As history unfolds before of our very eyes, from terrorism to globalisation and from free market economics to positive and negative liberty, the human race continues to struggle with its seemingly interminable identity crisis. Life and the world around us is quite far from where many of us thought it might be only 20, 15 or even 10 years ago. There is more information available to us than ever before in history so we are either: much more acutely aware of the world around us or choose / care not to concern ourselves with what broadly appears to be just background noise and minutiae or simply do not have the time to pay attention.
In an effort to provide a few moments of clarity and perspective amongst the deluge of information we are bombarded with everyday, I ask, have you ever heard the quote:
“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
I’m sure that many that might read this have. It has a resonance within many of us that rings true and with unfortunate inevitability. While this quote has certainly made its populistic rounds, it is in fact, actually a paraphrase from George Santayana’s most notable work, completed in 1906, ‘The Life of Reason‘, where he states in Volume 1, ‘Reason in Common Sense’:
“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Just from this brief excerpt from the original source of what is essentially a modern day, secular proverb, a tremendous amount of greater perspective of the paraphrase can be found and much greater, more immediate relevance can be captured from it. The full text of all five volumes of ‘The Life of Reason’ are public domain and can be read online here.
While we have just considered Santayana’s great insight and hopefully been able to enrich the common paraphrase of it, why not pause for a moment and consider just one thing from our recent history of the 20th century that might help us ‘remember‘?
A foretelling and cautionary tale was once told in 1932 by Aldous Huxley in a novel entitled: ‘Brave New World‘. It is widely acknowledged as one of the top 5 to 100 (depending on the source of the rating) best novels of the 20th century, amongst many other publications of early to mid-20th century literature, social commentary and criticism authored by Huxley. Many of his books and essays are just as relevant today, if not more so, than they were in his lifetime. Many of his observations and warnings have gone unheeded, and as a result, have come to pass. Some have yet to come to pass (and may never do so) but many of the precursors to the ultimate end, a global totalitarian dictatorship, described and admonished by Huxley are in fact apart of all of our lives and our civilisation today.
In the following video, Huxley is interviewed for a nationally (US) televised program, the Mike Wallace Interview, in 1958 after the release of ‘Brave New World Revisited’, which was a non-fiction follow up by Huxley, where he warns that the predictions contained within his original novel were coming to pass at an alarmingly accelerated rate than he had previously thought. I assure you that you will be at the very least more aware of the world around you, if not wiser to it, to have taken the time to watch this 28 minute interview from 1958. If not, the jokes on Hicks Bogan! Feel free to let him know!
The original text of ‘Brave New World’, written in 1932, is public domain and can be found online here and his subsequent follow up or ‘revisitation’ and commentary published in 1958 can be found here for anyone to read online. If you might be interested in obtaining a physical copy of ‘Brave New World’, I highly recommend the 2004 or the 2005 edition ‘Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited‘ with a foreword by Christopher Hitchens.
– Hicks Bogan