Sunday, May 24, 2009

Learning and researching history

I was thinking of the results of "Learning and researching History". Overwhelmingly, the political results come to my mind. The children are taught history in school so that 1) They become nationalistic, proud of their history 2) They understand the rights, and more importantly, the wrongs that happened in History - the holocaust, or the Stalinist purges, Fascism, Imperialism etc - so that their political beliefs are developed accordingly. I wonder if there is any country in the world which do not interpret history selectively so that 1 & 2 are met.

History is always used by politicians to prove their point. The Hindu nationalist sees a glorious "Akhand Bharat" of the olden days - united, successful and homogeneous from Afghanistan to Kerala - tarnished to the present one by attacks from people of other religions. The Dravidian politician sees himself as a defender of the Dravidians - a Superior race traditionally, and the inhibitor of Akhand Bharat, that fell into bad means and pushed southwards due to the attacks from the barbarous Aryans, and sees many of the social ills as the product of Aryanization. The dalits see an entirely different history of the country (which provides reasons for their current state). Elsewhere in the world, Hitler interpreted history to create the myth of Aryan supremacy, and the glorious "Reichs" of olden days. Some Muslims (especially in Pakistan) and Christians (in India too) find Indian history as a thorough civilization process by them of the idol-worshiping, superstitious, cast-ridden Hindus. Communists of Kerala and the state's text books painted a glorious picture of the erstwhile USSR and the regime of Stalin even when they were taught in the most negative terms elsewhere. The US thinks of themselves as the saviour and crusader of Democracy all over the world, even though it does not mind meddling in the internal affairs of several democratic countries, keeping the likes of Saudi Arabia in its own backyard. Chavez invokes Bolivar to gain legitimacy to himself, Marx and Engels made history the basis and a kind of proof of their theory of Historical Materialism, of social systems converging to communism at the end of their evolution.

I wonder, is the use of Learning and researching History is only to score political points, and to refute them (again for a political reason)? History is always hazy, and it is very easy to selectively interpret it. Most nationalist movements do this.

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