At least one factor of why we are doomed to repeat history is that, not only do we not know history, but we do not know the present. It is hard to sift through the mountains of propaganda we face on a daily basis to get to the truth and, without that kernel of truth about the present, we have no way to compare what is happening today to historical events.
Propaganda of the present, of course, seeps into history as well. Consider the case of what are arguably the most cataclysmic events in the history of the world: extinction events. We are reasonably sure that the Triassic-Jurassic extinction event, which wiped out about 75% of species on Earth, was caused by an asteroid impact. The even more devastating Permian-Triassic extinction event of 250 million years ago is hypothesized to have been caused either by an impact event, or perhaps by a gradual, but significant, change in sea levels (or a combination).
These seem like the kinds of historical events that we would do well to learn from, so as not to see them repeated. There is a lot we could do to protect ourselves from impact events. But what are we doing? Shredding the budget of NASA year after year, shutting our eyes to the environment around us, and squandering defense resources on absurd conflicts around the globe. We have also noted a rise in sea levels in recent years on account of global warming. What are we doing about that? We’re building pipelines and fracking for natural gas more and more everyday. In both cases, we’re doing the exact opposite of what history teaches us.
Is this because we don’t know history, or is it something else? Are our leaders too arrogant to think history applies to them? Do we think we have unlimited time to sort things out before a catastrophe happens? Are our minds so poisoned and bodies so exhausted by capitalism and greed that we have entered a nihilistic phase of global self-destruction? Is the propaganda by the elite so powerful and persuasive that people are lulled into either not believing historical facts (“God made the Earth 6,000 years ago”) or not believing present facts (“global warming isn’t real”) or both?
I wonder, like you, if technology can be a force for liberation. If we could experience the cataclysmic effects of an asteroid crashing into Earth, see the sky burn, feel the ground shudder, and witness the instant annihilation of all life around us, maybe it would trigger a self-preservation instinct in us to get back into the business of scientific discovery in order to protect our fragile civilization. But, then, that same technology could just amplify propaganda as well. In that regard, it’s just like the internet today. We are in the Information Age, but why is so much of it disinformation? As technology makes that disinformation more accessible and more persuasive, will we be able to resist it?