What passes for history
September 28, 1999
By Corey Gilkes
Now that no less than a person than Gaylord Kelshall has revealed one of the many glaring errors in the history books, I'm hoping that, finally, someone in authority [or someone with enough influence] will address the serious question of the content of what passes for history, if only at primary and secondary level. Or are waiting, as they usually do, on someone from the States or Europe to come down and say the same thing?
If the schools' history books could be saying that the Santa Maria, Nina and the Pinta were the ships that came to Trinidad in 1498, then things are worse than I thought. It shows that not only is history taught from a Eurocentric perspective but that many of our own writers are plain slack. Common sense alone shows that if the Santa Maria was wrecked in 1492, how then could it be making voyages six years later?
For years many people, including myself, have been calling for a complete review of historical themes only to be ignored. For many, history is nothing but a study of irrelevant dates, for others it is just another way to spell hubris [admittedly, sometimes there is a fine line between history and hubris]. The psychological power that can be wielded by one's understanding of the past, though unknown to most of us, is fully understood by Eurocentric thinkers.
For centuries, Europeans and Euro-Americans have constantly rewritten history to suit themselves; to this day they use history as a weapon in order to maintain their influence over the world's economies. Our cavalier attitude to the study and preservation of our past is really embarrassing – some of the best books I have ever read and some of the most informative lectures on our Carnival, calypso, stickfighting etc, came from non-nationals [all power to them]. The only way this country can really be a dynamic force in this world is if its people know what they are capable of. Only by knowing of the accomplishments and failures of our forbears through a correct understanding of history achieves this task. But what is more important is that it reveals the workings of the human mind; why people did what they did and therefore, why those who came after them do what they do.
The Columbus question is a perfect example; it is by no means a closed book. There are many, many unanswered questions concerning his first voyage, indeed, his very existence [which, notwithstanding the conservative views of my learned elder Michael Anthony, is not as clear-cut as it is made out to be]. And this is just one example. There are many more historical absurdities the exploding of which will have a direct impact upon how we think and behave. The self-destructive behaviour displayed by our youths and their elders have a lot to do with their entrenched belief in their own inferiority, their belief that they are mere appendages of someone else's superior history and culture. Should the so-called educators ever come to understand that rather than focussing on pass marks, then we will begin to get somewhere.
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