The Lessons of History

Historyby Anniel 1/25/15
Not to know what happened before you were born, that is to be always a boy, to be always a child. -Cicero ● Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. -George Santayana

So here we are today, a population historically illiterate beyond belief, no true history being taught in the schools, and young people unaware of the dangers that beset our nation. How do we awake those who have been taught no history, nor how to think with any logic or common sense? They are grown-up children with no real thought at all, no feelings for others nor knowledge of the needs and desires of their fellow beings. Only those who are old enough and were paying attention can correct the liars.

Hannah Arendt famously coined the term “the banality of evil” and in our age many are so banal in their evil. But there are others who “think” and believe what they think is profound simply because they are the ones who think it, therefore it must be true. But, as someone else said, “If what you think about is BS, then what difference does it make?”

Are we to “repeat” history in our day? At a time when we are faced not only with a lack of historical context but have leaders and educators actively lying about and rewriting language and history, what are we, who lived that history, going to do? How on earth do we correct the lies around us?

I have wondered what some of these people who lie or rewrite our history do in the middle of the night when they awake, review their actions and have a crisis of conscience. I have finally concluded that they sleep the sleep of the just and never awake to question anything, especially not themselves. Thus we have IRS agents and other government bureaucrats who truly believe they have done nothing wrong, and see no inconsistency in hiding behind the Fifth. They continue their lies to advance their own agenda. They believe history is on their side.

One of my grandsons watched “The Great Escape” and concluded that he “knew all about World War II and the Wehrmacht.” Sorry, but not so. Later I gave him and his brothers the series “Victory at Sea”, to watch. There was an episode about the Americans going onto a Pacific island and encountering a fearsome and very bloody Japanese attack. I was stunned to hear the boys talking about how “stupid” the Americans were to go there when there were that many of the enemy. I made them pause the episode and asked how the Americans could possibly have known the Japanese were there?

“Well, they could have seen them.”

“How?”

“By satellites.”

“They didn’t have any.”

“They should have flown planes over.”

“What makes you think they didn’t? How could they see camouflaged planes and people in the jungle? And planes flying overhead have a limited range and get shot down.”

I had to explain that the intelligence capabilities of the U.S. Troops were very limited. The boys finally conceded that they knew very little and returned to their viewing.

Later I heard a couple of the boys laugh about a dead body floating in the water. In black and white it didn’t look so bad to children raised viewing death and destruction on the big screen and seeing violent video games. Again I made them hit the pause button, and said, “That boy was a real person. He was somebody’s son, husband, or father. He could have been my friend’s older brother. I remember the sadness and pain when he was killed in the Pacific.”

That brought shock and silence. The shock and silence of those who are not taught the realities of history, who have not been taught the difference between reality and special effects. The difference between truth and fiction. And many of the scary “truths” they are taught today are in reality fiction, or at least open to debate, i.e., global warming, the destruction of the environment caused by man, the U.S. as the focus of evil in the world, the atomic bomb as a terrible, unnecessary thing, etc.

We have many who are liars about history and everything else, and are too smug and self-satisfied to suffer “the long, dark tea-time of the soul” which leads to adulthood. They will always be children and condemned to learn the hard way.

You and I have a very big job to do, teaching as many of our fellow-citizens as possible about what has in truth gone on, about the goodness of our country and its founding, how we have tried to correct our wrongs when possible. We need to name our heroes and their actions, while also reflecting on our wrongs and weaknesses and what more needs to be done if we have not overcome them.

We also need to name the new lies that seem to be added to our load on a daily basis.

It’s too bad the liars blind so many, and carry them along to destruction.

Gather your children and grandchildren about your knees, pray together to God, and then teach truth from your own stories. • (1239 views)

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15 Responses to The Lessons of History

  1. Jerry Richardson says:

    Anniel,

    Thanks for another excellent article! Keep ‘em coming.

    You and I have a very big job to do, teaching as many of our fellow-citizens as possible about what has in truth gone on, about the goodness of our country and its founding, how we have tried to correct our wrongs when possible. We need to name our heroes and their actions, while also reflecting on our wrongs and weaknesses and what more needs to be done if we have not overcome them.

    We also need to name the new lies that seem to be added to our load on a daily basis. —Anniel

    Yes our job is big. It requires defense of the truth. And defending truth often requires study and research. It also requires questioning commonly accepted evaluations. One of those commonly accepted evaluations is Hannah Arendt’s description of Adolph Eichmann’s evil as “banal.”

