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History and its lessons

Reading history…

The study of history can sometimes get really depressing since no mistakes can be altered now. Every little error in judgment and subsequent act by any one person or group of people, in some way has led to the road that has ended in ‘today’. If only there was a way to modify the course of history, a heavy cost paid by generations of humans could have been avoided. Today, all we can do is look back and pass comments on people and acts from history; perhaps discuss them in school and public forums; or even more pointless, write about them on some random blog (like this). But there is no way to correct them.

 

History repeats itself…

Every once in a while, some of us think about these mistakes, may be cry a bit and mostly try to find lessons to guide us (or at least ‘quote’ or ‘discuss’) in our future decision making. Most of us apparently never learn. Ironically, this is also one of the lessons from history; we have seen mistakes being repeated by people in similar positions time and again. Despite all the advancement in human civilization over millions of years, human behaviour is largely predictable. Future generations continue to suffer for the errors made by their predecessors and surprisingly enough, make these very same errors again for their successors to suffer. I wonder if this is the reason why most of the deadlocks around the world are still waiting for a solution.

 

Fact or fiction…

The funny thing is that most of the history that we know is the interpretations of some specific and significant events captured by some writers and filmmakers. The history we know is just ‘versions’ of the many stories or anecdotes from the past as recorded and presented by some storytellers. Since we didn’t exist at the time the events occurred, we will never know the complete and unadulterated truth. Over a period of time, as and when the stories are passed around to humans across geographic boundaries and generations, there is an unavoidable leakage of facts and subsequent adulteration with figments or imaginations. And eventually all we know or remember is the most recent book or movie on the subject.

How do we know fact from fiction now? Interestingly, the modern world history had the aid of developed and advanced media tools. But how do we account for every little episode, dialogue or act that was responsible for that one big event that eventually got recorded in history books. We never manage to get the complete picture and therefore fail to understand the intricacies of complicated stories. We just know the headline, never the complete story.

 

Truth amidst the noise…

The study of history is even more difficult in the new millennium, with extremely high levels of noise and distractions in the form of high information dumps and incredibly busy life. There is a large amount of worthless data available everywhere crowding the information space; a lot of recorded news currently and reading material is ridiculously futile like who wore what at a certain social event or who is dating whom or who said what at some political meeting about someone. One has to crawl through a monumental pile of written words to search for any useful data or information about history (or even current affairs). To add to this, there is the disturbingly busy life schedule that leaves no time to read, think or react about larger humanity issues or historical events that happened way back in the past to bother today. The attention span and available time for most of us living in today’s world is so short that we believe in brief and fast information rather than in-depth knowledge.

So you want to know about India’s independence struggle? Let’s ‘google’ it (yeah, we created a whole new verb here, “google”). Or why not just open wikipedia and save another 2 seconds. 30-40 minutes of surfing and reading on the Internet is a good enough quick-fix solution to satisfy curiosity. Or perhaps just watch that documentary on Gandhi or Nehru on History channel or that commercial movie on Bhagat Singh. You are now all set with clear views on these popular characters from history and you can intensely loathe or idolize anyone you want.

In the end, most of us don’t have an iota of a clue on what really happened. We just have some opinions and judgments based on some half-baked facts, usually formulated after watching a couple of movies or reading wikipedia.

 

And hence…

We don’t know history; we just recall some bits and pieces of a few big events. We don’t understand history’s lessons; we just manage to comprehend some major visible trends. And obviously we have no time to hassle too much about distant past that doesn’t concern us. How do I even expect the human race as a whole to learn from history and work together towards making world a better place to live in for us and our future generations?

 

P.S.:

Even though ‘world peace’ seems like an often-repeated, over-used and least-understood phrases today, I have a strong feeling that a lot of us really want and wish for ‘world peace’ but feel inadequate or inept to really do anything about it. Even the ones, who seem to just make big talks about saving the world, really do want to save the world.

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