Monday, December 31, 2007

Trusting the Past

I have been evaluating myself as a historian, and juxtaposing my approach to "conveying the facts" to the past, to history recorded up till now.

When I tell a story, I almost never leave anything out. Listening to my tales of the truth and the past you will always get the whole story. In general, however, you'll get some other stuff as well.

For instance, me and some of my sibs were driving home the other night, when an add comes on the radio. "Order our radar jammer now! Save hundreds of dollars! Never get another speeding ticket!" These are almost direct quotes, word for word, I shitteth thee and thine not in the slightest. The honest to goodness truth.

But the last couple of times before now that I've told this story, I've added on thustly: Blaze on past the cops in their cruise cars at eighty--VROOM!--they'll never know you were there! Call now and save hundreds!

The add didn't say that. I believe the use of this device would be specifically to jam the radar guns in those non-descript white vans that automatically check your speed, take your picture, then e-mail you the ticket.

Additionally, I like to phrase things in more interesting ways than the bad radio commercial writers like to phrase things. So forced excitement and banality, that is to say the original voice, is covered up with my own sort of whatever.

I was telling someone just now about this habit I've got of taking the facts, deciding they're dull as they are, and then sort of floofing them up to be more memorable. I was speaking of this in the context of wondering what historians of the far future would think of things in a general sort of way with my accounts of truth as their only guide to the past. Then this person I was speaking with mentioned that I want to study history. I do. I'm interested in what was. But it occurs to me now that there is more than a tiny little possibility that age old historians had a reasonably moiesque--that is to say, similar to mine--view on recorded data.

This taken to be true, just for the sake of argument at this moment, all history books should on average be assumed to be exactly half lies. And the other half should be assumed more or less dull.

I choose however not to see history as if it were all written by the moiesque. I assume it was all written by liars, and I will therefore keep an open mind.

The end.


Mishell said...

History is always written by the winners! You know what this means? You must be a winner, so that you can be the one writing the history. Moo-Ha-ha!

Ali said...

All I can think of is Eddie Izzard:
“That’s how you build an empire. We stole countries with the cunning use of flags. Sail halfway around the world, stick a flag in. ‘I claim India for Britain.’ And they’re going, ‘You can’t claim us. We live here! There’s 500 million of us.’ Well, do you have a flag?”

Nickel Halfwise said...

I would say you have it about half right, albeit highly simplified .

The problem with most history books, though, is that they leave out the interesting history, seeking to promote their own agendas and personal biases. Of course I don't usually read those... I wonder how they deal with the matter of Rasputin? (Why that popped into my head just now, I am not entirely certain, but it must somehow have something to do with what you said.)

Nickel Halfwise said...

To quote Winston Churchill:

"For my part, I consider that it will be found much better by all parties to leave the past to history, especially as I propose to write that history myself."

"History will be kind to me for I intend to write it."