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A Story of History

In: Business and Management

Words 766
Pages 4
a2008 GP Paper 2 AQ

12 Anna Banatvala thinks an understanding of history is essential, whereas Lee Min Yen thinks history has no value. How important is an understanding of history for you and your society, and how far has your view been challenged or confirmed by these two passages?

The importance of an understanding of history is severely weakened in countries where the history is distorted. Hence, my view has been largely confirmed by Lee Min Yen , the author of passage 2.

Banatvala asserts that since similar causes produce similar results, the benefit of history is that it can teach us how to avoid our ancestors’ mistakes and emulate their successes. While it seems logically correct that we can learn from our past, the author has made a sweeping assumption about human character. If people are eager and able to avert their forefathers’ failures and repeat their successes, this may be plausible. However, in reality, people are influenced by a multitude of factors and circumstances that they have no control over. For instance, in my society, China has an undisrupted history of more than 5000 years and the causes and effects that account for a government’s success and failure are studied extensively. Undoubtedly, corruption was one of the primary factors that caused a dynasty to fail. Yet, in today’s China, corruption is still prevalent, if not more. Although many government officials are aware of the adverse impact of corruption, they are either unwilling or unable to change the predominant climate of ideas. The disgraced former Railway Minister Liu Zhijun, who took bribes in tens of millions of dollars during his tenure, is just the tip of the iceberg. Therefore, as people become less willing or unable to apply what they have learnt form history, the importance of understanding history is severely overrated.

On the other hand, Lee posits that history is nothing more than stories based on facts, as even the details of events occurring within living memory are still hotly disputed. I agree with Lee, as with the advent of social media, the reporting of past events becomes more and more complicated and politicised. For instance, the reporting of last year’s Tibetans’ self-immolation incidents was rather controversial. While local Tibetans and Han Chinese reported some the incidents on Weibo , the like of Twitter in China, the state media , Xinhua , constructed her own narrative of the past incidents. What compounded this was that foreign journalists were prohibited from entering Tibet and the foreign media simply made up their own versions of these past events. The historical accounts of these controversial events became sensationalised and distorted due to political agenda and manipulation. History, therefore, becomes stories based on facts.

Lee also claims that every age, every country rewrites history to suit its needs – at worst by falsifying the record. I concur with the author because history in China is , to a large extent, written by the state. Since the public education system is mainstreamed and controlled by the government, history textbooks are undoubtedly written by the state to inculcate in young pupils a strong sense of loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. While the successes of the ruling political party are acclaimed and magnified, its shortcomings and political scandals are either belittled or omitted altogether in the nation’s history. For example, Mao’s Great Leap Forward is glorified as the “unprecedented” advancements in modern China, while the horrific Cultural Revolution that aimed to purge the intellectuals, as well as the infamous Tiananmen Square Protest are grossly neglected in the history textbooks across China . As history is controlled and manipulated by the state, more and more young generations will become oblivious to the truths that happened in the past. The importance of understanding history is therefore eroded as history is merely used a means to an end.

Although I disagree with Banatvala to a large extent, there is still some element of truth in her arguments. For instance, the use of advanced technology to store, catalogue and disseminate archival evidence more efficiently is stimulating new interpretations of the history our planet. This is especially true in China where there are more than 500 million netizens who are capitalising on the Internet and social media. Search engine such as Baidu and microblogging portal like Weibo are at the forefront of disseminating information. These new technologies help to foster more novel interpretations of the events in China, reviving our interest in history and the importance of it.

In conclusion, I agree with Lee Min Yen to a large extent and her arguments largely confirm my opinion of history.

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