Although one can perhaps empathise with the sentiment, the famous “History is bunk” saying of legendary car manufacturer (the original) Henry Ford does not actually provide a complete answer.
He was making the point that the greatest (most important) impetus in making progress is the strength and determination of the individual’s desire to ‘go forward’ … and therefore – he was counselling – time spent sitting around learning about, or seeking the lessons of, the past may ultimately prove to be wasted and/or of no positive effect.
Well, unless perhaps you take the view that the chief benefit of history is that it may tell you what not to do as you try to forge ahead.
It seems to me that – and I’m trying to help him here – Ford was really making a general call to arms, viz. “To go into the future, stop sitting around thinking about it – just get on and do it!”
The one thing that history and the past provides evidence for is the theme that human nature never changes. Whether you’re considering human sexual relationships, the world of diplomacy, or indeed any other field of human activity or interest, this seems to apply.
Which brings me to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Although my recollection is that the 2012 London Olympics is one of happy and welcome exceptions that proves the rule – and in this I may have been duped by ‘news control’ or propaganda put out by the organisers and the BBC – the history of the modern Olympics since 1896 Athens is littered with stories of incompetence and late delivery of everything from facilities to equipment by the host cities (nations) involved.
If personal memory serves, those of Montreal in 1976 (funding-wise – the city only finally paid off its debt thirty years later in 2006), 1996 Atlanta (horrendous logistical problems with athletes constantly in danger of not being able to get to their events in time from their digs) and 2004 Athens (chronic building and infrastructure delays) are stand-out (bad) examples.
Nevertheless, if even just half the stories are true, 2016 Rio has been doing its level best to finish right up there in the rankings of the most disappointingly-prepared Olympic host cities of all time.
As it happens, I’ve been contemplating this topic a lot in the last ten days.
Here’s a piece by David Goldblatt that covers its pretty well and appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN