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Quote of the Day: Christopher Columbus


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I think in order to obtain the full benefit of any wisdom history may offer, it's important to judge people in the context of their time.

It's very important to evaluate the accepted morals and values of one period in history against another, particularly where those morals and values oppose or clash.  It helps us understand why our society holds certain values and why society discards or abandons others.

But judging historical figures who lived centuries ago by the morals and values we hold today creates a distorted and inaccurate view of their motivations and actions.  This in turn distorts the lessons we might draw.

Consider:  If you were to be judged not by accepted morals and values of today but by what society finds acceptable 500 years from now, how would your reputation fare? 

What would you do differently today to appear in a better light based on what society's values might be 500 years from now?

How could you even know what actions or behaviors to change?

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1 hour ago, Thaddeus Kosciuszko said:

I think in order to obtain the full benefit of any wisdom history may offer, it's important to judge people in the context of their time.

It's very important to evaluate the accepted morals and values of one period in history against another, particularly where those morals and values oppose or clash.  It helps us understand why our society holds certain values and why society discards or abandons others.

But judging historical figures who lived centuries ago by the morals and values we hold today creates a distorted and inaccurate view of their motivations and actions.  This in turn distorts the lessons we might draw.

Consider:  If you were to be judged not by accepted morals and values of today but by what society finds acceptable 500 years from now, how would your reputation fare? 

What would you do differently today to appear in a better light based on what society's values might be 500 years from now?

How could you even know what actions or behaviors to change?

Mmmm maybe, but would we judge the Soviet Unions Berlin wall acceptable in Moscow so ok with us?

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3 hours ago, maddmaxx said:

Mmmm maybe, but would we judge the Soviet Unions Berlin wall acceptable in Moscow so ok with us?

A fair question, maxx.

I would suggest that in your example we judge the Soviet Union's Berlin Wall from the understanding of the reasons that prompted the Soviet Union to build it and why it was viewed in Moscow as acceptable.

That does not require us to agree with their reasoning, nor does it require that we say it was ok.

It does however, require us to think about why in America we found the wall unacceptable when we make the comparison between the views prominent in Washington and Moscow at the time.  We would undoubtedly find some concepts that were taken as fact, that today we have the advantage of knowing were merely propaganda of one side or the other.

Then we can better decide who remains blameless and who deserves condemnation: the worker who poured the concrete for the wall?  The East German guard who shot people trying to get through the wall?  The Communist Party officials who issued the orders to build the wall and shoot fleeing people?

Then, too, the exercise will hopefully prompt us to pick up our heads, look about, and make a closer study of what we ourselves assume as fact, given how human nature enables history to 'repeat' itself.

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59 minutes ago, Thaddeus Kosciuszko said:

A fair question, maxx.

I would suggest that in your example we judge the Soviet Union's Berlin Wall from the understanding of the reasons that prompted the Soviet Union to build it and why it was viewed in Moscow as acceptable.

That does not require us to agree with their reasoning, nor does it require that we say it was ok.

It does however, require us to think about why in America we found the wall unacceptable when we make the comparison between the views prominent in Washington and Moscow at the time.  We would undoubtedly find some concepts that were taken as fact, that today we have the advantage of knowing were merely propaganda of one side or the other.

Then we can better decide who remains blameless and who deserves condemnation: the worker who poured the concrete for the wall?  The East German guard who shot people trying to get through the wall?  The Communist Party officials who issued the orders to build the wall and shoot fleeing people?

Then, too, the exercise will hopefully prompt us to pick up our heads, look about, and make a closer study of what we ourselves assume as fact, given how human nature enables history to 'repeat' itself.

I understand what you're saying, but it's a bit too PC for me.  That sort of decision making requires us to try to understand what was going on in Ted Kaczynski's head and view the world through his eyes or to give serious thought to what Isis leaders believe.

Nope.  I'm not that nice.

Edit:  mind you, I don't blame Columbus for the way he treated the natives.  No other European would have been any better and frankly in places the natives were just as bad.  I guess in a sense that's what you are saying.  

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