Sunday, January 16, 2011

WHAT IS HISTORY - The Purpose of our Past - Why Study Our History? (UPDATED)

 "To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain always a child."Cicero

"For we wish to understand the spirit of an age to see into its heart and mind, and to acquire a feel for how those who lived in it responded to their world and coped with its dilemmas." - A. C. Grayling

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Why study our history [specifically American colonization; its impact on our native culture, education, economy, national and global perceptions, etc. ]?

Hi All,

Then and now, an American seems to reside in the heart and mind of each Filipino of every generation since the United States conquest and its 48-years occupation of the Philippines. 

The American colonization, though much shorter than the 400+ years Spanish domination of our homeland, has more efficiently, more effectively and more thoroughly impacted and reconstructed the (our) native Filipino mindset which made us: 

  1. lose memory of the nationalistic spirit that drove the likes of Andres Bonifacio, Apolinario Mabini, Artemio Ricarte et al. to fight first the Spanish colonizer and then the American interventionist/occupier; 
  2. forget American duplicity in our native forefathers' revolution against Spain, to forget the subsequently violent and brutal America’s Hidden War against our forefathers, and thus,
  3. project the American arrival and occupation as pure benevolence of a  special friend and savior. 

All these so long-lastingly, thanks to the Americanized educational system imposed --after executing/hanging or putting to exile our nationalist heroes and banning any display or talk of Filipino nationalism/independence during the occupation-- throughout our homeland via the US Army, a compulsory and biased educational system facilitated through a "second invasion" by Thomasites, American civil administrators, Protestant missionaries and the later Peace Corps volunteers. 

We native Filipinos grew up and are still growing up knowing only about: the American innocence. Just like many Americans themselves in their own homeland --thanks to excessive TV-viewing for one, etc.--- are ignorant of the totality of American history.

More relevant to us specifically, its distorted narration of the Philippine-American War, usually glossed over under the Spanish-American War aka Splendid Little War , its mock Battle of Manila BayMonroe DoctrineManifest Destinycomplete Roosevelt Corollary, and the current, if not perpetual drive, for American hegemony in the 21st century.

It was only during the American Intervention/War in Vietnam did concerned Americans began searching for the roots of their current foreign policy. Those concerned people eager for information to explain how the United States became an interventionist global power have found important continuities between the past and the present. They found these connections only through critical pursuit and study of the annals of American history.

Seldom have American historians given much attention to anti-imperialism in the Philippines or to the scholarship of Filipinos. The Spanish-American War receives dramatic attention; but the bloody so-called Filipino Insurrection (labeled as such to subtly belittle the Filipino revolutionary struggle against Spain, for political independence at the time.

Also, many American historians gloss-over American duplicity and  intervention which began against Spain in 1896 and lasted until mid-1902 against the United States (1902 -if the guerrilla war Filipinos waged against the American occupational forces to 1913 is ignored). 

To be sure, the American War against our native revolutionaries was/is an ugly episode in the history of American foreign relations, and until recently American scholars have tended to play down the sordid side of United States history.

Consequently, the native Filipino mind has been effectively and efficiently reconstructed to be Americanized

  1. conditioned to knowingly or unknowingly think and analyze economic and political issues in his own homeland (and abroad) from the American point of view.
  2. In the long-run, his alienated heart and mind brought to the Filipino and the homeland only ever-deepening poverty, and its consequent illiteracyhunger and damaged culture. 

To change this way of thinking, the American drilled into and residing in the Filipino mind need to be removed; for the Filipino to be critically educatedso as to arouse the Filipinism in his heart and mind in matters of national interests (cultural, economic and political); for each native Filipino to ultimately demonstrate and most important, demand from his national leadership honest concern and action for the impoverished native majority (Christian, Muslim, and the forgotten ethnic minorities), to pursue the native common good.

The nationalistic outlook is most important and necessary when dealing with all foreigners, such as the American, Australian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese businessmen, their governments and their transnational corporations (TNCs) as they work and exploit our people and homeland indirectly via the IMF and WB and the WTO in the Philippines , ADB, bilateral agreements, etc. among many others [all without the knowledge and understanding of the native majority and rationalized for us so-called educated (schooled) by our subtly quiet but traitorous native technocrats].

