Sunday, 2 September 2012

Forget history?

Marx said it in various ways, but Santayana said it most pithily:
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.
Reading Balzac's La Peau de Chagrin (1831), I came across this sentiment, which reads almost as the ur-text against which Santayana is rebelling. Balzac attributes it to Louis XVIII, though I can't track down the original:
Parmi ces convives, cinq avaient de l’avenir, une dizaine devait obtenir quelque gloire viagère; quant aux autres, ils pouvaient comme toutes les médiocrités se dire le fameux mensonge de Louis XVIII: Union et oubli.
'Let us come together and forget the past' ... the motto of 'toutes les médiocrités'!

No comments: