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ARCH-THEORY  December 1999

ARCH-THEORY December 1999

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Subject:

Re: Ownership and other metaphors

From:

John Hooker <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 16 Dec 1999 14:42:24 -0700

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Gerry Reinhart-Waller wrote:
> 
> Gerry here:  I have ONE simple question -- who should control our
> history?  Folks "come together" when life becomes nasty, brutish and
> short to form a "state".  To think of each one of us writing his/her own
> history does sound a bit preposterous. Politically correct maybe, but
> preposterous nevertheless.

No one, nor any group should EVER control our history. The closest
thing to control that we can express in the publication of history, is
that statements should have adequate specificity of reference where it
is possible, and a logical argument that does not use "selective"
evidence where it is not. But even here, the lack of this should only
provide ammunition for a counter argument based on references and/or
the evidence available.

I can recommend the reading of E. H. Carr's _What is History_, to get
a sense of what history really is. Carr summarizes the thoughts of
Collingwood as: "The philosophy of history is concerned neither with
'the past itself' nor with 'the historian's thought about it by
itself', but with 'the two things in their mutual relations'". He also
has a wonderful quote from Namier: "Historians imagine the past and
remember the future". Carr clarifies this by saying that only the
future can provide the key to the interpretation of the past. He later
goes on to say that one of the characteristics of an objective
historian is "that he has a capacity to rise above the limited vision
of his own situation in society and in history..."

What does Carr say of archaeology? He says that "the historian is
entitled to rely on what have been called the 'auxiliary sciences' of
history -- archaeology, epigraphy, numismatics, chronology, and so
forth". I think that adherents to any one of these disciplines that
would say that their subject is more important than the rest, would be
like two fleas arguing over the possession of the dog, and might even
indicate that they have a very poor grasp of the complexities involved
in studying the past, and writing history.

The communication of events of the past by historians must also
address the concerns of the present. Given that our identity is
governed to a very great degree on what has been communicated, right
or wrong, about the past, then we should understand the importance of
what I would call the "mythic past". Myth, religion, and cultural
belief serve the human psyche, and the human psyche shapes material
history, and its expression is also an integral part of history.

Myth, religion and cultural belief should never be viewed as "lies",
but as a greater truth. The path of discovery of every human being is
also the progress of the psyche. To attempt to shut down this progress
by the suppression of any stage of it is both cruel and
counter-productive. For example, the understanding of Roman
Catholicism by a peasant in South America and a Jesuit scholar in New
York might be quite different. The latter may view certain concepts in
a more abstract way than the literal interpretations made by the
former. Yet, through study, and in a gradual process, it is possible
for the former to become the latter. This indeed is the approach taken
by the Dalai Lama with his followers, and it is also reflected in the
United Nations charter on genocide, where psychological harm done to
members of any ethnic group also falls under the heading of genocide.

History is ever-changing. The historian, (and the archaeologist) must
be mindful of the potential harm that can be wreaked upon people for
political motives by using the opinions of the present. The opinions
of today might be proven invalid tomorrow, but the past cannot be
undone.

Finally, someone once said to me that he thought that "they should
really decide what knowledge is important, and record it so that we
don't have to think all the time". Now, THERE'S a plan ;-)

Regards,

John Hooker

-- 
Visit our Website at http://www.writer2001.com
Coriosolite Expert System...Animation...Poetry...Books
Hooker & Perron, Total Project Coordination
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