History – Why bother?

History was the theme for the comprehension passages in the 2008 Cambridge GCE ‘A’ Level Examinations (Singapore).

It was more than a little disheartening to observe the arguments of Lee Min Yen (Passage 2). I once argued that World War Two was not my fight. The Japan that once invaded Singapore and much of Southeast Asia is not the Japan I know today (nor for that matter what most of my peers know). In that respect I agree with Lee and how we frequent Japan as a favoured tourist destination. This speaks volumes. Japan’s influence in post 1965 Singapore extends much more than mere tourism though. Yet in itself, Lee self-contradicts. Since it is ‘dangerous’ when ‘distorted and partial history’ is used to flame ‘nationalist or religious hatreds’, is not history relevant?

Therein lies the crux. One needs to ‘know’ history to discern the facts, and the stories.

And that (human) history keeps repeating itself is revealing. The greed; the malice; the extremism; and perhaps even apathy; and dare I say goodness… These attest to the features of mankind. Correspondingly, democratic structures should become the mainstay of human society. Why? Human nature is immensely corruptible. As it is said ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. Democratic structures offer the ‘checks and balances’, institutionally, to prevent the rot.

And there too comes forth another maxim. If you invest in the stock market, expect ups (sky heights too) and also deep (deeeeep) downs. For it is a crucible of greed and emotional volatility. All directions toward human rationality are greatly suspect. From the audiobook entitled ‘Win Your Case: How to Present, Persuade, and Prevail-Every Place, Every Time’ (2006); Gerry Spence, a lawyer who had not lost a case since 1969 argued that emotion was the driver of so called logical decisions. He is hardly the only one of this opinion. I have made the point before – flip open the news today and check out how many crimes of passions took place over the past week.

To end though, I wonder whether history should be valorised. As you saw in my first post, it was mere curiosity that sparked my relationship with history (no, I no longer call it love). Now I just want to read some history because I want to…

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