Monday, May 5, 2014

History is a Lie

            History is a lie. I know that's a blanket statement, being more akin to a man in a tinfoil hat than a college student, but history in and of itself isn't as we perceive it. We often see history through particular lenses, often getting a feeling of what has happened in the general time before rushing to maybe one or two other aspects of time and moving onto the next time period, and honestly this isn't acceptable, but it's hard to combat. Not only do we generalize the past, making sure that we always have this concept of nation (even when in some cases there was no nation like when dealing with Germanic tribes or pre Ireland with warring factions), but we always have this concept that great men (and maybe sometimes women) make history. 
            Now, this is understandable to me, and I understand that we cannot and should not find the "true history," because when looking at history there are many ideas, events, people, classes and other concepts to memorize that having children or adults memorize them all would be like having someone analyze a black hole blind folded (mostly because it is not in front of us). I just find it funny that we have history in classes, we're pretty much saying "here is the clip notes of history, be thankful that I don't show you everything. Your head would explode."
            However, my one main problem with history is the fact that we like to romanticize the world around us. We like to think that Genghis Khan was nothing but a barbarian (instead of being a brilliant tactician, and innovator), or how Christopher Columbus was the only man clever enough to "discover" America (while at best he was only one of numerous explorers to reach the new world, excluding the natives who were already there). The idea of romanticizing the past, is a bit of a double edged knife, having us learn factual parts of history trying to distinguish the real, but instead having falsities rained in like lightning storms. There's a reason why the concept of books telling you "the truth" that you're teachers didn't tell you are popular.
            History, in and of itself, is faulty. We cannot really trust the dates of anything because they were written down by faulty humans and some events cannot be placed in a specific date, even if we wanted them to be. History is a lie, simply because writing down history is not something that can be done with real events, with real people. At best, we get a stage two simulation of what the past was (like in Colonial Williamsburg which, in and of itself, can be called a simulation with the real). However, at worst, we get lies of what the past was like.  Our biases already make the past frayed from one way to the other and make us into something that we cannot be. America was righteously bringing democracy to the new world, Rome fell because of greed,  the middle ages were a period of darkness in terms of technological advancement. History isn't cut and dry, and the more we place our bias on history, the more we make history either hyperreal or merely false.

            History and life, resists simplicity and having a more well rounded and less romanticized ideal of the past will help gain a sense of the real (if it even exists). So, we can think of history as already fiction (in one way or another), we know that history is never true, but we can still try to gleam a sense of our past. History will always have biases, but we have to look past the biases to get to the closest nuggets of truth that we possibly can (even though those nuggets are never going to be true). Think critically, my friends. Think critically. You must know that it's false, before you can begin to learn from it.

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