“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana
You may think things are pretty messed up these days, but in many ways they’re actually better. We have gotten kinder and less violent, for instance. There have also been tremendous strides forward for equality, all prefaced on the very simple realization that there is no necessary connection between skin colour, sex, (dis)ability, or culture and the quality of one’s character.
Of course, things still aren’t perfect, and we may yet make ourselves extinct thanks to gross consumerism, religious extremism, political corruption, and overall ignorance. We still need to move forward.
But which way is “forward”? How do hedge our bets that whatever decision we make will make things better and not worse again?
One part of the answer to that question is to do as Santayana says and know your history. Here’s a tiny slice of history that you will likely enjoy learning about: politics in the US in the 1970s, as embodied by the movie The Candidate. Released in 1972, the movie stars Robert Redford as Bill McKay, a young, charismatic activist in California who is targeted by the American political machine as a great candidate for Senate. The movie follows the beginning of his political career. In true 1970’s style, the ending is ambiguous, but the movie itself is a fantastic lesson in how things worked back then. You can see the beginnings of all kinds of attitudes and beliefs that are now taken – rightly or wrongly – as gospel truth. And you can see how pathetic “conventional” life was back then for so many people. We’ve certainly come a loooong way since the 1970s, and that’s good. It should motivate you to do even more to make your future even better.
I highly recommend this movie to all students, not because it’s a good movie, but because it will help you understand why things are as they are today. And knowing where we came from as a society is absolutely essential to deciding where we want to go next.