"The HISTORY of the past interests us only in so far as it illuminates the HISTORY of the present." Ernest Dimnet, 1866-1954, French Clergyman
“The HISTORY of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors.” - Meridel Le Sueur , American writer, 1900-1996
"We shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to inquire than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in seeking to know what we do not know..." - SOCRATES
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Studying and Rethinking our homeland's history (updated)
History has been one of my favorite subjects in high school, and to this day it continues to be one of my great interests. In retrospect, I think the study of History, whether of the Philippines, of another country or that of the World, was badly taught since the stress has been mainly on memorizing names, dates and events. This teaching method made History to become/remain unpopular among many students and most important, to losing its true value for the future adult citizens and members of society.
It was only when battles during the Vietnam War became a daily news item did my outlook towards History in general take a different spin. From then on, even while attending a college of engineering, I would spend time and money reading about the Vietnam War (more aptly, American intervention or American War, as the Vietnamese now describe it) and especially, about the causes or roots of this war.
My insatiable interest in history also led me into appreciating the social sciences or the humanities, i.e. philosophy, psychology, political economy, anthropology, etc, and even to start dabbling into cognitive science; thus all those subject matters that go deep into "what is man?" and comprise mainly the so-called "liberal education." (see History and Liberal Learning).
(To digress a bit: Many of those who attended the University of the Philippines have had a taste of liberal education and thus seem more attuned with societal issues. And in general, some or many who are for technical education may have found them boring too. It partly explains why we engineers --wherever we graduated from-- tend to be generally unqualified in or unprepared to engage well in human/organizational management unless we study and learn such.)
Two truisms: One where it is said "history repeats itself." Another where I would say "history does not have to repeat itself." Man makes history not the other way around. So I do not believe in absolute historical determinism.. A rough analogy: in the project engineering practice of better managed organizations, after project completion we sit down and talk about "lessons learned," to identify the good and the bad in the project just closed out for the purpose of not repeating mistakes.
It should make us wonder why we do not use our scientific/technical approach or thinking in our social analysis and problem-solving. It maybe due to the case when most of the time human problems are much more complex than most technical or inanimate issues. In human problems wisdom in problem-solving is acquired only from a combo of education, time, intelligence and experience.
History, come to think about it, if seriously studied, provides one an understanding of a people, a place, a culture. A history to understand ourselves: why are we what we are? what brought us here - to our current predicament?
Thinking about what transpired in the past provides a history buff a way of linking isolated, if not apparently unrelated events or historical milestones and therefore gives meaning and direction to the “who, what, when, where, how and why” questions concerning such past events.
Learning and understanding history help provide a fresh perspective, the identification of a common thread, on recent and current events. Such obtained knowledge when applied to society can help formulate some and fundamental, even radical but necessary, approaches to problem solving of society’s current ills.
Though again, acquired knowledge also may oftentimes require the will, i.e. "political will," of the rulers --and of the active citizenry to press the rulers-- to implement it.
Who should rule then? If we have chosen the wrong rulers, we have to force/make them become good rulers --but this is another topic.)
Back to our study of our history. The reason I mention the above is the fact that we Filipinos grew up and were schooled in books, including those on Philippine history (and Philippine-American History) written primarily by American and Americanized Filipino authors.
As to our Philippine history, I believe and think that the 50-year American intervention, occupation and colonization of our homeland need a deeper rethinking if one wants to understand the seemingly confusing and incomprehensibly perennial predicament of Filipinos in the Philippines.
The restudy of Philippine-American History by us Filipinos should aptly begin with the unknown and underlying rationalization and/or justification by Social Darwinism; the ignored and glossed over shift to expansionism by the formerly anti-imperialist and isolationist America; most especially its dominant racist mindset for both market- and military-driven expansions explained away by the so-called Manifest Destiny towards the Pacific Rim during the later decades of the 19th century. Note that decades before, America declared and warned the Europeans, through its Monroe Doctrine, that the western hemisphere -all the Americas- was its sole domain, its "backyard."
The gradual shift at the turn of the 20th century from American isolationism to American imperialism, joining the exclusive imperialist club of England, France, Spain,etc. as the new global bully in the block, was demonstrated with the arrival of American armed forces in the Philippine islands, the latter's political trickery towards the Katipuneros. The native Filipinos who had (have to this day) naïve sentimentality thus faith in the American revolutionary heritage led to their failure to perceive the fading of so-called heritage and the rising new American reality.
The new American reality of imperialism, which the ordinary American does not recognize/realize it due to his ignorance, imposed its subsequent brutal war against the Filipino natives, and with the subtle Americanization (cultural imperialism) of the Filipino natives -through public education--a new, more efficient and effective method, i.e. cheaper and not requiring American occupation troops in foreign soil (with native military substitutes beholden to the American military) and long-lasting way of re-colonization, i.e. neocolonialism aka neo liberalism, that strongly persists up to the present.
As a footnote, George Bush in his brief visit and speech to the Philippine Congress in 2003 spoke of our homeland as a model for Iraq. Thus America today pursues Iraqi occupation by American troops, now trapped in a quagmire as in Vietnam, after its brief but amoral intervention and invasion, and trying to impose its self-righteous belief that it has the best way for all civilizations and societies.
Thus; an excuse for its ultimate goal of controlling Iraqi Oil, the second largest proven oil reserve in the world (second to Saudi Arabia). During the 2003 invasion, it is worth remembering that one of the very first places that the US troops took over is the Iraqi Oli Ministry and of course, all its documents.
And the Bush administration can do so thanks to the dominance of a similar ignorance of the American mind.
PLEASE see also: History from the Point of View of the Filipino People (by Mrs. Leticia R. Constantino)
“If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them”. – Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992
UPDATE 11/06/2012: THE PROBLEM WITH WITH AMERICA'S HISTORY BOOKS
"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo na sa panloob!" - Apolinario Mabini La Revolucion Filipina (1898)