Has History Taught Us Anything At All?

Whether we have really learned anything from history or we are just trapped in a vicious cycle, fast-tracking on the path to self-destruction, explores Sassi Farouk


All of our recollections from past events, our collective insights that would otherwise be lost and forgotten as well as an in-depth chronology of all that has happened forms our history. It is perhaps one of the most extensive and exhausting subjects, and also the most interesting because we don’t know where we would stand without it.

It shapes our habits and customs, governs our day to day life and provides the most valuable source of discernment and experience. It would not be wrong to say that without it, our lives would amount to nothing and man would be at a loss, with little to no sense of direction.

So, if history is so important, what have we learned from it? Since time immemorial, man has experienced numerous tragedies and left behind tales of turmoil for us to learn from. We know that war is bad, that no good ever comes from killing each other, but has that put an end to war? Now more than ever, the world seems more inflammable, with a constant urge to create new means of destruction and a never-ending arms race.

We have experienced pandemics in the past, but that has not prepared us for a new outbreak, and as a result, we now find ourselves helpless, even with all our technological advancements and the most brilliant minds on the planet searching for a cure. We have endured natural calamities of the worst degree in the recent past, but how have we prepared ourselves to fight climate change? All these questions beg the answer of whether we really learn anything from history or we just trapped in a vicious cycle, fast-tracking on the path to self-destruction.

Whether we learn anything from it or not, history serves as a constant reminder that it shapes our lives in many ways and forms. Locally, our post-colonial lifestyle, customs and day to day dealings are all influenced heavily from our past. All over the world, we see traditions being carried forward, which then in turn shape the social fabric of any nation and contribute greatly to future success.

When we study history, we learn that all our dealings and habits are influenced by the times we are born in. Since every era in human history has its own distinctive features, we are offered a deeper insight into our own psyche which helps in figuring out whether our choices are motivated out of the collective fabric of our generation or reflective of our own personality.

Events and personalities both play an equally imperative role in the formulation of historic milestones. Sometimes all it takes is one person or one push in the right (or wrong) direction to catapult a series of events that shape the course of history. 9/11 changed the world. So did Hitler and his unbounded hate. Martin Luther King spearheaded a 'revolution', Alexander Fleming gave us penicillin.

Our world, and our lives, are all shaped by history. Students of history find it extremely humbling when they delve deep in the chronicles of the past. One learns that the world is vast and ancient and continues to evolve, despite our inability to see the wider picture at times.

There has been greatness in our past, as well as evilness, it all boils down to which side of history you lie, because history is said to be as true as the historian who compiles it, so thorough research is imperative, as well as keeping an open mind and a wide, unprejudiced perspective.

In the words of Yuval Noah Hariri, “The best reason to learn history: not in order to predict the future, but to free yourself of the past and imagine alternative destinies.”

Perhaps history is not in the past, but rather reflects from us in everything we do, a living, breathing reminder of all that is done and dusted, waiting for us to open our hearts and minds in order to fully embrace and understand our true essence.

The author is a Pilot turned housewife. Obsessed with coffee and fuzzy socks. She can be reached @SassiLannister