Do We Need to Know History?

Roundup: Talking About History

Dr.M.A. Jayashree & Prof . M.A. Narasimhan, in Star of Mysore (April 21,2004):

...History is a record of past events including many a times, the record of the shortcomings of ancestors. How can a thing of the past, which is based on the meagre knowledge of the ‘then’, be a source of inspiration for the problems of ‘now’? Each day is a new day and the problems and challenges are also new and is it not foolish to claim that the past solutions can be of use under the present circumstances?

Another misnomer is that of not repeating the past mistakes. There cannot be a greater fallacy than this. How can one claim that man has learnt by his past mistakes when we see day in and day out the same complaints being repeated from the preAristotelian time, that the rulers are corrupt, the youths no longer respect the elders, they are more and more pleasure seeking, the life of austerity and spirituality are no longer attractive and people are becoming more and more dishonest and so on. This has been the refrain of almost all the great minds of the world from time immemorial. Under such circumstances what is the use of history?

History of every nation has been teaching its kids that their country is the best, their societal system and the governance are the best and their languages are the richest in the world. If they had lost a war it is due to the treachery and trickery of others. The enemy has always been brutal and crude whereas the war that they had won was to defeat the wicked and to liberate and alleviate the masses from tyranny. Their fight has always been honorable and they have been liberal to their enemies. Under such circumstances if one compiles the history of the world, what use is it, if it can only promote parochialism and narrow mindedness, that too in the present day world where technology has made the whole world a global village.

The much touted heroes of history are those like Alexander, Chenghis Khan, Caesar, Vasco Da Gama, Columbus etc. All are extolled for their valour and conquests in the pages of history. What are they; but avaricious marauders who in their quest for power and wealth destroyed the peaceful stable fabric of many societies? When such is the case should we take these people as our heroes for moulding the character of the coming generations?

Because of these depressing and perplexing reasons, the present generation wants history to be relegated to the limbo and kept as nothing but of historical curiosity. Perhaps all the kids of our country will jump with joy if we were to give a go bye to history. They will be too happy to bury the socalled ‘Social studies’ three fathoms deep....

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