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Reflection On Lessons Learned During Course

1930 words - 8 pages

"The angel of history must look just so. His face is turned towards the past. Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet. He would like to pause for a moment so fair, to awaken the dead and to piece together what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise, it has caught itself up in his wings and is so strong that the Angel can no longer close them. The storm drives him irresistibly into the future, to which his back is turned, while the rubble-heap before him grows sky high. That which we call progress is this storm" - quote by Walter Benjamin. This is certainly a very interesting and thought provoking quote – one related magnificently to the core tenet of this course: the idea of progress. In order to be able to effectively understand and interpret the quote above, one must be familiar with the term 'progress'. Well then, what exactly is progress? According to the dictionary, progress is, "A movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage"1.However, this definition brings us only to another question: what qualifies as progress, and why does it qualify as progress? Are these limits of progress constant over the course of history, or are they ever-changing? In Walter Benjamin's quote above, 'the angel of history' can be seen as a representation of the present day. Simply stated, he is attempting to illustrate that we, as the people in the present, see much of history as one catastrophe after another, even though we should be looking at it as one gigantic, catastrophe of events. Although we may want to take the time to examine these events of history, we are so intrigued by the events unfolding, that we forget the past to focus solely on the future. Eventually, we become so caught up in the future that we do not realize we, are ourselves adding to the catastrophes of the past, while so ignorantly believing that we are 'progressing' towards enlightenment. After thorough analyses of the works of various historians as well as philosophers, I can strongly say that I agree that Benjamin's quote is an accurate representation of present day occurrences. Is what we are referring to as progress really progress at all, or is it just a continuation of the past into the modern day? We are so caught up in believing that we are 'progressing' that we do not realize what little progress is indeed occurring - all in regards to class, race, gender, and sexuality.

Issues of class and race will undoubtedly always be present, but how much of an effect do they actually have on history? How much have we learned from the past to progress ourselves regarding these issues? In the present day, one would be quick to say that race alongside class are perhaps the most important contributing factors to the events of history. As well, many would be quick to say that race is also the area in which society has made its greatest progress....

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