Alex Palmer's Natural History Notes and Thoughts

Thoughts and reflections on various social and environmental issues, as well as naturalist observations from the great outdoors.

time and time again…

There are some who claim that history repeats itself. They cite major events such as World War II, the Holocaust, large-scale famines, and societal collapses as mere repeats of other events (i.e. the Middle Age Crusades, Rwanda genocide, Irish Potato Famines, and the Fall of the Roman Empire, respectively). Some even go as far to say as that it is inevitable that people will repeat history. Examples include the rise of the Christian right-wing conservatives (compared with Nazi fascism) and the increased tensions among the developed Western World and other cultures (compared with a large-scale global war such as World War II or other wars). People cite numerous examples of these “repeated” catastrophes and conclude that it is human nature to create and recreate tragic events.

As common and as vivid there argument may seem, I nevertheless strongly disagree. History does not repeat itself. It does, however, have parallels. The differnce between history repeating itself versus paralleing itself is this: While events, such as the Holocaust and Rwanda, have similarites, they are in essense completely diffeernt events. The numerous factors that led to the Holocaust were not only complex, but they were very specific to the time, place, culture, enviroment, etc. of what was going on. The same for Rwanda. The set of factors that contributed to the Rwanda Genocides were very different and context specific to the conditions at the time it took place.

Some of you who are reading this might ask: who cares? I feel it is very important to make this distinction between history repeating itself and history paralleling itself because to say that past, present, and future events are repeats not only oversimplifies the true nature of the issue at hand, but it legitimizes inaction. I have always felt, and will always continue to feel that doing something is better than doing nothing…if we do nothing, that’s worse.

I plan on doing work in the environmental field for most, if not, the rest of my life. However, I can only be successful with what I do if you, yes, you, dismiss the perceived inevitability of local, national, and global events such as death, poverty, corruption, environmental degradation, etc. as being mere repeats of history that are out of yours or anyone else’s control…


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