We try to make decisions on what we know, but things change, we find more information or we have time to think, and that’s no bad thing.
Yesterday I went walking in a local park which follows a small, low lying stream. The council proposed building walls to contain floods which was loudly condemned by locals including myself. It causes detours and in places prevents access to the stream.
But yesterday I saw this, a small patch of wildflowers behind the hated wall. It’s flourishing because humans and dogs can’t trample it. Elsewhere the banks are trampled and empty of plants. The walls also are low enough to allow people to sit on them and allow social distancing which is another gain.
The thing is, the improvements had to be made for us to see the benefits. From the small bridges you can see fish swimming, where people and dogs are kept away the weeds provide shelter and food so the area has become a better wildlife corridor.
Thus is important in reading history books. It’s not just about the words. When we publish our ideas are fixed in time. Sometimes I read stuff that’s now deemed ignorant and/or offensive but it provides an important window into past times and to the author themselves. Sometimes I read my own work and think how I would write it now, with the benefit of more information and thoughts.
This is especially relevant in the context of the debates over statues and colonialism. There’s no denying horrific things happened. But we also need to look at why and how they happened. We understand this from our modern legal system, for example if a person kills another, questions of circumstances and intent are crucial in deciding whether the perpetrator was a cold blooded murderer or was it a case of manslaughter. Circumstances also matter when we try to prevent terrible things being repeated.