Thursday, November 5, 2009

Centennial Gimmickry (Part 2)

I am writing this from my training, formation and opinion as a community organizer for I am not a historian in the strict sense of the word. Personally, I hate people who are valuing the good side of history too much. They overvalue history by not exposing the present and past evils of society. By using the very same credulous structures (the corruption-ridden LGU) and personalities (at least some) as vehicle to convey historical facts, programs or projects. Because if we cannot co-relate or juxtapose the past and the present,- the good and the evil in our midst, (i.e. in the formulation of a syllabus integrating local history to the educational curriculum) the teaching of local history in general can always be set aside. Or, might as well to forget totally.

When an elementary pupil is asked : “Who is Lawrence Cooper?” and his reply was, “He was the first municipal mayor of San Jose.”, it is in no way connected to his being a good (or bad) citizen in the future. His ludicrous ignorance (or exemplary knowing) of history proved nothing. In short, no amount of study of our town’s history could make us better citizens. What I am saying is knowledge of history,- no doubt, is indeed a fine or good accomplishment, academically or otherwise, but ignorance of it does not hinder our success in our career, profession, our line of work or vocation or our societal position. You may disagree with me on this point but I believe that the masses and their children in general, do not appreciate history neither care much about it. Much more with the history celebrations. We have to creatively dig up why but not put entirely the blame on them. They say, "history has nothing to do with me or with my stomach." It is the duty of the historian to explain its connection or its paralellism.

Many historical bodies do not employ social criticism as a historical approach or an approach to history in their once-in-a-lifetime endeavor such as this. Criticism, for the activists as taught by their experience, is our only guarantee against delusion, deception and superstition even misapprehension of ourselves and earthy circumstances. It is the cornerstone of our,- to borrow from Moron Savant, “existential bias”. Our critical faculty is a product of our training and formation, a mental habit and power. Having said that, the historian themselves must develop and enhance this faculty. Thus, history approach or study under this faculty is the one we can truly say that develops good and responsible citizens. I salute all of the activity participants for sharing their time and talent, amidst criticisms, for such self-sacrifice and self-giving especially the youth. May your enthusiasm in cultural and theater arts transcend to the streets, in a mass action against a particular social concern or vice-versa.

In short, historians (and history students, if you want to separate the two) must wage war with the status quo and must facilitate the formation of historical awareness through exposing and opposing societal evils and their “sponsors”. This is what’s happening in actuality : the evil ways,- say for example, of a politician or a person in authority, educate faster and deeper than lessons or curricula in history. And the masses, the people in the midst of these evils either join them in their evil ways and be perpetrators of injustice or allow themselves to be willing victims of such evil acts (i.e. graft and corruption, human rights violation, etc.). A systemic wrong that requires counter systemic response. “But it is NOT our job to go out of the streets and oppose the STL, the mining companies, the unscrupulous politicians and every social ill under the sun. We will just watch you activists and report the event as it happen. As a historian we are primarily a chronicler only destined to write and compile record of events and not to swim against the tide.” To proponent of this argument I rest my case for I've done more than enough to prove my point and need say no more.

Eunice asked me, “So what kind of celebrations and activities are you proposing?” This is my reply : “Nothing.” Remember, I just rested my case…

(Photo of the San Jose Cathedral by Ronet Santos from Flickr)

1 comment:

  1. the way history has been "handled" as a discipline (at least, in the philippines) is generally marked by the difference of the approaches employed by gregorio zaide and renato constantino.
    zaide's style is to teach that the philippines was under the spanish rule for more than 300 years, and that we were sold by the spaniards to the americans who eventually granted us an independence. he also teaches that our national animal is carabao, and our staple food is rice.
    constantino, on the other hand, uses history to discipline our mind. he teaches about spanish colonizational of the philippines, and tries to show the structural evils that spain had planted in the philippine society and conditioned the filipinos to accept as "given by nature or even willed by god." he teaches about our heroes, but at the same time exposes their human sides so as the young filipinos could very well identify with them and emulate their examples.
    history, as a discipline, i suppose is a very powerful tool particularly in shaping our individual identity and ordering our society.
    just an idiotic thought... (MS)