Saturday, September 25, 2010

History Matters


In our fast-paced culture that is so focused on now, yesterday is hardly examined. Even what happened a few hours ago loses relevance quickly in our increasingly twitterized world. 

But should it be that way? Should we never look back at the past? 

I argue that historical awareness is essential, particularly since it shows us how the present came to be. 

It reveals, among other things, how technology evolved; how governments formed and changed; how groups developed cultural and economic systems.  

At the heart of society, of culture, of the human experience lies the past, lies history. It defines our attitudes, worldviews, and, most importantly, our identities.

Without knowledge of the the past, without historical memory, the present is meaningless. We might as well be zombies.  

Unsurprisingly, when groups such as African Americans and Latinos are denied a full analysis and examination of their history, they suffer dearly. They lack a sense of identity, of group solidarity--a sense of themselves.

Whether it is expressed through the Internet, books, films, or lectures, history needs to be exchanged for our society to function properly. The medium, although important, is secondary to the content.


Tech Savvy Historian

Oh, the irony.

I am historian who is obsessed with modern technology.

When I sat in my European history course and listened to lectures this past semester, I no longer had pen and paper. Instead, my notebook was a hip Sony Vaio.

My relatively simple flip phone was also gone, now replaced with a sleek and powerful Droid.

Both of these devices generally made my life easier, but in history class they made getting work done more difficult.

Every other second it seemed like a friend texted me, and although it was typically unimportant, I felt obligated to answer. And then when I tried to refocus and type notes, I would, for one reason or another, end up on Firefox surfing the web.

Of course, I could have easily prevented these distractions by silencing my phone and turning off my laptop's wifi.

However, I enjoyed texting and browsing, and it was especially enjoyable because this class was, to put it bluntly, boring.

Yes I admit it: My history class was boring! Probably because my history professor was dry and uncreative, and probably because the European middle ages are very unexciting to begin with.

I know that as a history major and as an advocate of appreciating history, its peculiar for me to feels this way and even if I do, I probably should not admit it.

I kind of sound like a priest saying I can do without Leviticus. Ouch. There goes my flock...

Usually, I love my history courses and get submerged in lectures and discussions, but this was not the case this past semester. And my cool gadgets didn’t help.

Perhaps I need a way to bridge the gap between technology and history. Perhaps my next research project should be on the history of personal technology...

Anyway, I got to run. Firefox just prompted me to update it.