For the love of history!
I got some amazing news the other day! a good old friend contacted me on Facebook and told me something i'm always happy to hear, he told me, "thank you".
Now I always like having helped someone, but this time, it was more than special. That dear friend of mine told me, that through our long talks (and boy do I like to talk!) about history and philosophy, I sparked an interest in him, for history, which made him read, a lot, and he is happy about it. Wow, what an honor, what an amazing feeling.
History is the most boring of school subjects and yet has always been a tremendous passion of mine. This bad reputation always made me feel, that If I could only communicate it to as many people as possible, I would have actually lived a life well spent.
"Men make their own history" said Karl Marx, but often men are made by history. I find this uncontrollable attraction for history explained through this sentence. The study of history is the study of what happend, but also what we as people understood from history and how we developed as a resolut. What succeeded and what failed. History is almost non existed without the context of the events that took place and who took note of it. In a day and age of "fake news" I find history, and the study thereof, tremendously relevant.
History has many scales and all excites me. I can remember some of the most early stories from my grandmother about her home in south eastern Prussia, and how the Russians invaded in 1914(!), where a high ranking officer used their house as a command post. He happen to speak some Yiddish and was probably an aristocrat. That made my grandmother very impressed as neither she or her sisters ever saw people of royalty before. Now this kind of story could be unremarkable to some, but for me, its a part of my identity. It gives me a connection to the people who lived back then, and gives me a living image of what does it mean to be a peasant in eastern Poland in 1914. It also puts my life into context because it helps paint the image of the extent our lives can alter through out the generations.
And so in August 1914, WW1 literally knocked on my grand mothers door. The funny thing is, she doesn't look at it like that, but and actually non of us do. It is this contextual broad view of how things happend that gives us our feel of elevated significance. For me it would be when me, my mother and my recently born young brother were sitting in a sealed room wearing gas masks hearing explosions in the background. This was during the Golf War. My father was drafted, and even though my mother was terrified, my gas mask made me look like an elephant, and I loved elephants at that time, I couldn't care less, I just enjoyed playing with my gas mask. Looking back I understood that this had a foreshadowing effect, as war always somehow comes unexpectedly knocking on the door. The same was for my grandmother, and had she not understood the same, she would have stayed in Poland for WW2, and I might not be alive today.
On the grander scale history is fascinating around the question "why". "Why" did things happen like they did? why did the middle ages end? why did the Roman Empire fell? why did the Germans lost world war 2? All these questions had tremendous implications on our daily lives today, and yet schools won't teach us those in a way that brings us to really wonder, why? The best course I took at the university, was about why were the roots of the holocaust profoundly different, than any other Anti-Semitic period in history. This of course was extremely useful, as it genuinely helped me identifying Anti-Semitic views of people I came across here in Europe.
Two give a good example on how this fails so terribly today, would be how I learned in school about WW1. Well in short, I didn't. School doesn't really teaches you about WW1. It teaches you that there was a war between 1914 and 1918 and it was between these guys and these guys, it's out come was the main reason of WW2. Well now, that is a crime for an event that dictates more of our daily life than any other. What about the trenches, where authors like Hemingway will later invent cynicism? What about the "Young Turks" and the ethnic tension in the Balkans, and middle east that caused the Armenian genocide? What about the partition plans of the Ottoman Empire by the British and French that indirectly created ISIS? How about how the Gallipoli campaign made Australians and Newzealanders think of themselves as more than British citizens? How about how American losses in WW1 set the USA deeply into isolationism, avoiding WW2 until it was too late, or having created the Lauge of Nations to preserve world peace, but then failing to join it?! How about how the German military dictatorship used the German government to trick the German people to think, that Germany didn't really lost the war, but their government actually capitulated, not their military. Thus cementing the myth of the Jewish/democrat/socialist "stabbing" the German army in the back, paving the way for the Nazis to take power in 1933. You won't hear this in school like it happend, you will most likely hear a politicized dumbed-down version of reality. That's why among us, slowly, there is an ill informed generation that is growing into a world where more and more "fake news" and distorted history is present.
I truly hope that I have awoken even the slightest of interest in you regarding history. As history gives us the moral obligation to stick to the facts we know and commands us to learn from the mistakes of our ancestors, so we will make for our ourselves what they could have only wished for us.
It is for this fact, that I ask you, learn, for the love of history.