Cohen on The Past in Our Future

We see shades of ourselves (and of nations) in our past. But time moves forward–making predictions and insight difficult to find. The stakes? Roger Cohen explains in

Our world is facing similar challenges, some revolutionary and ideological such as the rise of militant religions or social protest movements, others coming from the stress between rising and declining nations such as China and the United States. We need to think carefully about how wars can happen and about how we can maintain the peace.’’



5 thoughts on “Cohen on The Past in Our Future”

  1. I think that there is always the danger of letting history repeat itself, but the world is changing. Of course there will always be people like those who claim that the Holocaust never even happened, but in general, people learn from the past and move forward. Mistakes will always be made because humans are not perfect, and so in that sense history will be repeated, as seen with a genocide in Rwanda only a few decades after the Holocaust, but I would like to think that in general, society is on a general upward spiral. Morally we are probably once again in decline, at least by my standards, but that too is because of the progressive thinking that defines our society. There are still a lot of ways for wars to break out, but because of the continual advancement of precision and danger in weaponry, the ease of access to any and all information, peace may even be forced upon us. This all being said, I know that is probably a pretty bright-eyed optimistic point of view as we do have multiple never-ending wars happening throughout the world. Cohen makes an excellent point throughout the article in reminding people to remember the past and where they came from, but to look to the future with anticipation and not let the past hold us back.

  2. Cohen’s article made me a little melancholic, as he painted a picture of a recent past that is already being forgotten by younger generations, as well as of a future that will likely remain uncertain if we continue to forget the lessons from the past. I agree with his comments on how remarkably recent events such as the World Wars, the Cold War, the Berlin Wall, etc, were, even though they happened in the last century. I mean, empires still existed just a hundred years ago. That’s kinda crazy, even though some may argue that in our day the US has imperial tendencies. I think one of the big take-home lessons that Cohen highlights is how suddenly everything can change (the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the overthrow of oppressive regimes in the Arab world, to name a few prominent events), and how suddenly things may still change in the near future (the prolonging of life, cyber avatars that contain all virtual information that we create on the internet and on our hand-held devices, etc). What kind of history will our children be studying about a generation from now? What about our grandchildren? Cohen talks about loss. There is loss of history when we fail to connect to our roots, and when we fail to remember the past. I wonder sometimes how much the fast-paced changes of the future will contribute to erasing our history from the minds of younger generations.

  3. Call me a pessimistic if you want but I do not believe the world is getting any better. Of course situations and motives vary from period to period but there have always been and always will be dictators, wars, social inequalities, corruption, etc.The amount of good and bad balance itself, which means that with all the technological progress comes the possibilities of even bigger conflicts and worse outcomes. As Cohen says big and bad things can happen at unexpected moments.It made me think of what I am doing to prepare for those big changes that might happen. It also made me think of how much history can teach us. By analyzing past events we can identify trends that will help us avoid repeating the same mistakes.

  4. I think that many of the situations facing us today are not unique to our era. Militant religious groups have been around for centuries (the Crusades?), world powers have been rising and falling for just as long if not longer (WWI, Britain, Rome, etc.), and social protest movements have existed for as long as people have felt disadvantaged (the American Revolution, the Boxer Rebellion). Technologies may change, but I feel like the root causes of international disputes and disagreements are often fundamentally timeless. It’s true that things can change in an instant, but it seems like so many of these new occurrences are just variations on a theme that gets renewed from time to time.

  5. Something I love about Europe and in some ways the east coast, is the way that you can see history all around you. They do not forget everything that happened to get them where they are today and usually leave the ruins, sometimes using them as walls for new structures. In America, we would tear down everything to start new because we just don’t have as long of a history. I think it’s sad that so many youth do not know enough about history, not only because people are doomed to repeat history, but it gives you a sense of who you are. He mentioned that people are so connected in this day and age because they want others to define who they are for them. It’s so important that history classes are included in core requirements but should be more prominent outside of the classroom too.

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