{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Thursday, December 02, 2004

History and you

How does history effect you ? Is history (as you know it) the 'truth' ?. Can we somehow find out the 'true history', Can past be verified ? If we are never sure about the history, what is the use of referring to something that itself is debatable ? Does this vagueness or uncertainty about history make it more interesting, more thought provoking ... or more subjective and illusory. Certainly, fuzziness of the subject matter give it several dimensions but there are always risks of mis-interpretation (based on ignorance) and mal-interpretation (based on bias and prejudice). So lets start with what we mean by history, history is an interpretation of the past in present for the future based on facts.

Now coming to the truth in history. Lets see it this way, if truth is to be truth, truth must be absolute, independent of any point of view. Keeping this in mind, does history concur to the any levels of truth, and if it doesn't, how can it effect us. But then, does only truth (or the absolute things) effect us. Also this means that 'Jaliawaala bagh massacre' or 'Boston tea party' or 'a 1978 movie release in Europe' don't effect me, as I donot know any truth about them. Here emerge theories like 'Present is everything' and 'Live for Now' but they look baseless and stupid to me (One of such theory can argue that everything is present: present-gone (past), present-still-to-come (future) and momentary flash that is nothing but 'now'..., but these type of arguments try to overemphasize the importance of 'Present').

The point here is not that 'your' past effects you or not (It definitely does) but does the past other than yours have any influence on you. Yes it will, but may be not in a way as you expect probably because you do not know about the history and its interpretation (an exercise to find the truth).

Sometimes I feel that interpretation of history is our duty simply because it effects us (its a big statement, but I do feel it many-a-times). But the problem here is the accumulation of facts and reaching on something objective. Yes, there are lose ends, broken links and lots of interpolations required, but a sincere effort will try to do away with any bias or any reinterpretation on the basis our ever changing prejudices. I am not sure we will ever touch the line of truth (what really happened) but will definitely tend closer to it.


Stealthy Guy said...

History can never be guaranteed to be absolute, let alone absolute truth. That is probably why, funnily enough, there is an Englishman's perspective on Indian Independence (called conveniently by most Britons as British Colonial History or British Raj) and there is also our schoolbook Indian History. One event, many histories. And there ever remains the doubt of history's thoroughness in recording all the events.

Machiavellian power plays by the big men of all eras have had their toll on the historians and their recordings.

I think history has been used as a projection of reality to please/appease/suppress/oppress/emancipate people.

anurag said...

I think, you are talking about 'History is written by the winners' thing. Yes, it is.

But what I am talking about is the not what is written and what we call history. I am talking about its interpretation by us, its like what we can dig and find out. I mean to say that we cannot be indifferent to something that effect us because we don't know it for sure, we need to do a sincere effort to find the truth. Its another question whether we are able to find it or not.