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Repeating the Past March 27, 2013

Posted by Jason in Daily PM.
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“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

We have all heard or read this important quote.  It is a critical reminder that we have exceedingly short memories, and we have also done unthinkable horrible acts throughout human history.

But what of the positive, progressive acts?  What of the connections we have lost and strive to regain?

Seth Godin again reminds us that our window to the past is often narrow, but always selective.  Some have a big picture view, but more likely we are limited to what we are able to immediately recall.  The wisdom of old age is often simply the ability to synthesize years of memory and experience into a cognitive prediction of the near future.  Nonetheless, certain aspects of our lives have been constant for so long, we forget there was ever another way.

Seth’s description of the industrial age and our concept of unemployment illustrates that our world view is wide open for debate.  Our modern, western perception of work – from the hierarchical organization to workdays versus weekends – is but one manifestation of our semi-capitalist system.  Not only are there many different perspectives, but they are alive and well around the world today.

I found evidence of this firsthand as I interviewed several local businesspeople in the antique and pawn trade for an upcoming article.  One in particular stood out, and related the increase of younger people visiting her shop.  At least here in Montana, there is a visible need to reconnect with simpler, more human-centric products and tools.  I wonder if it is as prevalent elsewhere in the country, but I suspect it may not be as significant elsewhere in the world where the generational gap is not so wide.

If nothing else, Seth’s article points to the fact that our industrial age may well turn out to be less than a blip on the human timeline.  If the Iron Age lasted 1,500 years and warrants little more than a chapter in a high school history book, imagine the possibility that the industrial age – so far barely 300 years old – will only be worthy of mention to serious history scholars in the year 3013.  For now, however, we often work because it’s as much a part of our culture as education or religion.  Perhaps the industrial and information ages will simply be lumped together into the next 1,000 year cycle, called the “Working Age”.

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