Santayana’s Curse

In today’s polarized world, our real enemy is not each other but social media moguls, some in the news media, and some politicians, seeking to divide us for their own monetary greed and political aggrandizement.

Although Hannah Arndt and Rosa Luxemburg couldn’t foresee social media, each clearly saw the mendacity of some media, some politicians, and their use of social and political tools, that were being used (and that have always been used) to try to divide and conquer.

Arndt wrote that isolating people, through suspicion of each other, into their own fear driven corners, was the primary methodology for political forces to control large groups. It’s even easier now that social media, through the use of algorithms, can isolate us, by corralling us further and further into echo chambers which feed our fears. The only personal and interpersonal power we have against such, almost unbridled, social and political control over us, is our own abstinence and mutually agreed upon abstinence.

Luxemburg, who had high hopes for Communism, distanced herself from that hype when she saw censorship methods as not living up to it and as the primary way to instill isolation and fear, with loyalty only to the state. When the Communists thought her views would hurt their cause, they had her assassinated and, to cover their tracks the “movement” (be careful of mendacious causes renamed as “movements”) made a martyr out of her, using her own words, (regarding her high hopes for communism), to support the cause which destroyed her. The irony is poignant.

If you study and understand the slippery, social and news media slope we’re on now, with social media’s ability to censor free speech, through Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act, of 1996, you’ll see that Luxemburg would have made a valiant effort to stop it’s voicing only one side. She would have told us (and we should listen) that if censorship of one side is the game, it’s not the end game. But that totalitarianism is and in that game all are silenced except to bend knees not for having a voice but only in fealty.

Santayana reminded us that history will be repeated for those who don’t take heed. The problem is that those who don’t take heed usually can’t because, they’re too far generationally, from those who have lived that history, to really understand and appreciate its lessons.

Those of us who aren’t too far generationally have an obligation to try to prove Santayana wrong. We can do this by trying our best, with our last breaths if necessary, to reach the newbies, through teaching them history (with all of its warts, not by tearing it down and re writing it).

Only after teaching it’s harsh lessons, can we can ask, hope, and pray that those babies can learn better ways of living.

Our failure to teach the ugly and the good parts of history, with the complementary lessons of causation and avoidance, is to abandon new generations to Santayana’s curse.

About the Author
Having been a teacher, social worker, lawyer, writer, and radio show host(ess), Audrey is now continuing to write, playing at improv comedy, and exploring other activities that can turn stress into joy and laughter.
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