This is in continuation of a previous post, “Hind and Sindh civilizations and getting religion politicized.”
As I see that, and ,of course, for that matter everyone with a keen eye must have observed that, History has been proving, as Samuel Johnson dubbed Patriotism, the last refuge of (not a scoundrel) but all those intellectuals, men of letters, leaders, communities, nations, sections, or any other such introverted individuals or groups, who think themselves victim of this or that “injustice” at the hands of especially those who are ahead of them in any respect, be it economy, politics, philosophy, science, sports, etc. on the one hand, and on the other, in development, social luxuries, technologies, etc.
More than that, I think, in the presence of such a crowd, History hasn’t been able to acquire its true existence, or rationale.
So a few new slogans may be devised: Let the History acquire its true existence! Let the History get rid of the Victims’ Burden!
Isn’t this true existence of History, another justification for its exploitation to the benefit of another sect?
I think, No! And that is why I have titled this post as the “Enterprise of history.”
To me, history is a MARSH as well as a PAINTING.
A historian or reader of History may sink into it, or may learn more and more details of that painting. Let me assert, it’s a continuous painting. There may be short breaks in this or that tract of the painting, but on the whole it is continuous and continued; and it must be added as we say and need to save this human planet: to be continued.
And it depends on the attitude of a historian and reader of History how they see History. Further, it also depends on the nature of their historical venture whether History will prove to be a marsh or a painting to them.
If they go into History, i.e. write history or read history to find out certain “principles” which will justify ways of their present or imagined existence connected with the past, or this or that form of their existence, they will be trapped in the marsh.
And if they go into it to learn more and more details of the painting, they will remain firmly standing on their ground, and will not try to replace their present existence with this or that or with an imagined existence.
Let it be clarified here that this imagined existence is painted with the stuff gathered from the History, and has no future dimension. Or if it has a future dimension, as presently the violent religionists claim, it consists of the imagined existence to be imposed on the present part of the painting.
I am not saying that there is “X History” and we try to find out that; that there was a history which needs to be discovered. Also, I do not mean that we are free to write History of our choice or liking; or shape History the way we want it to be or to look. Or, as the “victim communities” desperately seek it to be and to look. What I want to bring out is that we need to see the painting with more and more details.
What’s the purpose of seeing this painting in and with more and more detail? I won’t say: in order to keep the continuity of this painting intact! I don’t mean that.
What I mean is: it is a continuous painting, and we live and tread inside and within this painting (though we do strive to go beyond that), and how can it be imagined that what we live within or inside is a broken or shattered piece of plane.
And as it may be objected: why this unbroken continued painting is necessary for our living. I would reply: as far as other forms of life are concerned who are on a very raw level of rational existence, it is fine for or with them if they do not bother about this painting or its continued-ness or its shattered-ness; nonetheless for the rational human beings, or say forms of life with higher rational consciousness, it is indispensable that their living has a continued existence in the form of this continued painting.
I remember Karl Popper says our minds are like prisons, we cannot escape it. But we are free to broaden our prisons, and we need to continue to broaden its walls.
I think it is same with History. We cannot ignore this painting; or change this painting in accordance with our wishes or demands. What we are free to do is to see the painting with more and more details.
Let’s see what Romila Thapar has got to say in this regard:
Q: Will it be fair to say the basis of your analysis has been historical materialism?
A: Well I would not put it as simply as that. I think anyone who wrote history in the twentieth century had to take historical materialism seriously. Whether you accept it or not is another matter. If you reject it, they have to know why. My influence has been partly historical materialism, partly the French Annales School, interdisciplinary work and one’s own ideas. The nice thing is that the debate in India between Marxists and others and among liberal historians has generated a lot of ideas. History has therefore changed.
[P. 109, Voices of Sanity – Harbingers of Peace, Zaman Khan, (Archetypes, Heinrich Boll Stiftung), December 2008, Lahore]
As Thapar states historians always need to sharpen their tools, their methodology; likewise the readers of History also need to be mindful of the fact that nothing can be brought out of History which may give this or that community this or that identity or any other imagined identity derived from the past and / or posited on the future part of the painting.
What history does is just gathering more and more details so that the painting is clearer and more intelligible. And more intact, also!
And it is here where perennial re-writing of history (the painting) and the perennial re-reading of history finds their rai·sons d’être.
So they are sunk in the marsh who are intent upon pasting this or that tract of the painting on this or that part of the painting, and they do this without knowing the details of that tract. Pity that they do not aspire to have a total view of the painting, and thus live inside this painting! They tear the painting, grab this or that piece of it, and run away with it, and declare this a mission of theirs that they are here to paint it anew with the colors of their choice, whilst they are color-blind!