The First Post

Greetings dear reader!

This is my little orchard of thoughts where I’m going to write about a range of topics, mostly related to history, but also about other things, like music, art, books, movies, contemporary issues, and just about anything I might be thinking of, so thank you dropping by!

One of my favourite things to do is reading and one of my favourite things—apart from stories and novels of course—to read about, is history. History to me is like a great novel or epic, a vast dramatic story with so many characters. The tales and anecdotes it can offer are endless, and its breadth and detail are captivating. Sometimes I wonder why so few people share this interest that I have for history. Usually the answer lies in the way they’ve been taught history, which is, their experiences with the subject. I remember, when I was younger, I myself did not have a great love for history. What we were taught in school was restricted to dates, the names of kings, and the battles they fought. It is only much later, when I started seeing it as a vast sea of stories that I really began to appreciate it.

But why should we care about history though? Our societies generally tend to see history as a relatively unimportant field of study. It might be a reservoir of knowledge, an ocean of stories, but that doesn’t exactly explain why history might be important. Usually the answer one hears is, “Knowing the past helps us predict the future”. This sentence does hold true in some cases, but has become so overused and clichéd now, that it no longer convinces the skeptics. A better reason would be that it helps us understand the present. If, for example, I want to understand why the Israel-Palestine region is laden with conflict, I can do so by reading the history of the Jews, of the Palestinian region, of the migrations and so on. By doing so, I’ll have a better understanding of the reasons for the conflict, and I’ll be able to weigh the grievances of both sides. I will then be able to draw my own conclusions, and possibly even take a stand on the issue. This is why I feel more people should read history. Most people today consume whatever they are told by the media, politicians and other authorities, which may be biased, and prevents people from thinking about today’s issues in a wholesome manner. Being aware of the issues history allows people to engage in a more complete thought-process about the issue, and take a more considerate stand on these issues, which could ultimately—farfetched though it sounds—could even lead to resolutions on some issues.

In today’s conflict laden, bigotry-filled world, a consciousness about history becomes important at an individual level. But history can be biased too! Or, it can be presented in a manner that is biased. Today, most people’s knowledge of history consists of what they’ve been told by the politicians in power. “This is how it was in the past!” they say, “These are the awful things that happened! And we must avenge it!” Such provocative statements are perfect for stoking communal tensions and shepherding masses of people who don’t know how it really was. If we as individuals become more aware of our past by reading up, watching or learning, we will not be so easily swayed.

But what about the commonly heard saying: “History is written by the winners”? Isn’t history biased too? Isn’t what we read incomplete and one-sided? Yes, this is certainly true. But statements made about history are open to debate. A commonly held conclusion can be challenged by somebody who’s got their data right. In this sense, it is different from many other fields. In science and mathematics, for example, facts cannot be debated or refuted (unless a revolutionary discovery occurs). We cannot debate, for instance, whether humans need oxygen to survive, or refuse to accept that two times two is four. However, we can certainly debate whether European colonialism benefited Africa in any way or not. Ultimately, the more we learn, the more complete our views about the past—and consequently, the present—become.

I could also say that history stimulates rational thinking, by helping us explore the bases of human beliefs, their origins and explanation. If more people were aware of these, I’m sure, superstition and fallacies would be much less common than they are now.

One could go on! But of course, I’m not here to sermonize, but only to express my thoughts and to spark discussions. So that’s it for now!

Welcome to my blog, and see you soon with something new!

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