"Those who don’t know history are bound to repeat it." Edmund Burke
H is for History.
Some believe learning history in the fast-changing modern world is irrelevant. They opine that knowing the present itself is a challenge. It is fruitless to go back to the past. No, it is not so. In fact, past, present, and future are interlinked. There is no vacuum in the epochs of humanity’s progress and evolution. It is essential to be aware of history to understand the present.
The archives of world history enfold numerous eras representing their own specific cultures, beliefs, worldviews, and events. We find them chronicled in history books. In short, history is a saga of all that happened in the past. How families, communities, societies, and nations were formed. How people lived and carried on their daily activities. The knowledge of history is the foundation for further development of the human race.
History has recorded the holocausts, world wars and several harrowing tragedies, which added to the human misery to no end. How Hitler’s megalomania caused two World Wars and heaped untold sufferings on millions of people. These are painful blots on the face of humanity. They do make us pause and ponder.
However, for totalitarian political regimes, history is bunk, therefore it is distorted continuously. The word ‘history’ finds no mention in the public domain. The ruling oligarchy keeps an iron-like grip on people’s memories. By creating a chocking system, it keeps the citizenry on their tenterhooks 24x7. Hit by privations and state-organized hardships people have no time to go deep into finer aspects of human existence. The possibility of citizens creating turbulence in the seemingly stable functioning of the system is almost remote. There is ‘Thought Police’ to crush fatally any deviance. Here I feel like sharing a thought-provoking example.
‘NINETEEN EIGHTY FOUR’(1984) a novel by British author George Orwell published in 1949 warns against the insidious possibility of a world where history would be distorted to fit the controlling needs of the despotic system.
Here I narrate an anecdote from the novel to make my point: News splashes on the TV screen. Weekly chocolate ration has been cut to half. By the evening, the news item not only disappears but also is washed clean. There is no proof that there was such an announcement because it is erased from all records. The people battered by shortages and rations hardly had the pluck to reason out such machinations. The move is meticulously planned and subtle.
Interestingly, after a few days, there is breaking news on state TV channels. The weekly chocolate ration has been increased followed by the canned enthusiastic uproar. In reality, the increase is a pittance as compared to the original quantity. History is wiped out every day leaving the masses without any measure of comparison.
But history can be blatantly misused also. In modern times there is another danger looming large. Our likes, dislikes and other data are being codified to commodify our very existence. Our online browsing history is tracked to influence our future decisions. The thinking process gets stunted. The originality of thought and choice loses its importance.
We should remember that history is a great teacher. By recounting our pitfalls and strengths over the ages, it warns us against the mistakes and blunders of the past. The knowledge should sensitize us against the devastating consequences of selfish and egotistic actions. Otherwise, our indifference to the significance of the past will give credence to the saying that, ‘history repeats itself.’
Leaders, administrators, politicians, and citizens: Be wise and be warned because we write our history every day!
Friends welcome here as always!