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Its Called Presentism and We Have a Bad Case of It.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | April 24, 2018


In a sense, it is always with us, but at times it turns into an epidemic.

“Presentism” is a term sometimes used to describe the inability (or refusal) to tolerate the views of people who lived in the past and were shaped by the events of their own age.

An interesting commentary appeared in the Washington Post this week. A university history teacher who teaches a class about the First World War notes that the same phenomenon could be observed a century ago.  Europeans and Americans saw their time as an age of unprecedented progress (which in one sense, it was) but failed to see the storm clouds that would result in world-wide death and destruction.  Perhaps this blindness is forgivable. We humans have apparently never been very good at understanding who we are. We understand less about who our ancestors were.  Nor, apparently, do we care very much.  We just assume that they must have been much like us, only in costume. Until they are perceived as holding views we condemn or at least dislike, that is.

History is what it is.  Discovering the truth is often not easy.  But that should be the goal, not applying a new coat of paint in today’s favorite color.  Only when we arrive at the truth can we learn whatever history has to teach.  And it has a great deal to teach us.  Not least among its lessons are alternate ways to solve a problem.  History has one great advantage over the present.  We can see how it all turned out.





CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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