There’s so much happening around the world. With some of the things going on I’m wondering: Are We Destroying History Or Building The Future?

The killings at the Emanuel AME Church members in Charleston have stoked a furore of debates. America (and the world) is in debates about race and history. There’s also a raucous about the confederate flag.

I’m not too well versed with the history but one of the things most seem to say is that it is an emblem with undertones of pro-racism and slavery. Because of this, there is call to bring the flag down.

On the other side of the pond, in Oxford, England, is movement, whose longevity and success is still uncertain. They are calling for ‘Rhodes to fall’. In case you don’t know, the short version of who this man was: Rhodes was a catalyst for Britain’s colonisation of (parts of) Africa. An imperialist of note.

Rhodes fell recently at the University of Cape Town. By this I mean his stature got removed after protests and debates. The irony is that the University of Cape Town is on land given by Rhodes for its establishment. There’s also another university named after him.

One of the things happening in South Africa, at large, is the changing of street names to from names of ‘colonialists’. African names and names heroes of ‘the struggle’ replace them. To some this is an unnecessary and expensive exercise.

A lot of effort is going into tearing down symbols of the past. It seems ugly and unpleasant history is under attack. As the world wrestles with the past I’m trying to understand…

We should focus on fighting and erasing the injustice and evil in history. We must! We’re just going about it the wrong way. We must fight bad history forward. We have to fight it forward. We must remember that no matter how many statues and flags we pull down, history itself doesn’t change.

Are We Destroying History Or Building The Future? [Click to Tweet]

I’m not suggesting we leave swastikas and such anywhere and everywhere, I’m saying there has to be a place for them in the present. The challenge for the world is to find ways to keep ugly history before us as a reminder and lesson for us. What not to repeat in the future we’re creating today.

To what extent can we completely eradicate the evil in history? Would this make a difference to our present? Would the difference be worth our efforts? Will erasing symbols of the past make a perfect future?

By paying so much attention to the past are we not going to collide with our demise in the future? [Click to Tweet]

Could we be focusing on the past so much that it is compromising the future?

We must look at the past and learn from it. But to what extent should we allow it to consume us? Let’s wrestle with the reality of how the past has defined our society and generation. But where is the line where it is unhealthy for both our present and posterity?

I’m not saying we should condone injustice of the past or present. (We must never condone it regardless of time or circumstance). I wonder if our obsession with the past and its symbols could be giving them more power over us and our future than they should have?

Are we destroying history or building the future? Should we not be undoing the past by focusing all we can on the future? We can learn from the past but not get paralysed by it.

How can we make sense of the past in a way that is not insensitive to the victims of the past? That way must not also glorify the perpetrators. What is the healthy and expedient way to engage the past? How can we live in the now with the challenges of the past and define a future we’ll be proud to give to our children’s children?

Published by Blessing Mpofu

just a guy changing the world View more posts

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    1. Thanks man; just stuff I think we all should be working through. Not necessarily to have all the answers but that we’re at least grappling with the questions…

  1. Hey man, solid article! I actually grew up in Charleston and currently live 2 miles away from the infamous flag.

    Just to give a little context, the Confederate Battle Flag is flying at the statehouse right now, out in front along the main road. When you drive by, it’s impossible to look at the statehouse without seeing the flag. To me, sitting under a battle flag means something very specific: “There is a battle, and I am part of this side.” Everyone agrees on this point.

    The central tension is, in my state many people think the flag represents an insurgent cause for freedom which many of their great-grandfathers participated in. When they think of the Confederacy, they don’t think of slavery, but rather their heritage. On the other hand, a great deal of people feel the confederacy represents a slave-holding agenda.

    I’m all for museums and displays and merchandise that remembers and celebrates our history, but flying a flag on a government building is a wrong way to do it.

    Anyway, hope that’s helpful. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for this Stephen. It’s great for people to share on how the view of history impacts them. This is at the core of a lot of the challenges we face. Perhaps songs like LL Cool and Brad Paisely put us in touch or at least challenges us to think about how others experience different views on history? All important conversations to have. Can we create the platform for this healthy dialogue is the next question…