At various points of time in human history, we have been treated to the unsavory spectacle of the institutionalized use and abuse of history to suit our immediate concern and compulsions. Despite the fact that history is not a script to raise hackles, or hysteria, or not to indulge in histrionics, yet, quite often than not, we are led to believe or assert what history should look like, rather than what it is, based on facts, travel accounts, archaeological findings/excavations, court papers and the like.
Twisting of facts to suit our immediate ends is not history, but hysteria, its jingoistic presentation on the state of the world is more an indulgence in histrionics, than an objective portrayal of events and facts that lie buried in the layers of bygone eras of development and destruction, victory and vandalism. In simple parlance, history is supposed to be dispassionate description of events of the past, without any covert or overt attempt to color it with present-day politics and polemics.
Truly speaking, history is a mirror that reflects the myriad facets of a society. It is a different matter that in today’s world of high technology the sources of collecting facts from different angles and then analyzing them with obvious objectivity are much easier to tap than in the past.
The axiom, “that those fail to learn the right lessons from history are condemned to repeat it”, is as relevant for our multi cultural and multiracial world, as it is equally apt for our own polity. Undoubtedly, history stands for facts and their judicious sifting from fiction or hearsay, yet it is not a channel or vehicle of rousing mass hysteria, to carry forward some ideology or bigoted beliefs.
The moment we try to impose upon history our own stance. Hysteria and histrionics may depict a person’s productivity towards illusions and talent for acting, but history by its very nature and nuance is never a falsification of facts. History, in fact, is a guide for such nations and people as derive the practical lessons from the par. mistakes and resolve not to repeat them under any provocation or pressure.
The European Union countries were once at each other’s logger – heads, but have now become a force to reckon with. For the countries of the Indian subcontinent, West Asia and the like, history should no longer be a haunting ghost that vilifies their vision and disables them to see the events of the past in the right perspective. With-deep rooted prejudices and a false sense of pride or hurt, they cannot afford to fail again and again to mend fences and come to terms with realities that stare them in the face.
Rulers adept in the art of histrionics have used history as their handmaiden to rouse mass hysteria over non-issues, to meet their narrow ends. Invariably, they have looked upon, and still don’t hesitate to misuse through the prism of their jaundiced view. In order to implement their dubious designs, history becomes a convenient instrument of distortion and exploitation.
Unmindful of the adverse impact of their biased view of history would make on the sensibilities of the people, they treat history as tool to serve their purpose and reduce it as a macabre means of successfully bringing under one umbrella the trio-history, hysteria and histrionics.
To the discerning eyes and analytical minds, history is like an open window through which they peep into the past with a view to collect, collate and interpret the events in a most objective manner. With reliable research material, they not only determine the contents and contours of history, but also provide such knowledge and information about the past that can standby us as our constant arid consistent guide.
For some writing history is like writing some script to show even the oppressors like the white people in South Africa and elsewhere as saviors” who had brought and maintained peace among Black or Brown people. For some others, like the outdated ideologues, history was to serve the politics of populism or propaganda machinery.
What makes history an arena for contemporary politics? In societies across the world it has been a tool for nation building, for mobilization or for manipulation. In colleges and universities it is the subject of dry analyses and tortuous theories of economic determinism.
At school, however, it is—and should be—the stuff of romance and heroism, of narrative and good writing, of igniting the child’s imagination. Any tampering with an honest and unbiased narration or description of the past is certainly not history, but a bout of hysteria or an irresistible inclination of histrionics. For most of us history remains the study of past events, especially the political, social and economical development of a country, a continent of the world.