History, opined the automobile magnate Henry Ford, is more or less bunk. Just over a century later, many South Africans, and an increasing number of young people, would appear to agree. If there’s one thing citizens of all hues might agree on it is that we are still unable to agree on almost anything. Having debunked history, the inventor of the Model T Ford went on to tell the Chicago Tribune in 1916: "It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present, and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today." An echo of this desire to leap free from the chains of our past can be heard from angry youths today. However, the peril of wilful amnesia and ignorance is personified by Henry Ford, an obsessive, myth-peddling anti-Semite, quoted admiringly by Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf. The trap set by dismissing history as bunk is to imagine that you can escape the tentacles of the past. No wonder several of our more ultra-radicals have recently...

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