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Pte 70 Score Essay on “Those who have no Knowledge of the Past are Condemned to Repeat it. Is Knowledge of History Important?”

Those who have no Knowledge of the Past are Condemned to Repeat it. Is Knowledge of History Important?

 

Historical knowledge is not only important. it is a crucial requirement in all who carry any kind of responsibility, whether in social, industrial, political or international affairs. In all these spheres, a knowledge of the past enables countries and individuals to sidestep old problem and to avoid the mistakes of the past.

Whether peoples and countries actually do learn from past experience is a wholly different matter. During this century, Prussian aggression plunged Europe into two major wars. Basically, Germany never existed, any more than does Italy, or did the Soviet Union. The amalgamation of their constituent states is of quite recent origin. The break-up of the Soviet Union was due to the irrelevance of Communism in the modern world. This has done much for world peace, though there are still nuclear dangers.

The case of Germany and Italy is quite different. National Socialism never sat easily on the Italians, so in 1945 there was no point in occupying Italy and regionalizing her government. She never had any real ambition to do more than unify her own states, and colonialism began to die a natural death in all European countries from 1946 onwards. In all this, the Allies showed wisdom based on the lessons of history. In their dealings with Germany, however, the story is different. The USA, with little personal history and less expertise in foreign affairs, put pressure on the Allies to re-unify Western Germany and to negotiate the existence of East Germany with Stalin. In the form of Marshall Aid, the USA poured money into West Germany, established a central government in Bonn, put industry back on a good footing, created a hard currency, reorganized their unions, and let them rebuild a massive army, albeit without nuclear armaments.

For years Germany has kept quiet, awaiting her opportunity. The outcome is that in 1992, the whole of Germany had reunited, the power-base had shifted back to Berlin, and the country had achieved political, industrial and fiscal domination in Europe once again. The old enmity with France and England lies just beneath the surface. Zenophobia is again becoming rampant, and may develop into ethnic cleansing, that modern euphemism.

The first danger in Europe will again be Germany. Their national anthem ‘Deutschland uber Alles’ sums up the national ideal, which is unlimited territorial expansion. The lesson of the past was there, and it was ignored.

A knowledge of the past is also important socially, and governments, whether of Eastern or Western countries, ignore social history at their peril. One success in Britain post-Second World War was the establishment of the Welfare State.

This was a humane and far-reaching concept designed to keep the whole population up to a basic living standard, to give free or subsidized medical care on demand, and to provide realistic state pensions for the elderly. It still exists in a modified form, and no government would dare to abolish it. The idea was to rid society of poverty, sickness and insecurity. The lessons of the past had been well learnt. Throughout English history, and especially in Victorian times, grinding poverty was the norm for the masses, both urban and rural.

Laws against petty theft were brutal. Matters scarcely improved after the First World War. Unemployment in the 1920s was widespread. The dole was pitiful. So there was a general strike, street rioting, and near-revolution. This was in line with many minor revolutions which have occurred throughout English history. The Second World War provided not only a diversion from social failure but also an opportunity of uniting Britain to resist a serious threat from outside. From 1945 onwards, the old mistake of neglecting the working class was not repeated. Yet despite history, England perpetuates her ancient errors in respect of Ireland. Partition has never worked anywhere in the world. The Protestant north is in perpetual enmity with the

Catholic south. So much dirty water has passed under the bridge form Cromwellian days onwards that peace can never be achieved. Neither can it be imposed, short of mounting a military campaign. In times of national crisis, Eire has proved ambivalent and treacherous. The harsh, but pragmatic answer is to pull our forces out, and allow the Irish problem to sort itself out. That means allowing civil war, but since both sides are permanently entrenched in mutual opposition and hatred, there may well be no realistic alternative.

A second disastrous mistake in recent English governmental policy was the imposition of the poll tax, known euphemistically as the Community Charge. This was meant to be a replacement for the old property rating system, which was admittedly in need of revision.

 The poll tax led to financial injustices which exceeded the tolerance level of the British people. So Mrs. Thatcher had to go, and the government climbed down. English history records many attempts to impose a poll tax. None succeeded, and all ended in riot and bloodshed.

Yet perhaps England’s most serious recent mistake is the headlong rush into membership of a federal Europe, dominated by Germany, controlled from Strassburg and administered in Brussels. France and Germany will vie for control of this monstrosity. British internal sovereignty is already severely eroded, and will finally disappear unless some future government comes to its senses.

The Council of Europe has made participation in free trade dependent on membership. The sacrifice of principle to financial advantage has never worked in the past. Why should it in the future? The past holds countless examples of the failure of most of the policies Britain currently follows. Their lessons are rarely learnt. A knowledge of history is important, of course, but such knowledge is of little use if the old mistakes are persistently repeated.

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