I was born when my father was fifty-five. Reinhold had lived through two world wars and the great depression. Like those of his generation, he was very afraid of debt, bought almost everything with cash and thought I was possessed by the devil when I got my first credit card at nineteen. He was deeply distrustful of banks, large corporations and governments.
Between the First World War and the great depression, was a decade of decadence, the 1920’s. The great depression in the US started in response to excessive borrowing and speculation which led to a bubble in the stock market and a crash in October 1929. All over the globe, governments responded to economic distress by imposing “beggar thy neighbour” trade restrictions and austerity measures that brought on deflation. As a result the economic crisis deepened. There was a loss of confidence in capitalism, and a command economy, the Soviet Union, was held up as the model for economic growth. National Socialism grew in Germany, as it struggled under its war reparations debt and went through hyperinflation.
My father passed away in 1992. He never fought in any wars, but he had two brothers who fought for the Germans in the Second World War, one who died. Were he alive today, I think he would wonder if the world had learned any lessons from the past century.
We seem to be at a place in time where we have repeated, or are set to repeat, many of the same mistakes made a century ago. One way to honour those who gave their life for our nation is to demand leadership that won’t repeat the mistakes of the past – to ensure sacrifices were not made in vain. Leadership that will inspire the country, and provide a notion of community and shared sacrifice as a nation strives for progress.
“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Je me souviens, Papa.