The Future Of History

Feb 2008
I’m curious to get others’ perspectives on a worry I have about the future…

As Orwell and plenty of others have noted, history is written by the victors. I know this very well because of all the triumphalist pioneer crap I had to flush out of my head after leaving high school and finally realizing that I had been taking Nationalism 101 instead of History. And I might not even have bothered to re-educate myself, but for delving into my Cherokee roots.

In my lifetime, I have seen Ronald Reagan, a president hardly universally loved, canonized by the mainstream media and its adherents. The same thing happened to JFK prior to my being aware of it, and has happened with many other influential Americans throughout history. The Reagan thing is more annoying to me because he is now held to have extinguished the Soviet Union with a sweep of his shaky old hand. Obviously there is debate on this in academic circles, but it seems to have taken hold in the mainstream, despite counter-narratives like Charlie Wilson’s War and others.

What recourse do dissident thinkers have to challenge a quickly rooting presumption about history in the mass consciousness? Because once these things take hold, they are almost impossible to extinguish from cultural memory. It is why we celebrate the history of Thanksgiving without actually looking at the history of Thanksgiving, among other things.

I’m rather afraid of the 9/11 narratives that will filter into history textbooks by the time my son is in high school a little over a decade from now. What will we tell our children about how that horrible event happened? If it’s anything like the one-dimensional tale told most often on our televisions now, it will omit huge piles of explanatory information. I realize that standard history classes can’t contain every single angle on every single historical event, but is at least two angles too much to ask for?

Am I the only one worried about this?
Jul 2006
Bristol, England
This is a rather interesting topic. Let me quote something that Stephen fry wrote:

'We are perhaps now more in danger of thinking we know everything than we were in the dark times of religious superstition. What we need is a treasure house, not of knowledge, but of ignorance. Something that gives not answers but questions. Something that shines light, not on already garish facts, but into the dark, damp corners of ignorance.'

I cannot agree more with this statement. With the internet at our fingertips, we are endangered to think that we have access to all knowledge that we will ever need. Yet why, as fuller mentioned, don't we bother to learn about certain things, despite the fact they have a certain significance to our lives, even though we have the knowledge tucked away?. But we must also keep hunting and uncovering new things about stuff we may already thought we knew everything about. What about the untold stories that people have yet to discover? The facts that have not yet been uncovered? The people who have not yet come forward with their acquired information? Will this information be lost and swept aside with the passage of time?
Feb 2008
I think that the nationalist-slanted history you're worried about will always be taught in public schools. As I've said in another thread, most people are always going to believe the mythologized version of history because they're just not interested enough to learn anything different. There will always be those of us who want to delve deeper, but I don't see that happening for the majority.

If it makes you feel better, I think that as long as there are enough people with an inquisitive mindset, these types of myths will be exposed eventually. For instance, racist doctrines are no longer taught in public schools, even though they once were. It just takes time.
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