclear programs and thus not setting an example for the Lilliputs of the world who feel it is nothing but hypocrisy denying them nuclear capabilities when the same people criticize them for it have it themselves.
Nobel Peace Prize winner IAEA and Mohamed ElBaradei perhaps did not win on accounts of solving the problems of nuclear proliferation. Perhaps it is so that the sole reason they won and deserved to win is due to their accurate definition of the problem. A definition not shared by the key players and thus hampering the process of nuclear disarmament. I know that there exists many more dimensions to the definition of both history and the world as such today and you can read all about it in the various time capsules of yesterday and today. Still I would like to believe that we have something positive to say in the capsules left for tomorrow, and that we will move closer to some sort of state of peace or respect for human life in this world.
An interesting project going on initiated by Swedish journalist Mats Omne called City Signs caught my attention today. Basically it is meant to be a time capsule of the world in the year 2000 documented in writing, pictures and on film by visiting ten major metropolises, bringing ten canvases and ten different coloured paints asking the same 28 questions to each city's population. The answers are both surprising and disturbing.
A young Russian boy answered the question about what he hopes for the future by saying; "I hope all ni**ers and dark skinned people will disappear. Russia is for Russians only", and on the canvas he drew the Nazi symbol. Another new Yorker in his early 40's answered the question about what he thinks will happen in the future by saying "I don't mean to be pessimistic but it seems we don't really learn much from history, it's just a bunch of mistakes really". Ones repeated it seems...
Question is, should we take the approach of Singapore where they have stopped teaching history in schools saying that it only teaches children resentment and leads to conflict? Or is history perhaps just like all teachers can be, detrimental to some and essential to others?