“We talk of wild animals, but the wildest of all animals is man.” –GK Chesterton
70 years ago (August 1945), an atomic bomb was used in war for the first time. The devastation was cosmic. Japan was the recipient; the US was the aggressor. About 140000 people lost their lives, and that marked the end of World War II.
70 years later, no nation has dared use an atomic weapon again. A lesson was learn’t from that experience, which is fresh in the memories of all nuclear powers in the world. Japan surrendered to the United States, and ever since, it has based its constitution on a pacifist constitution. Attempts to change this constitution have always been met with resistance by the populace. Every year, Japanese students visit the Hiroshima Peace museum, and carry home a lesson that inspires peace. Generation after generation of Japanese continue to choose peace over warfare.
Rwanda seems to have learn’t a lesson from the genocide. The unity and oneness that characterizes the country seems to emanate from a collective willpower of ‘never again.’ Genocide museums always teach the bitter lessons every year to new generations, which may not have experienced the genocide. I expect that Rwanda will remain a very peaceful country for a long time in history.
In Kenya, I don’t know to what extent we learn’t from our 2007/8 post-election violence. When the ICC cases are over, and IDPs are resettled, and new political alliances are formed, will we ever remembered that we almost annihilated each other based on the primary languages that we speak.
When there was an attempt to build a monument at the place where women and children were burnt to death in a church, the political leaders mounted a big resistance. Maybe, we do not want to be reminded of our past failures.
I have heard it said that a clever person learns from his own mistakes, and a wise person learns from other people’s mistakes. I do not know where we stand on this. Once again, the good old GK Chesterton once said, “He who refuses to learn from history will be forced to repeat its mistakes.”