The word "history" brings up different connotations. One might find that it brings up memories of a younger time, when life was filled with more fun and games and less anxiety and work. Another person may remember times of sadness and depression, marked with isolation and hate. Still another might think back even further and imagine the times described in massive historical archives and encyclopedias, when life was often marked with bloodshed, cruelty, diseases and pain.
An infinite amount of events, groundbreaking and trivial, occurred before our entrance into this world. Looking back on history, whether it spans millennia or a decade, there always seems to be a strange pattern of events that are similar to each other or seem to be connected. Take for example the strange coincidence of the pope's resignation and a lightning strike hitting the Vatican, or the meteor striking Russia earlier this week on the same day as Galileo's birthday. Although the aforementioned are weak examples of the pattern of historical coincidence, there are other examples of strange historical correlations.
In one of my history classes, I was tasked with reading a book describing Alexander the Great's expansion from the Mediterranean all the way through India. The book did a fine job of making history actually interesting to people who don't normally delve deep into history. The interesting part, however, were the connections it established between the past, and recent and current events. A big part of the book illustrated the trouble that Alexander the Great had in stabilizing the region known as Bactria, which include land that would eventually be present day Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Although Alexander had little difficulty in conquering the area, he had much more difficulty in keeping the area under control. The fact that the region had people resisting and performing guerrilla warfare long before the British, Russians and even Americans invaded the region brings up doubts about the current American occupation and presence. It begs the question: what if the region had never been cruelly invaded by world powers and had its economic foundation destroyed? The legality and ethics of the American invasion and occupation are a different question – the question instead is whether the occupation will be successful and bestow the region with overall positive effects, instead of causing another cycle of violence and death that has occurred countless times in the past.
Some people say that the Taliban, although cruel and ruthless, has allowed for efficient organization and law in the region, thereby stabilizing it. The volatility of the region, however, is one that is hard to control and accurately take action against. The violence and wars that have occurred in the area and even the peaceful intentions of Islam have not been to keep the area safe for very long. Who is to say that any approach, whether it be immoral or not, will even succeed?
I will admit, though, that I am not in any way a history major. However, I see patterns. The old adage, "History tends to repeat itself," can be more eloquently said by Mark Twain: "History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme." History is fascinating in the sense that it tells of the state of lives of people that lived on this world before us. That being said, it helps that we learn from their passing, or else we will fall into the failures and traps they eventually succumbed to. In reference to the current American occupation of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we need to be able to learn from the mistakes that have happened.
Although we may have more advanced technologies today, human nature does not change so much that our kind cannot distinguish itself throughout different times, and by believing that we are superior today, we set ourselves for failure later on. We must approach the future with enough foresight that we have gleaned from our past and others' in order to keep making progress.
— Jan Urbano is a junior in biological sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.