When I studied modern History at University, I studied the world of my grandparents, my parents even, and the parents and grandparents of my friends. Those generations that came before us, whether still alive or not, saw unimaginable change, just like we will, I imagine. I analysed these changes and their effect on people. I spent my time trying to answer unanswerable questions, pouring over the past looking for conclusions, sense, and understanding.
Those months and years of studying had a profound effect on me as I juggled the concepts cause and effect in mind, mentally sitting down with the past and asking it how it affected my present, the world’s present. However, today is not a time to be looking back. Rather it is about looking forward. It is about trying to imagine what our children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren will see when they look back. History is not a perfect recount of the past, nor is it unbiased or a full representation of any person, people, place or time. However, we will one day be studied as History and what that History will be worries me.
We are facing perhaps the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War. Thousands of people are losing their lives off coast lines usually enjoyed by holiday makers. Hundreds of thousands of people are walking, walking, across Europe to find not just a better life, but a safer life, a life without war. Thousands of people are giving up everything they have because it is not worth having in their war torn land.
And what are the people who are safe doing?
Some people are trying to help. Some people are volunteering, donating money, campaigning for the rights of refugees. Some people are being human and treating other humans as humans.
And I keep asking myself why is it not that simple. Why is a humanitarian crisis not dealt with humanly?
Accuse me of being an idealist if you like. You wouldn’t be the first. Accuse me of making a complex issue too simple. Say what you will about this, but there has to be some merit to moving forward in this crisis with human ideals and a simple, yet powerful, desire to help people who need help.
That said, whatever our ideals, History will look back, note them, then examine our actions. Our actions as in the actions of our politicians, who we elected. Our actions as in the actions of extremist groups who live to hate. Our actions as in the actions of you and I, going about our lives in 2016 with a crisis on our door steps.
In sixty years, in one hundred years, our offspring will be asking and answering questions about us in their History classes. They will be looking at the European, and wider Western, response to the current situation in the Middle East. They’ll be puzzling over the factors that led to it and debating where the responsibility lies. At whose door. Without a change soon, what they might conclude worries me.
Ultimately, though, I can only really write my own history. Perhaps, somewhere along the line I can influence someone else’s too, hopefully for the better. Ultimately my story will be shaped by the things I do and don’t do, by the actions I take or don’t take, by the ideals I have. I guess I’ll have to be okay with that.
Finally, maybe doing things because we worry about how History will judge us is not the most moral of compasses to follow either, but it is worth thinking about. What’s done might be done, but what is to be done, what should be done, what will become History is within our control. If I could stand in front of politicians and leaders around the world today, I’d request one thing: Let’s try and write a History of truths of which we can feel proud.