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Fri Aug 16, 2013, 08:38 PM

History is a Weapon



History isn't what happened, but a story of what happened. And there are always different versions, different stories, about the same events. One version might revolve mainly around a specific set of facts while another version might minimize them or not include them at all.
Like stories, each of these different versions of history contain different lessons. Some histories tell us that our leaders, at least, have always tried to do right for everyone. Others remark that the emperors don't have the slaves' best interests at heart. Some teach us that this is both what has always been and what always will be. Others counsel that we shouldn't mistake transient dominance for intrinsic superiority. Lastly, some histories paint a picture where only the elites have the power to change the world, while others point out that social change is rarely commanded from the top down.

Regardless of the value of these many lessons, History isn't what happened, but the stories of what happened and the lessons these stories include. The very selection of which histories to teach in a society shapes our view of how what is came to be and, in turn, what we understand as possible. This choice of which history to teach can never be "neutral" or "objective." Those who choose, either following a set agenda or guided by hidden prejudices, serve their interests. Their interests could be to continue this world as it now stands or to make a new world.
We cannot simply be passive. We must choose whose interests are best: those who want to keep things going as they are or those who want to work to make a better world. If we choose the latter, we must seek out the tools we will need. History is just one tool to shape our understanding of our world. And every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.

http://www.historyisaweapon.com/

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Arrow 7 replies Author Time Post
Reply History is a Weapon (Original post)
formercia Aug 2013 OP
bemildred Aug 2013 #1
ConcernedCanuk Aug 2013 #2
bemildred Aug 2013 #3
90-percent Aug 2013 #4
Igel Aug 2013 #5
bemildred Aug 2013 #6
LineNew Reply .
blkmusclmachine Aug 2013 #7

Response to formercia (Original post)

Sat Aug 17, 2013, 07:35 AM

1. Or as I like to put it, 95% of everything you know is pure bullshit. nt

K&R

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Response to formercia (Original post)

Sat Aug 17, 2013, 09:47 AM

2. "social change is rarely commanded from the top down."

 

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Was it ever?

CC

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Response to ConcernedCanuk (Reply #2)

Sat Aug 17, 2013, 11:54 AM

3. I would say "political change is rarely commanded from the top down".

Social engineering, good and bad, in the political sense, is common, virtually ubiquitous.

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Response to formercia (Original post)

Sat Aug 17, 2013, 01:32 PM

4. Question

What era in human history bears the closest resemblance to our last thirty years?

These times remind me of the late 19th Century Gilded Age. But, life for the 99% seemed a hell of a lot more harsh than life in our times. Life was cheaper and death a lot more common.

The Gilded Age got fixed by Teddy Roosevelt in the early 20th Century. Is there perhaps another progressive leader in our future to make things quasi-fair again? And also a lot more for the common good to fix climate change and Fukashima type catastrophes?

-jim

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Response to formercia (Original post)

Sat Aug 17, 2013, 01:48 PM

5. The view of those seeking weapons.

Most versions of history are part-true; those that aren't part-true by virtue of limitations of narrative are part-true by ignorance of facts. It's easy to have a story of Mohenjo Daro that accounts for all the facts because we have so few. It's easy to have a story of Mount Vernon that is "true" but accounts for only a few facts.

The most common lie comes in asserting that only one interpretion is true or that to compose a true story you must exclude facts. Of necessity, in schools only one interpretation is commonly taught. This is due to lack of time, lack of knowledge on the part of the teacher, and a lack of facts on the part of the students. If they try to find an alternative history, they typically assume that *it* is true and fail to account for yet another large set of facts. Thus the alternative becomes a lie.

The best history includes numerous stories so that all the known facts are knitted together in a way that makes sense from the perspective of the people at the time. To exclude a fact as inappropriate, to impose perspectives that were unobtainable at the time, to emphasize just one story to the exclusion of other possible stories, makes your history part-true.

A further lie, one that is usually implicit, is to impose a narrative from some set of historical facts on the present. They're useful for telling us how we got to where we are, but even then they're usually part-true. These part-true narratives are poor fits at best, but fill in all the gaps in our current knowledge and allow us to come to the proper predetermined judgment. Since most people aren't adept at recognizing the poor fit or the way our judgment is biased for them, they are weapons--weapons for gaining power by manipulating others.

So the best history includes numerous narratives to knit all the known facts together in a historical perspective. It's a profoundly anti-Soviet viewpoint, and it's why I have it. I've read too many texts in which a single view of history is promulgated as the only true view in order to advance the "progressive" and "democratic" policies currently in vogue. History as a weapon. Evil, that.

One of the best grad courses I ever took was a language course. Each of the students took a historian as his text. Each week we'd ID an event or situation and then we'd each become experts on our historian's interpretation. (When the events post-dated a historian's work, we'd find a more recent historian.) It was truly enlightening, the warping of history to justify either the academic's or the government's view. Sometimes we even had enough information to figure out what probably actually happened--the motives of each person involved, a fuller order of events, what each person actually achieved. But for that we had to have enough information and also be humble, attempting to empathize with all the figures involved.

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Response to Igel (Reply #5)

Sat Aug 17, 2013, 02:31 PM

6. That last thing sounds very cool.

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Response to formercia (Original post)

Sun Aug 18, 2013, 06:56 AM

7. .

 

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