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Past events cannot be undone, so is there any real purpose to hold onto the memories of them? Will the vestiges of past traditions, methods and culture impede the progress of mankind? In my opinion, I say that preserving the past has its purpose and merits, and plays a major role in our progress towards a better society.
For many who have suffered atrocities of wars, the records of such events are of great importance to them. They serve to warn future generations from choosing the same paths that led to the horrifying events that have left many scarred, such as the Holocaust conducted by the Nazis against the Jews. The extent of harm and damage sustained in the past acts as a deterrent against similar events from repeating.
Many also are only able to move on after their ordeal have been given much recognition. An example is the unforgettable event of the Rape of Nanking. Furor erupted when the Japanese tried to re-write history by covering up the fact that such a gruesome and shameless event had happened in the Second World War. The denial of past wrongful acts was an insult to those who suffered and only after the records were corrected did the indignation subside. Accurate historical records acts as a closure to the past and the entrance to the future, so as to allow the society as a whole to move on. This applies to the Chinese Communist Revolution when Chairman Mao rose to power as well as the massacre in Rwanda.
However, some may argue that by living in the past, we cannot contribute to progress. Many inventions and discoveries were derived by moving beyond past knowledge, hence able to contribute to the advancement of society. This was the case of Christopher Columbus, who disregarded the belief that the Earth was flat, and led to the eventual discovery of the American continent. Believing in old myths, sayings and legends seem to hinder people from breakthroughs.
We need to have a balanced view of the past and that only by doing so will the preservation of past be beneficial to us. Failures of the past can help to drive us towards a better future. Remembrance of the past can also serve as a source of pleasure. For example, the old literary works of Shakespeare and Dickens allow for deeper understanding and appreciation of the language used. People also feel a sense of nostalgia, which can sometimes be derived from the taste of traditional dishes like the Nyonya, or particular costumes and types of architecture like the British ones in Singapore. I assume that rich culture is beneficial to us, hence a precious gem that we all share. If such culture is lost, it would totally be a waste since it is one of the only kind.
Thus remembering the past is not pointless. As quoted from George Santayana, ‘Those who do not remember their past are condemned to repeat their mistakes.’ As such, history serves to remind and prevent the future generations from repeating past mistakes, while providing a proper end to some. The conservation of wonderful products of the past is like a present which bestows joy to both the present and the future to come.