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This is from one of my responses to a discussion begun by Geoff Wood

My mother told me when I was still quite young that if I learned from my mistakes, it would mean that the experience, though often painful, would not have been totally in vain.  I never thought to ask how she’d come by that knowledge, but today I think that it was probably by personal experience.  I know that in the many years since we had that conversation, I’ve made a lot of mistakes.  Some of them I made more than once because I didn’t always remember what my mother had said.

Making the same mistake twice is an exercise in bullheadedness because we can and should learn from the first time we make the mistake.  I think that most countries in the world tend to have the same kind of bullheadedness when it comes to repeating mistakes they could have learned from the first time.  History has a way of repeating itself, too; perhaps for the same reason.  Mankind doesn’t learn from mistakes they make, but really doesn’t pay attention to mistakes made by people from their history.  Wars are fought over and over to dispute the same kinds of issues.  The Christian religion teaches that we should treat others as we want to be treated ourselves.  In fact, most religions in the world teach the same lesson that has been issued by some revered prophet or disciple.  But there are still people fighting religious wars over whose religion is the only true religion.  Countries fight the same territorial battles whether it’s over actual physical ground or if it is in areas of business competition or competition over who has the biggest and worst weapons they can use to threaten other nations.  This kind of competition has existed throughout our written history and I think was probably happening long before that.   We could all learn from our mistakes, yet we don’t.

Our country has made a sincere attempt to protect our rights to live as we choose, to speak and write freely, and to be able to be free from fear of invasion or war on our own home ground.  Still, even though things are changing other people in our own country still try to influence the way others choose to live, try to censor or influence how we speak or censor what we write, and the threat of war on our own home ground became a reality on 9/11.

So, the expectation for present-day policymakers to learn from a long history of mistakes is probably unrealistic.  However, in an ideal world the policymakers of the future would acknowledge that the world is changing and that it is time for them to make new and better policies that would prevent repetition of the same mistakes in every generation.  In an ideal world, countries would unite to protect the planet and stop fighting for supremacy or religious dominance.  I wish I could believe that mankind has become enlightened over the past many centuries and now is the time for new policies that all mankind will willingly support.  But I don’t think our leaders have learned any more from their mistakes, or historical mistakes, than I learned from many of my own mistakes….even though my mother tried to tell me so long ago.

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