Historical Prism: Repetition of History and Practical Recollection
Historical Prism: Repetition of History and Practical Recollection
  • Professor Chun-Shik Kim
  • 승인 2015.11.04 16:09
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Kar Marx once said “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce” (Geschichte wiederholt sich – erst als Tragödie, dann als Farce). Marx suggested French and Ancient Roman history as examples. In 1789, the French Revolution demolished Bureuong’s Royal Family and established the First Republic, but it was delocalized with Napoleon’s coup, returning the whole state back to Le Premier Empire. Later on, following the downfall of Napoleon due to his failure in aggressive wars, the monarchy was retained in France, but this again changed into the Second Republic by the French Revolution in 1848. Then, in 1851, Louis Bonaparte, the cousin of Napoleon, rendered the collapse of the current republic and attained the Second Empire. Namely, Marx saw analogies between French History after 1789 and the race of republics and empires during the Roman period.
Meanwhile, repetition of history is not confined to European history. There is the viewpoint on Korean history that the international correlation of Northeast Asian counties since the 1990s reflects the strife for Korean between powers such as Russian and Japan, during the Korean Empire. Also, due to the economic problems in a Capitalist system, there is a classical analysis that the 2008 American Economic Crisis is the repetition of affairs such as the European economic crisis from the 1970s to 1990s, and the Great Depression of the 1920s. There are even some scholars claiming that Fascism, Nazism and dictatorship rendered by extreme economic depression could again be brought about these days. This is referred from historical experience that a population suffering from economic depression seeks charismatic dictators who can suggest exits from such depression, even if it costs their freedom.
Like this, we relentlessly question historical repetition as we consider political and economic phenomena and events occurring throughout the world, including Korea. Especially, we find ourselves at repetitive odds as we peruse historical documents or search the internet. However, what people should focus on about what Carr said is improving the present by the seeing the past as a warning; he emphasized that history has a moral. The problems caused in the past are not just a set that we can take away, but part of a living organism that still affects the present. This is especially true if people do not fix the unfortunate history. The reason people repeat behaviors of the past is divided thinking and behavior. They cause people not to face the present, the past and the future in the same line of thought.
In March 2015, approaching the anniversary of the 70th cessation of hostilities of the Second World War, German politician Angela Merkel made it clear that one can’t draw the line on history. This includes Germany. Germany has the endless responsibility for the behaviors of Nazis in past. It is different from what Shinzo Abe said at the speech on America. The behavior to accept the faults and the behavior to deny or evade the faults are reflected definitely. Recently, Japan has armed and adjusted the pacific constitution. This seems quite similar to the posturing of the Japan of 1930, which insisted the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere and justified invasion to Asia as a militaristic nation. Although it is obviously sure that two nations see the unfortunate history differently, they should consider the lamentation of George Bernard Shaw: “If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience.”
Not only Germany’s and Japan’s problems, but also Korea’s problems should also be considered. That is to say, a practical memory mindful of the unfortunate past is a responsibility and duty of all people. This is because repetition of memory is a more powerful weapon than history. Historical philosopher Friedrich Hegel emphasized, “The world history is the process of spreading freedom from minor to major”. Does history repeat itself? Today, the freedom we enjoy is not just presented, but is presented as a result of repeated sacrifice, which inspires people to never defer freedom. The lessons through the windows of history should prevent the repetition of mistakes or faults. Like an individual history, the same history is never repeated but, similar history is repeated when people forget the lessons from the past.