Study the bad to create good

Published 9:21 pm Monday, July 17, 2017

By Joseph L. Bass

Several people have stated it is important to know history to avoid repeating mistakes made in the past. It is also important to understand the past to know the factors that created our present.

As a representative republic based on democratic processes, we influence our future through our votes and actions. Taking wrong paths can take our nation down a road we shouldn’t go. Considering our current social conditions, it appears we need to study our past and develop different approaches to overcome our challenges.


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To take our nation down the right path, it is necessary for citizens to know and understand history. The difficulties we have today didn’t occur by chance but originated in previous events.

Many of them are rooted in our efforts to implement a radical and new idea not attempted previously anywhere in the world. We strive to create a nation based on a classless society in which all have equal opportunities, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or past social status.

Unfortunately, we are not a people that shows much interest in studying history or culture. A goodly number of people come together each Sunday and other days of the week to study the Bible, but it is extremely rare to hear about people gathering in small groups to study history.

It is also unfortunate that most of the materials found in our history books deal with events we consider good. We choose to ignore what we consider bad. But the bad realities of the past created today’s challenges. How are we to overcome today’s problems if we do not know about the past events that caused them?

We particularly avoid studying the Reconstruction Era that resulted in Jim Crow. Until recently little information was available. Typically, city, college and university libraries have extensive volumes on the Civil War but few on this bad time in our history.

The best introductions to this era are found in two videos that can be rented or seen on YouTube: Reconstruction: The Second Civil War and Aftershock: Beyond the Civil War.

These provide good introductions to Reconstruction. Viewers need to strive to understand how radical an idea equality is in world history. We need to see that social change cannot be achieved in short periods of time. We need to understand that the class-based social structure and slavery in the South was thousands of years old when we as a nation attempted to restructure society based on equality.

We particularly need to understand that constitutional amendments and laws do not change people’s beliefs and actions. Social change occurs in the minds of the people without regard to laws and government.

As a representative republic based on democratic processes, we influence our future through our votes and actions. Today we have considerable challenges to overcome. We have taken some wrong turns as evidenced by existing social conditions. To overcome them, we need to study our past, both good and bad, and develop better approaches that will result in progress in the right direction.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at