    Hannah Arendt famously coined the term “the banality of evil” and in our age many are so banal in their evil. But there are others who “think” and believe what they think is profound simply because they are the ones who think it, therefore it must be true. But, as someone else said, “If what you think about is BS, then what difference does it make?” —Anniel

    I have read every word of Arendt’s report on Eichmann’s trial. I have quoted her phrase “banality of evil” many times because I thought it was an apt description. I no longer believe it is an apt description of the depth and deception of Eichmann’s evil due to a very recent book:

    Eichmann Before Jerusalem

    Here’s a quote from the book that definitely disputes Arendt’s famous “banality ”description:

    Eichmann in the flesh. Regardless of where they came from, almost all the trial observers received the same impression: Eichmann-in-Jerusalem was a wretched creature, with none of the scintillating, satanic charisma they had expected. The SS Obersturmbannführer who had spread fear and terror and death for millions exhausted the observers’ attention with his endless sentences, and his talk of acting on orders and taking oaths of allegiance. Shouldn’t the fact that he was so astoundingly good at doing so have aroused suspicions, even in 1961? Voices of doubt were present, but they were very quiet and not at all popular. The crucial difference between these voices and the trial observers was that the doubters all had access to at least part of the Argentina Papers. In 1960 Holocaust research was in its infancy, documentary evidence was scarce, and the desire to extract information from perpetrators who were brought to trial made people incautious. Hannah Arendt chose the method of understanding that she was familiar with: repeatedly reading Eichmann’s words and conducting a detailed analysis of the person speaking and writing, on the assumption that someone speaks and writes only when they want to be understood. She read the transcripts of his hearing and the trial more thoroughly than almost anyone else. And for this very reason, she fell into his trap: Eichmann-in-Jerusalem was little more than a mask. She didn’t recognize it, although she was acutely aware that she had not understood the phenomenon as well as she had hoped.

    —Stangneth, Bettina (2014-09-02). Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer. Location 308, Kindle Edition.

    In no way does any of this invalidate the thrust of your article. If anything it reinforces what you are saying. Part of that “very big job” we have to do is to point-out how absolutely sinister evil is in masking itself. Sometimes credited to C.S. Lewis the statement by the French poet Baudelaire: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist” is a frightening comment on the ability of evil personalities to mask themselves.

    After reading the well-written, well-documented book referred to above, I am convinced that Eichmann played the trial-observers for suckers, including Hannah Arendt. Why should we imagine that Eichmann, who was on trial for his life, would honestly portray the depth of his evil? We should never take at face value the self-descriptions of an evil person.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    One problem with so much of history today is that it isn’t very interesting. Indeed, I get the impression that much history education matches the description in Prince Caspian of the Telmarine history books as being duller than the truest histories and less true than the most exciting adventures. This is probably deliberate. Note the explanation in the Thernstroms’ America in Black and White for Jim Crow education (even using separate books): they didn’t want blacks to learn (as whites did) what their rights were. The same party today does this to everyone.

    As for the Great Escape, the movie is more inspired by than based on Paul Brickhill’s book on it (he had been one of those working on the tunnel, though it was exposed before he could escape), which also briefly discusses the effort to punish the SS men who executed 50 of the escapees. I definitely recommend the book, as well as the other history by Brickhill, The Dam Busters (about 617 Squadron). There are also more recent books on the camp (Stalag Luft III) and the escape.

  3. Anniel says:

    One of the problems people always face is judging history by current knowledge or, in the case of the immature, assuming that the same technology was available in the past. When our children are not taught truth, how can they possibly get things right? My grandchildren really thought satellite surveillance existed in WWII, hence US troops were stupid. As to “The Great Escape” and knowing “all about the Nazis” what an eye opener that was about childish fantasies. Great story, true, but hardly all encompassing.

    Banality is an interesting concept. Perhaps Eichmann did con everyone and try to hide his depth of evil, and yet, in the end, he was still as utterly banal as any other evil man and guilty as charged.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      Anniel,

      Sadly, Americans are, by in large, dumb as rocks when it comes to history. I know ignorance and stupidity are different things, but willful ignorance is pretty close to stupidity in my book.

      But this is only a part of the larger picture. A significant number, I guess the majority, of Americans are so poorly informed about just about everything which does not touch their immediate existance that the mere thought of it sends me to the brink of despair. They waste what little curiosity they have on shiny baubles of one sort or another.

      They have no sense of history, no ability to place the present in context of the past. They have little idea as to how their forebears had to struggle to survive and were not bombarded with mindless drivel 24/7, but had to act to get things done. One of the results of this is a general passivity which is not only physical, but also mental. And this is very dangerous.

