Unless it is approached in a open and all-embracing manner, the past does have a tendency to poison the present. And what it then goes on to do to the future is often far worse.
But the past is the past and cannot be changed. It can be reinterpreted and occasionally revealed as having more complex layers than that previously understood or imagined. But it still remains; it does not go away, not even when it enters into that uncertain land between history and fable.
The best way to handle the past is to use it positively and realise that, for all its faults, it does show us how well or, more often, how badly matters of great import can and have been approached in times gone by.
We all like to think of ourselves as civilised rational beings, not ones to strike out blindly or without due deliberation. Only with hindsight does our grasp of situations and events demonstrate our confusion and lack of subtlety in how matters could – or should – have been better resolved.
But we do learn from our mistakes and, in that learning, there is some hope of salvation for a future that, at the moment, still looks very dark indeed.
We can always do better. We can also do worse.