“Those who don’t know history are condemned to repeat it.”
This is quite possibly the most circulated quote among historians.
I, however, prefer to think of my field in different terms. Cassandra was a Trojan princess who was given the gift of foresight — she could see the future.
When the Greeks left the Trojan horse outside her city’s walls and her countrymen wanted to bring it inside, Cassandra was among the lone voices crying to destroy the horse. Cassandra, however, had previously not allowed herself to be violated by Apollo and she was forever cursed for no one to believe her prophecies.
The horror she must have felt as she could see what her peers’ actions would cause, while none of them listened to her, must have been a tragic feeling I hope to never experience.
The inability of society to grapple with uncomfortable issues leads directly to its struggles or demise. JK Rowling’s novels surrounding Harry Potter’s adventures offer tremendous insight to this issue while parading history.
Consider this for a moment — Voldemort’s Death Eaters appear to be inspired by Germany’s Third Reich. A telling example is the Death Eaters’ wishes to incite genocide upon those they believed to be genetic crossbreeds. Through the series, words like mudbloods, pure-bloods and half-bloods are thrown around regularly. An obvious comparison can be drawn to the Third Reich’s view of the Arian and Jewish races in the middle of the 20th century.
In the larger context of the series, Voldemort is genuinely feared for countless reasons. Years after his death, Voldemort’s name remained tremendously taboo. Most of society could not even handle hearing his name and the pure and raw emotions society felt required Voldemort to simply be referred to as “He Who Must Not Be Named.”
In a sense, those in the Harry Potter universe were acting out the fears of Ancient Greeks who feared saying Hades’ name because, if they said it too often, he might appear. This is also seen in popular culture. If I were to say “Beetlejuice” three times, he might just show up.
Perhaps more will be familiar with the example of standing in front of a bathroom mirror on Halloween and saying “Biggie Smalls” three times.
Rowling’s treatment of “He Who Must Not Be Named” is a clear representation of human nature’s fear of some boogeyman coming from the grave to harm and punish us for speaking their name.
Harry and Cassandra can both see the future and must attempt to fight the well-meaning, but ignorant, forces that wish to subdue their voices. Harry knew the circumstances which allowed “He Who Must Not Be Named” to rise to power were still a clear and present danger. To prevent “He Who Must Not Be Named” — or another like him — from rising, Harry knew society must acknowledge the powers and attitudes which allowed it to happen.
Opening this view a bit, JK Rowling becomes a subtle leader. She used a common practice in writing — using a mouthpiece to make her argument — to confront the evils of the Third Reich. While her argument was made subconsciously, it was done effectively as it made her real argument without ever directly indicating the real objective.
Harry and Rowling are leaders in the sense that each exposed the harm in ignoring “He Who Must Not Be Named.” Neither Harry nor Rowling could hope to undo the evils unleashed by “He Who Must Not Be Named.” However, it became apparent that being unwilling to have open dialogue about “He Who Must Not Be Named” was counterproductive. Harry’s willingness to confront the Death Eaters was not done in lieu of sensitivity but was instead to prevent their kind from surfacing again. Seemingly, Harry is arguing that it was “He Who Must Not Be Named’s” vilified and taboo status which made it all the more important to discuss him and the reasons he was able to accomplish what he did.
After all, those who don’t know history, are condemned to repeat it.
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