Today happens to be the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp, where millions of Jewish people and, it turns out, other “undesirables” as deemed by the Nazis, were killed without thought or morose. It’s an acknowledgment of overcoming something so heinous that there shouldn’t be anyone who doesn’t know what happened there.

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Pablo Municio via Compfight

Yet, in today’s world it’s become a tourist attraction. People go there, look around, take selfies and go on about their business. There are a few people who are moved by the experience but the rest… well, after seeing so much movie and TV and video game violence, the overall message is lost.

Auschwitz isn’t the only place where history seems to be losing some of its punch. A study in Japan found that around 65% of people under age 25 have no knowledge of the two atomic bombs that were dropped on their country. Not only that, but Japanese lawmakers and educators have been systematically removing references to the atrocities their ancestors committed in countries like China and, in fact, have started minimizing their role in World War II.

The United States isn’t alone on this one. Recently, Texas has started including references to Moses in some of its textbooks, saying that he was the inspiration for the Constitution; really? Of course I remember growing up and noticing in my own textbooks that the only time black people were mentioned was as it regarded slavery, George Washington Carver and his work with peanuts (although no one ever explained why it was significant), and every once in a while there would be a reference to Booker T. Washington. It’s a good thing I had my own source of books to fill in a massive amount of other details.

Even books like the Bible have been revised multiple times, even in the 20th century, to the point that anyone who’s a believer (I’m not) starts quoting things that weren’t in that form even just 50 years ago. It’s hard to blame too many people for not knowing exactly what’s going on, since one never knows all the reasons someone decides to change things in the first place.

This is a major shame, and it invokes in me the call that we must remember our history and stop trying to revise it to fit our needs. To quote:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana, The Life Of Reason

This doesn’t only happen in the outside world; it happens inside corporations as well. In this case it’s the old “We tried that before and it didn’t work.” In this case history is usually rewritten because I’ve seen that most of the time (not always though) what was attempted was something that may have seemed similar but wasn’t quite the same thing. There have been significant positive changes made even after that old saw was given; either it wasn’t the same thing or the time for it to work had just arrived.

However, when it is the same thing… what you’ll find is that the only reason it ends up being the same is in the details. When someone can account for each step in the process and doesn’t leave anything out, it’s possible that history can save you a lot of time and allow you to move forward by trying something else. When history has been altered… you just never know.

Thus, we need to not only remember the big history of things, things that have changed the world, but the little history, things that changed or remained the same in our little pond. That’s a lot of memorizing; take notes.
 

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