The real sin that the absence of a historical sense encourages is presentism, in the sense of exaggerating our present problems out of all proportion to those that have previously existed. It lies in believing that things are much worse than they have ever been—and, thus, than they really are—or are uniquely threatening rather than familiarly difficult. Every episode becomes an epidemic, every image is turned into a permanent injury, and each crisis is a historical crisis in need of urgent aggressive handling—even if all experience shows that aggressive handling of such situations has in the past, quite often made things worse.As a side note, I'd guess that not reading history produces a similar misguided optimism: the present successes have never been equaled nor can they ever be surpassed.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Quotation OF The Day: Reading History Edition
From this Adam Gopnik piece in the New Yorker: