Re-writing History?

Some of us are not happy with our own, our communities or our countries history, and for some reason, think it should be somehow be rewritten. Regardless of how much you may not like what happened during a certain period of history, you cannot change it or wish it did not exist. It happened, and that is history!

History is what creates us all, and we cannot alter that. It is fixed in stone, regardless of whether we like it or not. We are all the end result of the history that has preceded us, so creating who we are. It not only includes our immediate family history, it includes all that has gone on around your family going back thousands of years. Who you are depends on not only who your parents are and what they did, but such things as where your early ancestors came from, what societies they mixed with, their geographical location, their wealth, their beliefs, their health etc etc etc. All these variations and many more make up who you are, and it is all a part of your history. This cannot be changed.

Understanding that all of the history that has created you is historical fact, and even if you are unhappy with the end result, you cannot change any part of those facts. We all have to make the best of whatever history and nature has provided us. That’s it, there is no going back.

Now, back to the topic at hand – Re-writing History. There appears to be a trend in recent years for some in believing that by knocking over a statue of a historical figure somehow changes history. Understanding that history cannot be changed, we always have to recognize that thoughts, behavior and actions of a different era need to be recognized for what they were. Understanding why, when and how earlier generations thought and acted allows us all to comprehend that part of history. That very history has probably effected hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. Whether modern society would believe or act in the same way is completely irrelevant. Our primary role is to understand history for what it is, recognize the people who played an important part, and learn from it. We cannot change it. Knocking down a statue of someone who was revered in earlier times does not change history, it just proves our ignorance.

There are parts of modern society that believes that everyone should believe as they do. Where this strange idea comes from is somewhat puzzling. In many cases these very same vocal and opinionated individuals are very much in the minority. They make the most noise and the silent majority seem reluctant to make any comment or objection. There is an old saying that goes along the lines of “the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the grease”, which certainly applies to these minorities. They are also the ones who often wish to re-write history. You cannot change history, it is what it is, just learn from it and move on.

A democracy is a country that is ruled by those who have been fairly elected to represent those who elected them. In a democracy, the majority rule. While the minority can complain all they want, the will of the majority should be respected. The same principle should apply to every other organizational decision if we wish for democracy to prevail. Democracy itself has a long and torturous history that goes back thousands of years and our current systems have evolved through that history. Again, understanding that history and where our current systems and processes have come from reinforces our desire for democracy. We should not try and change history, because if we do, we challenge the very basis of the end result -democracy. If the majority are unhappy with where we have ended up, there are political processes to change the system for the future, but the history remains the same – it cannot be changed. History gives us the basis to move forward.

There are some in our societies who also believe that the word “man” should be removed wherever possible, even to the point of changing the phrase “human being”. Human beings are homo sapiens, or persons, if you like, nothing more nor less. The three letters (man) in the word “human” are not in any way sexist, they are just a part of a two word phrase that has been in common usage for hundreds of years. These types of common terms are historical in nature and are not derogatory or demeaning to anyone. They just mean what they mean and have no hidden meaning or implications. A human being is a person just like you, full stop!

In my earlier years I had no real interest in history, but over many years I have learnt that much can be leant from history, because as I have said before, history has created us all, because without it, we would not exist. Understanding when, why and how certain events took place, and understanding something about the people who were involved, helps us all come to grips with our existing world. The problems of the modern world can, to a certain extent, be explained if we closely examine the history leading up to the current situation. Understanding that provides us with the knowledge to move forward. Trying to erase history or change it, is not the answer.

Published by sharingknowledge

I am an older retired person currently living in Queensland, Australia who has lived in 6 different countries for 5 years or more each. They include England, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Norfolk Island and now Australia. I have a wide range of interests which include, amongst others, education, business, travel, volunteering, classic cars and government. I consider myself to be very logical, consistent, thoughtful and generally involved with society. I welcome any considered views and opinions.

2 thoughts on “Re-writing History?

  1. Phil:
    “History is . . . fixed in stone, regardless of whether we like it or not.” The problem is that what we know about History may not accurately reflect what happened and especially why the things we know about or think we know about happened. To the extent that history is any kind of record of what happened, there are vast swaths of our past that were not recorded or any record of what happened disappeared. So, at best history is always a current approximation of what contemporaries believe happened in the past. I would stress, believe, because certainty is very elusive when it comes to the past. Think, what will be required for all our current digital records to remain accessible in the future. As it is, many records stored on paper have been digitized and the paper records destroyed. Not all archives have been digitized, but most plan on digitization, That is a lot of faith in electronic storage of data.

    “There appears to be a trend in recent years for some in believing that by knocking over a statue of a historical figure somehow changes history.” Let’s take the case of the statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson recently removed from public display in Richmond VA. Both men, graduates of West Point and former officers in the US Army took oaths to protect and defend the US Constitution. Both men then waged are on the United States of America. Leveling war against the United States is defined as Treason in Article III, Section 3 in the US Constitution. Both men committed treason. Treason is the only crime defined in the Constitution. Both men owned slaves. I do understand some who wanted the statues removed was because of their ownership of slaves. However, that not withstanding, removal amounted to glorifying treason. Were they able practitioners of the art of war. Yes. Nonetheless, so were countless other soldiers throughout history. The statues were erected in the 1920s during the height of Jim Crow segregation laws and state sanctioned repression of black Americans. Perhaps the time of their erection there was some rationale for putting them up that was not an expression of support for the murderous and wanton destructive actions of the two traitors? But having lived in the South, I rather doubt it, for when I was there the Civil War was still thought of and expressed in terms of “the war of northern aggression.” Does taking the statues down change history. No. But is does cease the glorification of the murders and wanton destroyers who committed treason. Rather put up memorials to the slaves were denied their humanity, soldiers fought and died in the conflict, and civilians who suffered and died because slave owners made war on the United States. Now, that last sentence is a fact: “ slaves were denied their humanity, soldiers fought and died in the conflict, and civilians who suffered and died because slave owners made war on the United States.” It turns out that putting the statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson up misrepresented history—the south did not win that war. It may have won the Reconstruction, and its racist ideology appears to be dominant in sections of the county today. But, the visible historical record should show what happened, not what some want to have happened and want to keep happening.
    Warmest regards, Ed


  2. Ed, Thanks very much for giving my post a measure of valued consideration. I appreciate your comments, even if we have to agree to disagree on some things. Here is a couple of additional thoughts on the matter.
    I am not sure I agree with your words “So, at best history is always an approximation of what contemporaries believed happened in the past.”. While this would often be true, there are many happenings and times in history where contemporaries left a written record. In addition to that, you say that we cannot believe much of our history, so how can one make an informed decision about either of those two persons you refer to – the perceived history may be incorrect. In my view the whole idea is fraught with danger. Learn from history, don’t try and change it.
    I am also of the belief that, in many ways, it is best to have such persons as you describe out on view, as it gives everyone the opportunity to evaluate the individual and their deeds. No one will learn anything helpful from destroying what some, at the time, thought it was the correct thing to do. Learning the background of the person and the occasion assists us to learn from history and improve the future. Hiding clothes (history) in the bottom of a clothes basket means the clothes never get aired. Clothes that never get aired go moldy!
    Thanks once again for making comment – there should be more of it!
    Regards, Phil


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