History is not memory, the conservation of the archive; the tendency to identify history and memory is well the sign that our conservative epoch dreams only of the status quo, that it desires no more than what has come and has no interest in the possibility of another history that has been lived and experienced.
--Harry Harootunian, "Japan's Long Postwar: The Trick of Memory and the Ruse of History"
As ever, I don't agree with Harootunian completely, but he certainly says things worth thinking about.
I'm teaching for The History & Practice of Human Rights this semester, and I actually had something of a breakthrough recently while talking to one of my roommates about the readings for the class. People say that human nature doesn't change, as a reason for cynicism or pessimism or despair, and I actually think that's very true; human nature doesn't change. But the trick is that human nature doesn't have to change; what needs to change are the structures of society and culture that we create around ourselves, and if history shows anything, it's that doing so is perfectly within our capability. Already know we, to paraphrase Yoda, that which we need. And yes, "progress" is uneven at best and an illusion at worse and there remains so much to be done, but we aren't a priori barred from accomplishing anything by our natures.