Watching the news unfold from Nice… How can 2 people see something so very differently? ‘Striking Cobra’ or ‘Tranquil Swan’? Maybe you just see the number 2.
Only this week I viewed some old postcards from an African French colony with an anthropological photograph showing the natives in customary dress. The title to the article read: ‘A Shameful Past’. With race relations bubbling over at the moment I dared to actually call it ‘revisionist’. Yet these images had not been photo-shopped, nor had the colonial propaganda been any less explicit. But I questioned the editorial angle of this historical piece. Where was the shame?
In the days long before photography a voyage of discovery would set sail with an artist on board to sketch the foreign and exotic views highly anticipated on their arrival. Scientific illustrations of newly found flowers; cultural observation of tribal decorations; a glimpse into a world of strange and wondrous animals unseen by European eyes. On their return etchings of these documents would sell in enormous quantities to the eager public ravenous for the traveler’s tales. History is to educate, not to shame.
In the 1990s in Britain it was a common sight in restaurants to have fellow diners smoking at adjoining tables to that of non-smokers. Within the last decade wedding shops didn’t stock ‘same-sex’ marriage paraphernalia. This isn’t moral amnesia, there are and always have been injustices within society; emancipation for women, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed. History is to educate, not to guilt.
If I was to declare my dear Captain Cook a white supremacist, would that be fair? It pains me to have even considered him as an example – but the damage of viewing history through our own moral compass of today is to see the past without any heroes, to turn upon them for the sake of political correctness. It is to ask too much were there will be backlash, there will be reprisal. There will be restoration of honour and pride. These are not over dramatic words afforded more than opinion, but an intrinsic part of our survival mode and a dangerous switch to ever flick ON! History is to educate, not to open old wounds.
It is dangerous to erase a Nations memory simply because it is now considered ‘shameless’. Forgetting is not an option, but sometimes recalling the past with hyperthymesia quality does little to aid social cohesion in the present while still healing from a bloody past. Forgetting is an ally of peace if not always a friend of justice. When General Charles de Gaulle gave Algeria independence, one of his advisers protested: “So much blood has been shed.” To which De Gaulle replied: “Nothing dries quicker than blood.” I hope shameless world views can be safely assigned to History books where they belong including those based on religious ideology that has no place in a civilized 21st century. It is not the task of good people to fix evil with an empty apology, but to stop it – and restore PEACE ❤