Hindsight is 20/20 for one reason: we know how the story ends.
While it’s easy to criticize our predecessors, we need to cut them some slack because they didn’t know what we know–how their story ended. While we sit on the high perch of knowledge, they struggled with incomplete information and ignorance of the true motivations of all the historical players.
It’s nothing new. Mocking previous generations is a rite of passage for subsequent ones who can scoff at the absurdities of believing that:
- the sun revolves around the earth
- bloodletting cures all ills
- one human can own another human
- only male landowners can vote
- Twinkies are bad for you (What? You haven’t heard?)
But we evolved. And that’s the point. Our beliefs are ever changing. Don’t believe me? Try the following exercise.
I used to believe X, then Y happened.
- I used to believe in nurture over nature, then I had kids
- I used to believe that there was no such thing as age discrimination, then I hit middle-age
- I used to believe in over-planning, then life taught me flexibility
It’s hard to see the story when you’re in the middle of it, which is ironic considering that future generations will mock our “enlightened” ideas during their own rites of passages. Therefore, before we get too confident in our present-day beliefs, remember that we too are in the middle of our own incomplete stories and the only thing standing between us and their endings is time.
Photo Credit: White, Clarence H, photographer. Blind man’s bluff, Newark, Ohio,/ Clarence H. White. Newark Ohio, 1898. Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/97509542/