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In Defense of the Past

En defensa del pasado. Imagen:  EFE/MIRIAM BARCHILÓN

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Is it necessary to defend the past? Yes.

Why? Because the tearing down of statues of generals and explorers, which has even reached fundamental figures such as George Washington; the odd Tiktok theory that Rome did not exist; the initiation of events or meetings forcing those who attend to admit that they are on “land stolen” from indigenous people; the “inclusive language” and deconstruction in general, are no coincidence; they are part of something more dramatic than a political agenda. They are battlegrounds. Yes, there is a war. Specifically, a war against the past.  

Whatever the nuances and stories behind each of these events, they all share an underlying idea: to desacralize the past, to render it irrelevant, to present it as a legacy of evil, and even to deny it as mere legend; and thus to deny outright the authority of that past to influence the shape of our present and the design of the value structures by which we build the future.

The past is a necessary protection

To paraphrase Edmund Burke, society is a partnership in science and art, “in all virtue and in all perfection” whose goals are only possible through an aggregation of many generations, and which becomes a partnership between those who live, those who have passed away and those who are yet to be born.

Therefore, the past is an element that protects societies and allows them to withstand the gales of history. A civilization that openly rejects its past and dissociates itself from it is profoundly vulnerable; its values, its priorities and its very identity become hostage to the latest trend, no matter how harmful and destructive it may be. By reinventing themselves to the point of absurdity, they end up blurred, subjected to that perpetual infancy proclaimed by George Santayana for peoples who did not learn from their past.

In short, the deconstruction of history means demolishing an enduring building that has been useful for centuries, to replace it with the ideology of the month, without any guarantee that the new construction will be fairer, more useful, or more solid than its predecessor.

The necessary balance

However, excessive sacralization of the past is not a good idea either: it calcifies institutions, hinders innovation, reduces social mobility and, in general terms, tyrannizes the inhabitants, because it assumes the right to kill in order to preserve the old order, as happens in Iran, where the police kill women to punish them for not complying with dress codes that are more than a thousand years old.

What then?

The right path lies somewhere in between these extremes. We cannot turn the past into an unalterable dogma, but neither is it wise to completely demolish it in order to fulfill a technocratic whim or a utopian delirium that promises to build paradise by decree.

And, in the meantime, defending America’s past and that of the West in general is necessary to regain equilibrium, countering the momentum of demolition that has taken control of the political left. Today, coming to the defense of the past means protecting the bonds of that intergenerational pact that makes our civilization viable, aware that it is not a matter of preserving everything, simply because it is old, but of containing a destructive zeal that seeks to sweep away everything around it.

In summary, it is a matter of understanding that neither the world nor history is divided between heavenly saints and indefensible demons; Washington, Columbus, Jefferson, Julius Caesar, or Charlemagne were not perfect, but that does not invalidate what they achieved. Yes, history was a land of evil, but so is the present, because it is part of human nature.  

At the end of the day, people are people, with everything that entails. Hence, outright condemning the past in order to boast our woke “enlightenment” does not make us good, it simply turns us blind.

Gerardo Garibay Camarena, is a doctor of law, writer and political analyst with experience in the public and private sectors. His new book is "How to Play Chess Without Craps: A Guide to Reading Politics and Understanding Politicians" // Gerardo Garibay Camarena es doctor en derecho, escritor y analista político con experiencia en el sector público y privado. Su nuevo libro es “Cómo jugar al ajedrez Sin dados: Una guía para leer la política y entender a los políticos”

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