Maturity is all about learning from mistakes, not repeating them. Unfortunately, the further back in history an event occurs, the less we remember our actions’ consequences. Regardless of all of the horrors of war and destruction, history repeats itself when people forget about history. This is true on a personal scale as well as global. Historians often talk about history’s cyclical nature and how it flows through four generations before similar events begin occurring. In a similar vein, the philosopher Oswald Spengler saw historical acts much like the four seasons’ cyclical changing.
Many people have misquoted the phrase those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The original maxim was uttered by the Spanish philosopher George Santayana. He said it while explaining his feelings about the human condition. His opinion was that we as a species don’t hold the greatest track record throughout history. The problems of today are not new. Wars have repeatedly been fought over the rights to land, access to trade routes, and religious opinions, in addition to other reasons.
To further complicate the issue, history has also shown that many people who learn from history still make the same mistakes, thereby repeating them. A well-known quote is that defining insanity is to repeat the same action repeatedly, expecting a different outcome. Despite having this knowledge, we as a species continue to proceed as if it didn’t apply to our situation.
As we continue to create history as a species, humans tend to follow a similar pattern that is motivated by irrational, short-term gains of money or power. When the fed-up masses eventually rise up, regardless of how optimistic or successful their campaign, they are met with an unpleasant reality. As peoples’ power increases, their moral sense diminishes. This scenario has been proven over and over throughout history as kingdoms have become overthrown and replaced by new leadership. The adage that points out that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely is repeatedly proven with failed dictatorships springing forth from optimistic revolutions. Even on a much smaller scale, a couple who continues to fight using the same tactics will inevitably end up apart.