“The past has nothing of interest to teach us.” (Judt, 2). When I think about the twentieth century, the first thing that comes to mind is how much our world changed in just one hundred years; from cars to the Internet to how we live our lives in convenience. The wars and policy that were implemented during the twentieth century has had lasting affects on our lives today. Jefferson Cowie and Nick Salvatore discuss the lasting impact of the New Deal throughout the twentieth century in The Long Exception, while Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy dives into the correlation of oil, war, and political powers throughout the twentieth century and its lasting impact on today’s world. When considering all that occurred in the twentieth century, how much changed, and how much endured, I think it is important to remember that the past has so much to teach us if we only remember that we are not too good to look for help and make sure the same mistakes are not repeated again and again.
In Tony Judt’s “The World We Have Lost”, an introduction to Reappraisals, Judt discusses how close and yet how far away we are from the twentieth century. We always discuss that we should remember the past and learn from it, but Judt making the argument that, for some reason, we, seem to be too good to do the same for the twentieth century. As a society, we look at the twenty-first century as a fresh start and it learning from the past one hundred years would do nothing to benefit us going forward. At one point, Judt states, “… on not listening with greater care to some of the wiser heads of earlier decades; on seeking actively to forget rather than remember.” (Judt, 2) I struck me how true this statement was, I hear all the time how those old, white men do not know what they are talking about and how “old-fashioned and narrow-minded they are. While some of them may not agree of a twenty-somethings’ idea of marriage or illegal immigration, the past generations have seen so much and we are missing this opportunity to learn from their experiences.
Jefferson Cowie and Nick Salvatore give a compelling argument, in The Long Exception, that the New Deal was more than a simple way to end the Great Depression and boost the economy, it changed the trajectory of the entire twentieth century. In Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy, our dependency on oil and that issues it is causing becomes very clear. Mitchell argues that our entire foreign policy centers around the idea that we need to get oil, we need to be in friendly with countries who have oil, and that we cannot live without oil. To be such a world power, we are constantly at the mercy of enemies who can provide oil for us to continue living our everyday lives.
1. In your opinion, what steps need to be taken to lessen the U.S.’s dependency on oil and increase our governance as a world power?
2. How can history be taught so that we’re not simply memorializing history through the museums, inscriptions, etc. but to actually help future generations become educated and global citizens? (Judt, 3)
3. Do we have something to learn from the twentieth century and in history in general?
4. In your opinion, what was the most significant lasting impact of the New Deal?
5. Going forward, how can we learn from the triumphs and turmoil of the twentieth century?