LIKE much other APRA KNOWLEDGE (Mundkopanishad), HISTORY TOO IS a matter of human perspective on various natural phenomena. The popular concept of history comprises, typically, drawing into introspection thought based on retrospection on that which is past. In its absolute human connotations history is collative in nature unlike many a natural phenomenon which occurs in isolation, independent of humans, say as in development of a particular element or a metal or a substance. All physics, all chemistry, all biology, all geology, in fact all natural science happens independent of humans.
The chronological view of history is entirely a thing of human making. It is a conventional and clichéd standard, as such effete. It suffers from a want of a very crucial ingredient in the matter of a comprehensive understanding of humans’ broad based historical concerns. We may view that ingredient as the immediacy as well as the impact of depth of live human perspective to a given event.
I will clarify that assertion so: history, kept restricted to studying past events, becomes ‘dead’ on its own account, or just the mechanical recount of the faded past. The organic element in history, therefore, goes lost, or gets in most parts suppressed. No doubt historians make an attempt to be creative by taking recourse to speculation as to course of events and effects thereof, but they do so not by always going into the flesh and blood and breath of a particular epoch of time. Nor is that wholly possible to recreate with hindsight. Nor yet did historians of the bygone age on their turn dwell on that aspect particularly just as, today, historians don’t much do that function, namely studying history in the making, as it is building up, tissue by tissue. Fiction writers rob historians of the past potential; essay writers preempt them as regards live history. As a result history itself becomes that much less organic, and simultaneously more wooden, just the mechanical machine at university which professors and students keep running as good as they can motivated more by personal drives than by religious devotion to history per se. It works all right, but it fails in its main function which is but inspiring ever new converts into fruitful engagement with the science. In that sense- the woodenness of it- it fails to serve society properly as any science should do. In a word, it misses its raison d’etre’s real point. That is the reason why history has made little impact on the positive development of human society in new time. Ideally, history should lead social endeavor by providing correct direction and, too, help in the setting of true goals of social development.
Clearly, as practiced, history suffers from historical dementia. It needs course correction.
Therefore, I would like to make a case for giving a fresh perspective to the art of historying. I call it history in situ, history building up, kind of history’s differential if we may lean on mathematics for clarity. The idea is to focus on history as it is shaping up in its basic forms in and from every day social occurrence as we know it firsthand. Yes, in this case we will miss the ‘distance’ unit in the measurement of history. Yet, that defect will cure on its own as time passes- that is how it goes any way. But we shall have brought the organic in history to bear upon the developing history.
For example, if historians recorded today the utter negligence by rulers of their stately duty to clear humans society of manmade poverty weeds, future generations will have it easy understanding why then human society never advanced in real terms of advancement, or then it did so in parts only, at best. Who knows for sure what then really moved Hitler to choose to exterminate Jews? Do we know exactly why the Nathuram Godse assassinated Mahatma Gandhi? All right, we know Aurangzeb murdered Guru Teg Bahadur in cold blood, but what went into that despicability of the Moghul on the one hand, so behind the scenes manipulations, the martyrdom of the great Sikh on the other is the dark spot of that history. My guess is that it was Islam Hindu rivalry for hegemony over Indian society, as such clash of cultures. It pointed to the source of discord in Indian society, or to the solution of the discord, if you like.
I have in focus here not the superficial history of which we have abundance. I mean the inner, organic part of those times. Historians don’t address that, for they lack the ability to perceive and apply the needed intellectual perspective, the ‘tool’ for which I am making a case here. History should present entire truth, not jaundiced views of it, as is the case so far. It needs no saying that the victors in wars decide the content of history, not strict scientific treatment of the subject. That is why we don’t gain from the study of history what we ought to, also from the strength of our own independent judgment. Returning to the Islam Hindu example cited above, history can at once lay bare the truth: unless resolved, this spat between two rival philosophies will make sure that peace never returns to India’s social sinews. We are actually witnessing that truth for the past seven decades; the subcontinent was partitioned, the folks vivisected, millions perished, many more millions got uprooted. It was all of it untold misery, manmade misery. Besides, more is in the offing.
Consequently, society registers little real time advancement. Humans continue to suffer. Humans are not made so they should perpetually suffer, for that would prove the pointlessness of creation of human beings, not to speak of the incidence of high human intelligence which, too, cannot be without its own reason. Nothing is without a reason.
Ancient history, which is indeed very different history from our current history, teaches us that humans are placed at the peak of species pyramid with a specific purpose. Accordingly, humans are required to recognize the fact of suffering as mandatory condition of being human. Hence, humans are also required to live such as enables them, by the time an individual departs from scene, to at the least have tried his or her hand at Nirwanam- the humanly possible essay to get rid of suffering, after all.
Ancient history easily scores over modern history in the seminal sense of the term history- when we treat it as a branch of the larger science of epistemology. Ancient Indian history, better known as Puranas, exhibits history where historying enjoys fulsome presentation- as it ought to be. If Lord Ram was right in this and that point, tells us Ramayana, the Ravan was no mean a contender in many more- for instance, in being scholarship avant garde of the time as no second scholar. That is paying attention to the organic element in the making and telling of history. We so make sure that we create perceptional advantage which helps students of history comprehend phenomena correctly and wholesomely.
Modern history lacks that critical component. For example, historians do not take into account, in the measure they should, the organic element of manmade poverty as it influences the making and development and advancement of history. One could here very well include manmade war and keep it at par with manmade poverty. Both the types in needless nuisance have prevented human progress, sabotaged its drives and continue to mar its prospect. One can see how history, as handled, fails to live up to its proper scientific function, thanks to historians’ wants, dilettantisms and delinquencies.
History then does need some tempering, after all.
How may that tempering look like?
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