My brother has always been one of those who, liked famed playwright George Bernard Shaw, believe that “it’s dangerous to be sincere unless you’re also stupid.”
“Don’t cry, silly, one day I’ll buy you a plane ticket to a faraway place,” he said, eyes full of mockery, greedy hands working fast around the broken pieces of my piggybank. Our working-class upbringing was a chain around our feet; he knew of my aspirations to travel and set myself free. Diligently, I made a note of the affront and the promised compensation. I demanded he date it and sign it and, along with my tears, I put it away, confident that sooner or later, I’d get him to pay.
It appears that at age six, I already agreed with Afghan Member of Parliament Elay Ershad in that knowing history enables us to control what happens in the future. Ershad recently lectured the Afghan Ministry of Education, which is using funds from the Afghan government — and various foreign donors — to produce brand new high-school history textbooks leaving the past four decades completely off the record, including a civil war, the Taliban regime, and the 2001 U.S.-led invasion (good guess! The Americans have made a good donation).
From their part, and I bet my brother would concur, the Ministers of Education argue that historical events that provoke old rivalries shouldn’t be included. They hope the new textbooks will help create a single national identity. Hmm, I wonder if the U.S. donation was accompanied by one or two American lessons. After all, it was only in 2010 that the Texas Board of Education members made the headlines themselves. According to them, academia was “skewed too far to the left,” so the curriculum was changed to add a bit of balance, and… what did that entail? Stressing the superiority of American capitalism and presenting the “positive side” of Republican philosophies. The Conservative faction of the Education Board was accused of rewriting history, not only of Texas and the United States, but of the entire world.
So it seems to be the case that history doesn’t happen, it’s written (or not!), and who we trust with the pen is not a small problem to solve. I mean, history has always been a biased interpretation; for instance, depending on who we are, the Europeans aboard the Mayflower could be pioneers or terrorists to us.
But technology has changed the rules of this game; not only do mobile devices allow us to record events and facts pretty much as they occur, but they also make a historian of each and every one of us. The unprecedented power and information control that this gives to street people like you and me haven’t gone unnoticed, and Apple has just patented a piece of technology that will allow police and governments to block the transmission of content. History must be a pretty sensitive subject when the powers-that-be want to keep doing all the writing!
I’d encourage us all to pay attention and keep our records straight, even if that means making use of old-fashioned paper and pen. Personally, I am not one for letting history slip my mind — my brother just bought me a plane ticket, and the next Moving Planets will reach you from Spain, my native land.