History, why should we care?
I am not a history major. I studied Mechanical Engineering as my undergrad, Business Administration as my postgrad and Film Production as my diploma. However, I have always loved history since at a very young age.
I was accompanied by two university buddies on a trip to the western part of the Great Wall of China. Being a history buff I told them all the stories I know of the region and the era. Finally one of my friend said: “Enough! There is too many stories.” I kept quiet after that, and only told stories when they asked me.
That was a humbling moment. I asked myself why is history important? Why can’t we just enjoy the moment and not be bothered by stories that have no relevance to today’s life? Why can’t we let bygones be bygones? There are three main reasons why history is essential and we should pay attention to it.
1)History teaches us. Imagine you are a caveman. You just moved into a new valley and found a cave. On the cave walls are some paintings depicting hunters attacking a herd of bisons with spears and dogs in a circular formation. Now as a caveman who likes eating, are you going to train a troupe of ducks to catch frogs in single file fashion? No, you will most likely try out a method that has worked for the previous residents of the place.
History are simply stories from previous residents of Earth. Nothing more. They are tools that can help us survive better, live better and be better human beings. Of course one is permitted to ignore the stories and reinvent the wheel, but be prepared to kick yourself when you find out it’s been done before.
On the 80th Anniversary of Nanking Massacre I started reading Shigeru Mizuki’s “Showa, A history of Japan” – one of the best graphic novel on the subject.
2)History warns us. In 2017, China celebrated August 1st, the founding of PLA. Young kids went to summer camps dressed in army fatigues. Parents photoshopped their profile pictures to wear army uniforms. Everyone praised the glorious army and the government. I posted a comment: “Other than Nazi Germany, Japan and a few countries in Africa I have not seen children doing so much military drills.”
Needless to say I was unpopular in that chat room. As someone who truly understood history I was the only voice of reason. I was trying to say that the military has no morals nor souls. Military is simply a machine that takes orders. It cannot be glorious! Children should be gloriously running free and enjoying freedom, not spending their summers in a strict military camp. That is unless China is gearing up to repeat the mistakes of Japan and Germany.
3)History illuminates us. We all have short lives. 100 years is a blink in cosmic time. But by understanding our past we extend our awareness. I know someone who is ethnically Chinese and immigrated from Jamaica. He spoke no Chinese. He knows no Chinese history. He does not seem interested or cared about where he came from. Now that is truly sad. Everyone has an origin story. Whether it is a blessed story or a tragic story, it is unique and it is yours alone. By turning away from this valuable inheritance my friend has denied his children and his children’s children what is rightfully theirs — Their Origin Story. How our lives came to be matters. It gives our lives significance, strength and meaning.
Our origin stories does one thing and one thing only. It brings us closer together. More than anything the stories show that we all cry when we feel pain; we all laugh when we are happy; we all feel sorrow at funerals; we all feel warm and fuzzy around babies. If we go back far enough we are all one. No matter if you are Japanese or Chinese; Ethiopian or Italian; Morocan or French; Scandinavian or Australian… We all came from one female woman who walked in East Africa long ago. If we read and understand enough stories from previous residents of Earth we see an important pattern: We all want the same things because WE ARE the same.
Finally, history leaves us with one important question: What stories do you want to leave behind? Comment below please.
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