— NYT Archives (@NYTArchives) August 28, 2014
Adam Gopnik, in the New Yorker, “Does It Help to Know History?“:
… [T]he best argument for reading history is not that it will show us the right thing to do in one case or the other, but rather that it will show us why even doing the right thing rarely works out. The advantage of having a historical sense is not that it will lead you to some quarry of instructions, the way that Superman can regularly return to the Fortress of Solitude to get instructions from his dad, but that it will teach you that no such crystal cave exists. What history generally “teaches” is how hard it is for anyone to control it, including the people who think they’re making it.…
The real sin that the absence of a historical sense encourages is presentism, in the sense of exaggerating our present problems out of all proportion to those that have previously existed. It lies in believing that things are much worse than they have ever been— and, thus, than they really are—or are uniquely threatening rather than familiarly difficult….
That being said, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up the week?