His Side of the Story

When I first started with the History Syllabus in Form 1, there was a chapter entitled “History and Us”. This was to be the introduction to everything about the past. With that came the cliché expression, the all-famous tagline which somewhat “explains” the true meaning of History :

“History enables us to know ourselves, our origins and our country. History also becomes an example by which we live our lives.”

An example by which we live our lives, MY FOOT !

First of all, very few look to Malaysia’s past for self-improvement, to be honest. Before we talk about the betterment of the country, we’ve got to think about the betterment of ourselves. Next, take a look at the word “History” : it simply means “his side of the story”. True enough, in our History syllabus we don’t see the past events as they happened ; they were written from someone’s point of view. It’s no use studying the past from someone’s point of view alone when there can be two sides – or even three sides to the story. It’s like when one goes to court – we always have the prosecutor and the defendant. The judge always listens to both of them, not the prosecution alone or the defendant alone. If he does so, the losing party is denied the right to a fair trial and will appeal. Similarly, to fully understand the past, we need the point of view of many, not just one person who determines what goes into our school textbooks. Only then can we consider History “fair”.

I re-read the words “History also becomes an example by which we live our lives” and I wondered, bulls*** ! The History we study is so edited, in fact, corrupted and censored, just like many people say. In the name of “peace amongst all ethnic groups”, they just give us an overview of events such as the May 13th tragedy, the Confrontation, etc., etc., etc., when all they do is deprive us of learning what was the cause and effect of these events. Surprisingly enough, other nations have a lot of resources and a lot more information about our past events rather than we do. Take the May 13th incident for example. Through resources in Oxford, for example, much can be known about this incident, and it’s far more noteworthy than the boring textbook. Even the book written by Tunku Abdul Rahman himself, “May 13th : Before and After”[1] is far more explicit and point blank than the textbook. Yes, sad to say, our History is written in a “safe” way, and not the whole truth.

Come to think of it, there may be some areas in History which just do not pertain to some of us. Take the Islamic civilisations for example. No offense. Yes, it may be interesting to note the different features and contributions of these civilisations to today’s world, but hey… reality check, s’il vous plaît ! Have you ever tried asking yourselves, what has this chapter really got to do with us ? Does it actually make us better in any way ? Or is it just another chapter of bulk ?
In the sixties, the chapters studied in History were more relevant : there were chapters on Malaysian History, Chinese Dynasties, Indian Dynasties, and other chapters[2]. Even the Revolutions (like the French Revolution 1799) were studied in depth. The people were given a choice on what to study, which made History a rather “flexible” subject. Today, our flexibility is hindered because these chapters seemingly have a certain influence on Malaysian History – an influence which, I suppose, makes the writers the winning party.

Having said all this, my friends, can we call History our means of self-improvement ? Can we call it an example by which we live our lives ? I don’t think so. At such an age, I begin to smell a rat in the textbook. I’m sure the older ones, even our teachers, realise this ; but they themselves don’t expose this fact to their minions – the students – for the sake of “peace amongst all ethnic groups”.

The only true way to study history is to be there and experience it, or get the point of view of someone who has truly experienced it. The people who have seen the past know more about it, whilst the people who censor the History textbooks know naught about themselves sucking the joy out of learning.

A little food for thought :

“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”

(Taken from The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown)

In an unbiased history book (and yes, there are unbiased history books), it isn't the case. But it would definitely ring true in a system where history is biased like anything

[1] May 13th : Before and After was written by Tunku Abdul Rahman and published by Utusan Publications somewhere in the seventies. If you or your families happen to have a copy, do read it carefully.
[2] The chapters covered in the sixties and the seventies were Malaysian History, Chinese Dynasties, Indian Dynasties, Sri Lankan History and European History, among others. Go ask your parents or your teachers about the old syllabus.


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