Ever had the realisation that you’d have done something differently if you had known what you know now?
Hindsight – Noun: /ˈhaɪnd.saɪt/
Hindsight is the ability to understand and realise something about an event after it has happened, although you did not understand or realise it at the time.
Generally, we feel the wisdom that comes with hindsight in our personal lives. We live and we learn – and generally most people understand and appreciate the lessons that come from making mistakes. However, it seems to me as though we’re not applying the same wisdom to the wider world, our communities and our politics. In recent years, our entire lives are documented, giving us unprecedented access to look back on our experiences and use them to inform our future. We can no longer hide from things we once said, or did, because an old tweet or photo can always resurface. There is much less room to make mistakes today, the whole world is watching and scrutinising. With all of this information, we also have almost limitless quantities of information about our history; about the history of the whole world. We should be using this incredible tool to help us improve our own futures, but also the futures of the generations that will come after us. It feels as though every day I see something on the news or hear something out of the mouth of a politician that I have already heard, something that has been condemned before.
We are in a constant cycle of repeating mistakes, not learning lessons, and not changing.
The UK, particularly, is an archaic and out of date system that is not catching up with the needs of the people in today’s world. We (a collective we, meaning the UK as a whole) keep blaming the wrong things for our struggles; we keep getting drawn into the recycled rhetoric that surrounds us. We all feel the fear of rising crime, extremism, hatred, poverty, unemployment, mental heath, addiction and homelessness. But these are not new to us; we have been in this crisis many times before. It is not a modern phenomenon to have a government that makes decisions that benefit nobody but themselves, to have an overworked and underpaid population, to have a communities of starving people whilst others could burn money for heat if they wanted too. We have been here before, we have made our mistakes; Humanity should have learnt its lessons. I keep being told, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” but it is broken. It feels as though our communities, our country and our hope is being continuously shattered.
Don’t give up just yet! It’s not all doom and gloom; we have tools and information that we have never had before. We have an incomprehensible amount of information at our fingertips; we can literally get the answer to almost any question instantly. We can now connect with millions of people across the planet, from the comfort of our own homes. We have countless articles, documentaries and podcasts documenting the history of humanity – and therefore, our histories. We should be using all these assets, reading them, listening to them, studying them, to give us the knowledge and understanding of how we have ended up living in the society we’re in.
I’m not one to dwell on the past in my own personal life, but I certainly try to use historical context to make sense of the things I see each day. Great Britain has been in a cycle of neoliberalism since the 1980s. In my opinion, it hasn’t worked for us. It’s produced some of the worst Prime Ministers of the modern era. Thatcher, Blair, Cameron and May… I don’t think anymore needs to be said about them.
Our colonial ‘history’ is still present and real.
The UK still has an uncomfortable amount of influence, money and repression overseas, whilst remaining isolated and suspicious of others. We’ve supposedly stopped believing in the ‘white man’s burden’ but in reality, not much has changed.
However, for those of us that deeply and truly oppose the politics and actions of Great Britain, both now and historically, we have a new burden. For years I have wanted to reject my history as a white English woman. I have been embarrassed about my nationality, especially when I go abroad, and people snigger at my Englishness. I was once told my skin was the perfect example of “English Rose”. I think this was intended as a compliment, but I hated it. I have always associated my nationality, and race, with brutal racism, hatred and colonialism. I have never wanted to admit this is my history, yet I have always believed that understanding the past is the best way to improve the future. It is time to accept this history – it happened and I cannot write it out of the history books, and I really don’t want to. I, we, have the power of hindsight on our side. We can use the knowledge we have about our history, and use it to ensure the future of ourselves, our loved ones, and people we’ll never meet, is the best it could be.
Written by Mathilde Mae Petford