Friday, March 4, 2011

Lessons From History... by Will And Ariel Durant

Book 9.... I picked this book up cos I wanted something different to read, thinking at the back of my mind perhaps it might be good to read something non-fiction or narrative for a change. And it was a surprisingly good read; plenty of lessons in it.

"If man is fortunate, he will, before he dies, gather up as much as he can of his civilized heritage and transmit it to his children." That's one of the summing sentences of this book and very apt to describe the role of history in our lives.

They're making history a compulsory pass from next year's SPM. They are many objections to that. Some feel Sejarah has become a brainwashing tool. I think it's a valid fear. Our history is prejudiced and not balanced. History is supposed to be the creation and recording of our heritage. And in Malaysia, that heritage does not just belong to one race but when you read the our history textbooks, sometimes there is this feeling that you are reading a propaganda. Sometimes you get this feeling that one race is being put up at while the other races are being put down.

Education is about the transmission of civilization and history plays a very important role in transmitting that legacy. Yet when you read our textbooks, there are omissions (on purpose) of the founding fathers from other races. Where is Yap Ah Loy in the textbook today? We seem to fail to realize that if the transmission of civilization is interrupted, we regress.

History is supposed to make us realize the need to dethrone ignorance, by drawing lessons from the past. What is has been. We learn that nations die. Resilient man picks up his tools and his arts, moves on, taking his memories with him. The civilization migrates with him. The Romans imported the Greek civilization. The Europeans borrowed the thoughts of the Islamic civilization. America profited from the European civilization. The Chinese and the Indians migrated to the Malay Archipelago and brought with them their tenacity. With each move, there was new prosperity.

But history also taught us how despite the progress, we debase our own humanity - Hitler, Mussolini and in recent times how people can laud the actions of Usama bin Laden. History reminds us of our foolishness, yet we continue to be foolish.

History records man's progress... yet have we progressed? Materially, perhaps. There has been never a time where so many have life as we are living. We have control over the conditions of our lives, like never before. Yet, if we measure progress from Man's actions.... perhaps we might be humbled by the fact that Man's nature has remained almost the same. What drove the ancient man still drives the modern man too.

A good read with plenty of illuminating insights.

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