Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Responsible History

The Responsible History
A little more than two centuries of the historicist revolution brought to the West the threshold of entry into a new more acute awareness of the historical character of the realities around us, history as an academic discipline in recent decades through a delicate moment. A recent article in these pages (Poverty of History, August 25, 2015) is an eloquent sign of the discrediting of this discipline in a sector of the Spanish opinion. I can understand the reasons which have led to Amando de Miguel to write that article, and even share some of their arguments, but does not seem fair to burden of history, or what is the same about the historians in general, a charge rather it should be directed at some of its perversions.

In my view in the current Spain are two main sources of abuse of history: the call history and the irresponsible use nationalism make history. Both germs distortion have in common the subordination of historical knowledge for partisan political ends. The historic, as this expression is understood today in our country, memory means for their fiercest supporters not as a means to promote the recognition and healing the wounds of the past as a tool to keep them open permanently, if not to feed sectarianism of those who would like that certain sections of the -very particularly painful past especially, the Civil War would never end spending. Those who indulge in that morbid cult and selective memory should note that memories do not differ too much from the opinions, and the opinions are fallible, personal and questionable by definition. Memory is misleading and, as Oliver Sacks showed brilliantly, one can fabular personal memories that the subject itself is craving hits, actually being apocryphal. In addition, since anyone can remember imposed no stranger, the will to establish some sort of "official" collective memory is an extravagant and absurd idea.

The Catalan secessionism has shown his ability to turn history into a throwing weapon
A second vein of historical misrepresentations proceeds of nationalism. Although this aspect certainly no nationalism is blameless in Spain in recent years it has undoubtedly been the Catalan separatism which has larger samples of his ability to turn history into a missile. Not only by the ideological exploitation of the education system and the media, but also, and makes a significant difference to the Basque case appealing to the mobilization of a number of more or less prestigious professionals, historians loyal to the cause, ready to organize symposiums apparently academic style, as that was held less than two years ago in Barcelona under the auspices of the Generalitat with the embarrassing title Spain against Catalonia.

What should be the attitude of honest historians to such samples irresponsibility on the part of some colleagues? For starters, remember that the abuse of history is dangerous. A sad trail of wars and genocide Rwanda -Yugoslavia and often the most cited cases, but unfortunately there are many more-leaves no room for doubt: distorted and Manichean visions of the past have often played a key role as catalysts of atrocious conflicts . Consequently, not enough rigorous criticism of the biased and irresponsible more "historical" narrative. Those who use the dead to sow discord among the living should find in the rest of the profession an unmistakably judgmental attitudes. Historiographical texts shamelessly fueling hatred between compatriots should be refuted and qualified for what they are: an abuse of history and immorality of unpredictable consequences.

The academic community has the means to distinguish true knowledge of the party and spurious pseudo. Unfortunately, both forms of misappropriation of history, both produced by nationalism as the "historical memory", rooted on a well-paid for two concurrent cultural processes characteristic of our time. First, the progressive erosion of the notion of truth, a notion that no longer can be- -not the same as four or five decades ago. Second, the pandemic of one blunt and cynical presenteeism proclaimed from the rooftops that each performer individually or collectively, the past is entitled to project back in time concepts, categories and ideological biases that suits you best to shape and strengthen their "identity" in a past tailored to their desires, their likes and their dislikes. But the truth is inevitably provisional, relative and precarious-that is, historically does not mean that anyone can legitimately claim from last what he pleases. The academic community, through mechanisms of verification and critical and informed debate, have the means to distinguish true knowledge and spurious pseudo party. And the really rich history, responsible and useful history, is one that is about the dead with respect and strives to understand the realities faded studying in their otherness. A stranger to political manipulation history, instead of travestir actors of the past with our clothes and our conceptual concerns, trying to expand our understanding of the human through a comprehensive approach to those alien worlds, semiborrados by the erosion of time.