This week's van attack in Toronto is a reminder that misogyny and hate in general are alive and well in the 21st century. Jonathan Freedland writes:
By a quirk of the calendar, April 2018 brought a double anniversary in the history of race relations in this country: 50 years since Enoch Powell delivered his “rivers of blood” speech, and 25 years since the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Implied in much of the commemoration of these two events has been a note of self-congratulation: look how far we’ve come.
But, more and more, it looks like we haven't come very far:
This month brought news of a survey finding that two-thirds of US millennials could not say what Auschwitz is, while 22% of that same age group had not heard of the Holocaust. Maybe education on this subject is better in Britain, but it was still possible for two Holocaust deniers to be adopted as Labour candidates for next week’s council elections, while the Conservatives nominated a man who once tweeted that he was “sweating like a Jew in an attic”. And it was possible for a supposedly humorous video, in which a would-be comedian repeats the phrase “gas the Jews” 24 times, to go viral.
In other words, the memory of the Holocaust is not secure, just as what seemed to be long-ago battles over racism and sexism have not been won. There is an amnesia abroad that is troubling, as if lessons we thought we had learned need to be relearned all over again. Perhaps each generation has to do it itself, itself from scratch. Maybe we should take no knowledge, no insight, for granted. Older generations, for example, might think it obvious, given the 20th century, that European nations need to cooperate rather than compete if we are to avoid mass slaughter and bloodshed. However, it seems even that is not obvious, but rather needs to be taught anew.
It is an especially dispiriting thought for progressives, who, as the name implies, want to believe in progress. But perhaps this is our fate. Like Sisyphus, we must roll the boulder to the top of the hill, only to watch as it rolls all the way down – then gird ourselves to push it all the way up again.
It appears that -- despite Barack Obama's fervent hope -- no lessons are ever learned for good. They must be re-learned with each generation.