      To my mind, one of the goals of ST is education. Even if the site is not read by millions, those who do read it can just about always learn something new.

      One of the reasons I have decided to write my short pieces for ST is to document, in a small way, how things were just a few years back.

      And I like your point about how your grandchildren take movies as truth. This is a good rebuttal of the nonsense the Left spews about movies and TV shows not effecting those who see them.

      • Anniel says:

        That’s why I love what you are doing, bringing to life things most of us only read about in books or saw in the old movies and newsreels. The death of imagination, to me, coincides with the loss of history. My brothers and I had a rich life of the imagination in the fields of mustard weed, sagebrush and tumble weeds of our youth. Thank you for what you are doing.

    • leigh says:

      Great article…..unfortunately, the media has been the biggest culprit to the lack of knowledge of history. They take an oath to inform the people, yet they have drastically veered from this path. They have taken it on as their own personal path to spread the liberal agenda, good or bad. They have decided lying to the people helps spread the agenda. Tell them lies and get the support until they learn the truth and it is too late. We have to continue to fight the fight and scream from the rooftops!! Never stop writing, never stop informing, never stop screaming and demanding the truth be told. More and more people are opening their eyes, and of course, every time our delusional president opens his mouth, he furthers our cause !

      • Timothy Lane says:

        This is why I generally refer to journalists as newsliars, and call theirs the lowest civil occupation in America. Lawyers, used-car salesmen, and politicians are no more honest than newsliars, but no one expects better from them. Journalists give themselves great airs over their high-minded principles — but ignore them completely in practice.

  4. GHG says:

    “I have wondered what some of these people who lie or rewrite our history do in the middle of the night when they awake, review their actions and have a crisis of conscience. I have finally concluded that they sleep the sleep of the just and never awake to question anything, especially not themselves.”

    Yes, I have wondered the same thing and I’ve come to call this mystery the “leftist scotoma”. In the same way our minds fill in the gap in our field of vision, the leftitst ideology fills in the blind spot in their cognitive thinking. It fills the gap between dissonant thoughts. The fact that they actually don’t know history, or truth in general, makes it easier for their ideological beliefs to pull the wool over their own eyes.

    • Anniel says:

      If there is one truth that would make people think more clearly about life is the knowledge that we all pull the wool over our own eyes.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      The best way to understand modern liberals is by reading 1984, and seeing each as a Symes who wants to be O’Brien. Some succeed, some don’t (and some suffer the fate of Symes).

  5. Anniel — Thanks for a great piece. I, too, have had similar serious conversations with grandchildren, with students, and with teachers. So many are cut adrift in a sea of “facts” that often turn out not to be true — they trust nothing and paradoxically will believe anything. I once had a teacher tell me that he knew global warming was true “because I teach it.” Well then. And I nearly choked one day when my grandson (then in high school) explained to me that it was OK for the government to lie to us since it was always for our own good. Gees.

    Now the question is how do those of us who know history get the message of history to those who have been taught to distrust it. Rush Limbaugh is onto something with his children’s history books, but they skip a generation. How do we enlighten those closed off in the dark?

  6. Anniel says:

    Deanna, My husband sent me this link last night. It seems so relevant to this discussion. I know as a teacher you appreciate the task we all face..

    http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-unteachables-a-generation-that-cannot-learn/

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Interesting, especially the reference at the end to Henry Hazlitt, author of Economics in One Lesson (which introduced me to the “Broken Window” concept of Frederic Bastiat) and The Great Idea as well as The Conquest of Poverty (in which he suggests that McGovern’s “demogrant” proposal was the inevitable conclusion of the then-popular idea of a negative income tax).

    • Yes — that’s quite the article. She’s right. Teaching, as I do now, at a small Bible college, I often have students who have been home schooled — those kids know how to learn, how to take criticism and what to do with it. It’s harder for those who come out of public school, even when they’ve had a solid upbringing.

      The author is also right about how long these ideas have influenced education. All the fuss currently about Common Core, while justified, shows how unaware the public has been about the ulterior motives behind public schooling.

  7. Anniel says:

    I went up to the author’s bio on the PJ Media site, and pulled up the list of all her articles. I’ve been reading a couple of them a day. The woman seems to be spot-on all across the board. My only problem is she recommends so many great sounding books that I have to justify my new book budget to the head of the household. But I can always remind him he was the one who introduced her to me. Do I get home free there?

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