BLOG # 93 CHOOSING HISTORY

A subtle smile is forgivable in reaction to the oft-repeated concern that “History is being re-written.”  The underlying assumption in that naïve concern is that there is a single, universal and objectively accurate recounting of the past which is authoritatively unassailable.

In the distant past, it seems, events were orally recounted by a tribal elder or a shaman and in similar fashion transmitted over the succeeding generations. This morphed into the reliance upon recognized and celebrated historians such as, Josephus, Tacitus, Herodotus and much later, Gibbons and Toynbee. It may well be that, all in all, the need for a uniformly accepted narrative has always trumped precisely accurate history.

There would, inarguably, seem to be a need for mankind to have an identifiable and personally relatable past in order to acquire provenance and context for his unique existence and as an assurance of his continuity. As a practical and educative matter, past behavioral lessons and skills are successively learned and carried forward in the improvement and development of civilization.

It is somewhat disappointing, then, to be instructed that history is written (altered?) by the “victors” (winners of war or dominant society). Wouldn’t it be much more satisfying to know, by contrast, that “true” history is a non-biased, objective account of the past; but it seems, disappointingly, that history too, Is subjective.  As an example, an account of the Vietnam War, written by a Vietnamese historian would differ, significantly, from that authored by a French or American writer.

In addition to national, ethnic and religious bias, a true, academic recounting of history generally speaking, is diminished by inaccurate accounts of past events (intentional or not), memory, language translational disparities, all of which is capable of resulting in disparate understandings.

In newspapers, editorial boards necessarily select from the plethora of events, those that in its judgment are of major interest to its subscribers in an effort to increase circulation, and in consequence, advertising revenue. Other media create history in the same way and for identical reasons. In an ideal world, events would be selected and presented in the perceived order of their national and historic significance. Thus the media has its impact on the recounting of history. It may also be supposed that the celebrated academic “historians” were, and are, somewhat affected, as well, by various non-objective considerations.

In our individual lives, we are affected in varying degrees by prevalent popular judgment as to the hierarchical importance of events, if not their actual factual content. In the interest of preserving our personal integrity; we need to inform ourselves and develop our own insight and understanding.

It is suggested that in our personal lives, the recollection of past events and histories are, as a practical necessity, also determined by consensus.

-p.

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plinyblogcom

Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Literature Student and enthusiast.

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