The primary task for us Filipinos, despite numerous impediments, is to study our history from a nationalist point-of-view, to raise our nationalist consciousness, through self- education or by formal/informal education, beginning with a recognition and appreciation of our colonial mentality and exerting a conscious effort to discard it. 

Our task in terms of the national economy in our homeland should be to think FILIPINO FIRSTas other nations rightly do think of and for themselves in their own homelands. 

But of course, our "Filipinism" has to be different from the selfish individualism (lacking in sincere, social concern) of our native politicians, native businessmen and entrepreneurs of the past, who used nationalism to advance solely their own private interests. This latter danger can be prevented by nationalistic mass education; since knowledge and understanding should not be an exclusive domain of the middle class and socioeconomic elite.

It is only with a nationalistic consciousness in his mind and heart will the native Filipino be able to fight, deal and work with utmost determination for his own betterment, those of his children and grandchildren; and consequently of his homeland. 

I say all the above to clarify why we, who seriously consider ourselves native Filipinos [including Filipinos of American or other citizenship] should critically study or restudy our homeland's history, inclusive of American history. to better know, understand our national past which had only lead to the present national predicaments; and work to change ourselves as Filipino individuals and as a people and consequently contribute, in whatever way big or small, for the enlightenment and betterment of our homeland and our future generations  

All these reconstructed Filipino mindset has and is now being perpetuated, knowingly or unknowingly -in the absence of US civilian administrators, Thomasites et al-  by our fellow native Filipinos with Americanized minds in our current educational system, media, business, military and other public/private institutions (in addition to the perennial U.S. cultural/media propaganda and official pronouncements). The Americanized Filipino mind requires its "deconstruction" by us native Filipinos who want to be truly Filipino, that is, Filipino nationalists. 

I can not be repetitive enough. This deconstruction of our Filipino mind is a sine qua non condition to attaining our communal and nationalist identity as the Filipino people, as an equal member of the human race rather than being stereotyped as lazy natives, little brown brothers, running dogs for the Americans or other moneyed foreigners, etc...

And be able to overcome/dispose of our still being tribal in thought and action (smacks of regionalism, provincialism, and limits to within the extended family, etc.), of our  past and present tendencies to have "double consciousness:" i.e. the sense of looking at ourselves through the eyes of others, of measuring ourselves by a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity - to borrow a line from one of  W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) books, entitled "The Soul of Black Folks."

Below "WHAT IS HISTORY?" by A.C. Grayling essay is not directly about our own particular Philippine history but dwells in general about the why and what of history, as a subject matter, is all about. Note especially its last sentence.

 - Bert, 11/07/2012

Please click to read also:
  1. Studying and Rethinking Our Philippine History and 
  2. History from the Point of View of the Filipino People (by Mrs. Leticia R. Constantino)


WHAT IS HISTORY? - by A.C. Grayling

There is ambiguity in the very name. "History" can mean either past events, or writing about past events. But what if the former is a creation of the latter? The past, after all, has ceased to exist. Here in the present we find documents and other objects which, we suppose, survive from the past, and we weave interpretations round them. These objects, and our interpretations belong to the present. If history is different narratives constructed in the present, is it any wonder that historians disagree among themselves?

The idea that the past is another country, spread out 'behind' us, which we could visit if we had a time-machine, is naive. Yet our realism is offended by the claim that the past is created in the present, and we oppose the latitude thus accorded to those who, for example, deny that the Holocaust happened.

What, then, is history? Is it an art that creates, or a science that discovers? Either way, is there -can there be- such a thing as historical truth? And if so, to what extent can it be known?

"History" derives from the ancient Greek work isotria, meaning inquiry. But even in antiquity the fatal ambiguity arose; by the fourth century BC the historikos -the reciter of stories- had supplanted the historeon -the inquirer. Into which category should we place the great early historians, Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Livy, Sallust, Tacitus?

They too understood the problem. Thucydides attacked Herodotus for his expansive and anecdotal history - made up of an artfully arranged collection of anecdotes, facts, legends and speculations - of the great East-West struggle between Persia and Greece. Thucydides began his history of the Peloponnesian War with the claim that history should be "contemporary history," restricting itself to what can be verified by personal observation. he served in the Athenian army, and wrote as he fought.

