History Revised

08/01/2016 Justin Arn

Bust of Ancient Green historian, thucydides.
Thucydides, father of history 
and Geo-politics
Have you ever considered how much of the history you learned was accurate? We all know that history is "written by the victor" but that does not necessarily indicate how disparate the Victor's historical rendition will be from reality. As it currently stands we think that know a bit more about the United States' impetus for going war last century than did the citizens that lived during that time. We know that the Gulf of Tonkin attack did not actually happen. Yet that version was read in textbook after textbook for many years. That situation appears to be more of the rule tan the exception.

The Lie of History

Exactly how much propaganda has become history? That is a question we may never be able to answer, but to get an idea, let's take a look at some quotes about history from individuals that helped define it.

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

Winston S. Churchill

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

George Orwell

“People have an annoying habit of remembering things they shouldn't.”

Christopher Paolini, Eragon

“History, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness.”

James Fenimore Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans

“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, 'What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”

Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.”

Aldous Huxley, Collected Essays

“The human race tends to remember the abuses to which it has been subjected rather than the endearments. What's left of kisses? Wounds, however, leave scars.”

Bertolt Brecht

“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”

Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works

Where I'm from, we believe in all sorts of things that aren't true... we call it history.”

Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

“We're going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering. That's where we'll win out in the long run. And someday we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in it and cover it up.”

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.”

Frédéric Bastiat

“History is the fiction we invent to persuade ourselves that events are knowable and that life has order and direction. That's why events are always reinterpreted when values change. We need new versions of history to allow for our current prejudices.”

Bill Watterson, Homicidal Psycho Jungle Cat

“We’re constantly changing facts, rewriting history to make things easier, to make them fit in with our preferred version of events. We do it automatically. We invent memories. Without thinking. If we tell ourselves something happened often enough we start to believe it, and then we can actually remember it.”

S.J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep

“The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know.”

Harry Truman

“It is extraordinarily entertaining to watch the historians of the past ... entangling themselves in what they were pleased to call the "problem" of Queen Elizabeth. They invented the most complicated and astonishing reasons both for her success as a sovereign and for her tortuous matrimonial policy. She was the tool of Burleigh, she was the tool of Leicester, she was the fool of Essex; she was diseased, she was deformed, she was a man in disguise. She was a mystery, and must have some extraordinary solution. Only recently has it occrurred to a few enlightened people that the solution might be quite simple after all. She might be one of the rare people were born into the right job and put that job first.”

Dorothy L. Sayers, Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society

“As a historian, I have learned that, in fact, not everyone who reaches back into history can survive it. And it is not only reaching back that endangers us; sometimes history itself reaches inexorably forward for us with its shadowy claws.”

Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian

“Horror is the natural reaction to the last 5,000 years of history.”

Robert Anton Wilson, Cosmic Trigger 2: Down to Earth

“Historical fact: People stopped being people in 1913. That was the year Henry Ford put his cars on rollers and made his workers adopt the speed of the assembly line. At first, workers rebelled. They quit in droves, unable to accustom their bodies to the new pace of the age. Since then, however, the adaptation has been passed down: we've all inherited it to some degree, so that we plug right into joy-sticks and remotes, to repetitive motions of a hundred kinds.”

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

“What is the cause of historical events? Power. What is power? Power is the sum total of wills transferred to one person. On what condition are the willso fo the masses transferred to one person? On condition that the person express the will of the whole people. That is, power is power. That is, power is a word the meaning of which we do not understand. ”

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

“History has rewritten itself so many times I'm not really sure how it was to begin with -- it's a bit like trying to guess the original color of a wall when it's been repainted eight times.”

Jasper Fforde, Something Rotten

This collection of quotes lends credence to the notion that our History, no matter how educated or enlightened we are, is likely to be barely a semblance of what actually occurred, and in fact is being actively re-written, even now.