“Those who cannot remember the past,” George Santayana famously said, “are condemned to repeat it.” It seems foolishly counter-productive for us, as a species, to attach so little importance to our own history that we are willing to allow it to fall into obscurity, the lessons learned (often at terrible cost) by our forebears forgotten and trampled into the dirt as we rush toward a future that starts to look horribly like our past. As I write this, the American election of 2016 is being dominated by the extraordinary (and disturbing) success of Donald Trump’s campaign; a campaign built on a dual foundation of American exceptionalism and the sort of ferocious intolerance of ‘otherness’ not seen in a developed nation since the Nuremberg rallies.
Here in Britain, we face a referendum on our continued membership of the European Union, an organisation that, for all its faults, has been a major factor in ensuring that the continuous wars and border disputes which defined Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries are not repeated. ‘Brexit’ advocates evoke a Britain free of constraints and bureaucracies, a land free at last to ‘govern itself’; which in practice would mean a return to brutal Victorian ‘laissez-faire’ capitalism and a rejection of internationally agreed standards of human rights.
Are humans truly so stupid that we are prepared to abandon the truths of history in favour of politically motivated fictions which serve only those who rule over us, or burn with the fanatical desire to do so? It’s said that history is written by the winners; but these days it seems that history is dependent on whoever happens to be in charge at the time. Whether it’s an America as glorious and resurgent as depicted in any Hollywood actioner, or a Britain which stands separate from the European mainland which spawned most of our ancestors, these are the lurid, self-glorifying fantasies which emerge from the terror-haunted recesses of national imaginations, ready to be manipulated by the rich and powerful for their own gain. From their perspective, the less we know about what actually happened, about the less-than-admirable things that were done to get us to where we are now, the better.
On a related subject, it’s come to my attention that Swansea council have decided to slash by half the funds which go to the upkeep of Swansea Museum. This will devastate the museum’s ability to maintain its collections, look after the building and provide the educational resources it needs to provide a service to the community.
Such vandalism has to be fought. If you’re a Swansea resident, or even if you’re simply concerned, as I am, by the contempt shown to our historical legacy by those in power, do something about it.
Complain to Swansea council here – https://www.swansea.gov.uk/complaints or on Twitter – @
The South Wales Evening Post – http://www.southwales-eveningpost.co.uk/letters or Twitter – @
Also there’s a petition online here , please sign – https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-swansea-museum?bucket&source=facebook-share-button&time=1457898269