We are living in ‘Interesting Times’

My Reader kindly commented on my most recent post – Tempus Fugit. Again. (here) – with the famous quote: “Those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it”. You may recall that my post, referring to my electronic daily scrapbook on Pinterest (here), considered how the major news stories of January 2015 impacted on the year that followed, and prompted a hesitant comment as to how many of issues remain unresolved today. In that respect My Reader is quite right: if we don’t learn from history, we don’t move on and are that much the poorer for not having done so.


However it does seem to me that our world is very ‘stuck’ currently. We don’t seem to be able to come to positive resolutions on the major issues of our time; be they environmental, economic, political or tribal. The question arises: When do such issues ever get resolved, I mean really resolved? We seem very much trapped on many fronts within the dialectic of ‘action and reaction being equal and opposite’. The sad truth from history is that major issues are mostly settled when situations become so extreme that they can no longer be avoided and for many a ‘reducto ad absurdum’ is required for resolution – war.

This surely is the great issue of our time – how do we resolve matters before we destroy what we have. In today’s world we seem to only be able to achieve this via threats and brinkmanship where it is only the portent of disaster that brings parties to the table in order to resolve their differences. Interpersonally we seem to do the same often resolving differences at or within the courtroom doors?

In my original article I opined that the cause of many of our unresolved issues reflects “a divergence of individual and social values”. On reflection this should have said correctly “an imbalance of individual and social values”. We seem hell-bent on acting in ways that support Maggie Thatcher’s awful claim that “there is no such thing as society”. It seems to me that we have gone way too far in elevating the rights of personal self-determination over the rights of society itself; especially when the exercise of the former impacts negatively on that of the latter. Somehow we need to find ways of peacefully deploying social values – domestically, nationally & internationally. This surely is the great challenge of our times – a challenge which needs to start from a viewpoint that society does exist.


My Reader’s comment prompted me to investigate the origins of his quoted comment. I learn that the quote originates from a George Santayana* and that the original quote was: “Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it”. This actually is much better as ‘history’ tends to be interpreted in 3rd party terms and, indeed, my original piece raised questions as to the degree to which reported news actually relates to our personal lives.


It does seem that we live in a period of time not only of abundance of ‘news’ but also of an unprecedented ‘tuning out’ of news. It would be easy to write this off in terms of over-abundance and prevalence of ‘spin’ but isn’t it the inconvenient truth is that we just don’t want to hear any of it. Putting it very simply, that we have become so selfish that it is only when the flames are at our door that we are prepared to make the concessions & sacrifices that might prevent a conflagration. I say ‘might’ because the matter is far from clear that much of what we are facing today is still resolvable – and if it is, whether it can be resolved peaceably. The whole has to be at least worth the sum of its parts. Technology and population growth have brought us to the precipice. Never before has it been so imperative that we recognize and act on our interdependent issues and situations. As I noted in January 2015, The Doomsday Clock was reset to 23.57. We do indeed live in ‘interesting times’.


* Wikipedia on George Santanaya here

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1 Response to We are living in ‘Interesting Times’

  1. Tim Wilton-Davies says:

    We are living in the Information Age. Russian prime minister Medvedev alluded yesterday to the Cuban missile crisis – I would argue with nuclear proliferation that we are in a more hazardous position than in 1962. Interesting times indeed.

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