The Grey Chronicles


Repeating The Same

Thesis Epilogue“Not learning from the past is a presage of repeating the same,” was the last line in my thesis as well as the last slide in the defense presentation, paraphrased from some previous readings but memory failed me which exact reference and the exact words of such passage when I submitted the final copy of my paper.

Building a Bridge to the 18th CenturyLast night, I started reading Neil Postman’s book: Building a Bridge to the 18th Century (2000), subtitled: How the Past Can Improve Our Future, bought a week ago at a discounted price of about a dollar from Booksale. In its Introduction, Postman writes:

“The future is, of course, an illusion. Nothing has happened there yet … There is no there there.”

He quotes three authors in succession: Marshall McLuhan, Soren Kierkegaard and George Santayana. Postman highlights McLuhan for his intriguing metaphor in reference to “rearview mirror” thinking, whereby “all of us are speeding along a highway with our eyes fixed on the rearview mirrors, which can tell us only where we have been, not what lies ahead.”

Postman then announces that his book assumes that both Kierkegaard and Santayana are right. Kierkegaard remarks that foresight is really hindsight, a reflection of the future revealed to the eye when it looks back upon the past. Santayana tells that if we forget the past we condemned to relive it. Postman elucidates both points:

“Kierkegaard is right in suggesting that there is nothing to see in the future except something from the past, and he invites us to be quite careful about what part of the past we use in imagining the future. And so does Santanaya. Yes, he is urging us to remember our mistakes so that we do not repeat them. But he wants us to remember, as well, our glories. To forget our mistakes is bad. But to forget our successes may be worse.”

I am positive that I have neither read the aforementioned Postman’s book while writing my thesis, nor have I read any of the three authors quoted by the former. Maybe, the quoted passage was from one of my readings in military history years before then laid dormant in the recesses of my mind and later seized the appropriateness of such words to conclude the paper.

The thesis evaluated the foray of National Steel Corporation, specifically between 1995 to 2000, when it was under Malaysian control. A series of recommendations for future NSC was also included following the summary of findings. The “future NSC” meant any incarnation of the steel plant; and the recommendations were collated in a SWOT matrix, for easier reference.

Alluding to Santayana as quoted by Postman, the thesis did not forget the successes of the pre-privatized NSC described in a three-part section beginning with Before: The Government-Owned NSC, 1974 – 1994, Part 1. Moreover, instead of pointing fingers why the privatized NSC closed in 1999, the thesis concludes:

“NSC’s foray as a private enterprise from 1995 under Wing Tiek then under Hottick has been a tumultuous phase; its flat steel production was subject to forces that would prove fatal to its corporate existence. NSC liquidation in 2000 brought rippling economic effects to the immediate community, in particular, Iligan City, and in general, the Philippines; as well as changed the legal environment for the Philippine steel industry; and threatened Philippine trade relations, especially with Malaysia. The revival of NSC facilities into operative state in 2004 offered new possibilities for the Philippines’ quest to become a new industrialized country by decade’s end; re-opened the question of steel integration—the pursuit for the country’s Integrated Steel Mill; and changed, however minute, the inter-trade of steel products within the ASEAN, AFTA, and WTO communities.”

The study considered the following factors, as illustrated below in the theoretical model:

Theoretical Model of Independent Variables affecting NSC Flat Carbon Steel Production

Theoretical Model of Independent Variables affecting NSC Flat Carbon Steel Production

The thesis also acknowledged that “there is no apple-to-apple comparison with the pre-privatized NSC versus its later rebirths, however, the same factors then, from this study’s viewpoint, still exist in the current business environment, albeit different in intensity, focus and personalities.”

Having read Postman’s Introduction to his book, this author retrospectively believe that Kierkegaard’s suggestion was right and it applies the same to the thesis, which was also quite careful about what part of the past was used in imagining the future.


Postman, Neil (2000). Building a Bridge to the 18th Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future. New York: Vintage Books, Random House, 2000. pp. 5—6. back to text.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: The posts herein do not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions. Read the full version of self-imposed rules for this blog: A New Year; New Rules. Unless otherwise expressly stated, the posts are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
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1 Comment »

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