Art outweighed science in most historical writing as far as the Renaissance. But from the 17th century the possibility of scientific history emerged from work on sources. Benedictine monks established principles for authenticating medieval manuscripts, thus inaugurating the systematic treatment of materials. By the time Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886) summoned historians to record the past 'as it actually happened'.  the project seemed possible.

Other 'Positivists' like von Ranke claimed that there are inductively discover-able historical laws. The great Victorian John Stuart Mill, agreed, adding that psychological laws count among them. On this view history is truly a science: good data and general laws pave the way to objective truth.

But the Positivists were opposed by the Idealists, such as Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911). Under the influence of Kant and Hegel, the Idealists argued whereas natural science studies phenomena from the outside, social science does so from the inner perspective of human experience. History accordingly is a reconstruction of the past by "intellectual empathy" with our forebears.

Dilthey said that history is nevertheless objective, because the products of human experience -books and art- belong to the public domain. But his fellow Idealists disagreed; Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) wrote that history is subjective because the historian himself is always present in its construction. As James Baldwin put it, 'People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them.'

These ideas constitute the "philosophy of history." They are not works of history, nor of historiography [discussion of historical techniques]. But neither are they works of "philosophical history", exemplified by those grand theories of history's metaphysical significance offered by Hegel, Marx, Spengler, and Toynbee. These latter claim that history manifests patterns, and moves towards an ultimate goal. Positivist history is an attempt to escape the seductions of such a view, by seeking facts. Idealists arguments show that this aim is easier to state than achieve.

Work at the coal-face of history is a sweated toil among "primary sources." For ancient times these include such things, among others, as archaeological remains, inscriptions on clay tablets, and later copies of early documents. For more recent centuries the raw materials include royal charters, diaries, property deeds, letters and statistics. Either way a large part of the historian's task is interpretation, which is to say: the act of endowing these silent witnesses with a voice. Without interpretations even documents are mute; until the historian gives them one, they have no meaning.

This is why there can be dispute among historians. To repeat the point a different way,: history is not a list of facts; it is a story that we draw from them. And many different stories, all equally good, can be drawn from the same facts. hence disagreement.

For this reason historians are not always at the coal-face. An important part of their work involves standing back from primary sources and reflecting on the larger picture they suggest. This is a task of discerning patterns and rhythms, of separating the causes of later developments from the snowstorm of merely adventitious happenings. This kind of historical work requires fine judgment. And it is not only a question of which story best interprets the data, but of what the story itself means. 

For we wish to understand the spirit of an age to see into its heart and mind, and to acquire a feel for how those who lived in it responded to their world and coped with its dilemmas.

Source: The Mystery of Things by A.C. Grayling (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004)

“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

 “Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent” – Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister (1804-1881)

PLEASE DONATE CORE/FUNDAMENTAL SUBJECT BOOKS TO OUR HOMELAND (i.e. your hometown public schools, Alma Mater, etc.). Those books that you and/or your children do not need or want; or buy books from your local library during its cheap Book Sales. Also, cargo/door-to-door shipment is best.  It is a small sacrifice.  [clean up your closets or garage - donate books.THANKS!]

I consider these earlier posts and the RECTO READER as essential in knowing and understanding our homeland and ourselves, native, Malay Filipinos; and are therefore always presented in each new post. Click each to open/read.
  2. WHAT IS NATIONALISM [Filipino Nationalism]?
  3. Our Colonial Mentality and Its Roots 
  4. The Miseducation of the Filipino (Formation of our Americanized Mind)
  5. Jose Rizal - Reformist or Revolutionary?
  6. The Purpose of Our Past, Why Study (Our) History?
  7. Studying and Rethinking Our Philippine History
  8. Globalization (Neoliberalism) – The Road to Perdition in Our Homeland
  9. Resisting Globalization (WTO Agreements)
  10. Virtues of De-Globalization
  11. Our Filipino Kind of Religion
  12. Our Filipino Christianity and Our God-concept
  13. When Our Religion Becomes Evil
THE RECTO READER is presented in several postings. Click each to open/read:

NOTE: Recto's cited cases, examples or issues were of his time, of course; but realities in our homeland in the present and the foreseeable future are/expectedly much, much worse. Though I am tempted to update them with current issues, it's best to leave them as they are since Recto's paradigms about our much deepened national predicament still ring relevant, valid and true. In short, Recto saw the forest and never got lost in the trees.- Bert

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