Thursday, January 26, 2006

What is history?

History is a funny thing. Some say it is purely an invention of the human mind, stories and myths that we tell to make sense of who we are. There is some sense in this. Bare facts don't exist on their own, but in a matrix of other facts, of meanins that we apply to them. I don't think pespective is everything, as if I can never move from it to something new - perspectives change. Not every view is correct either. Oscar Kronig, the former SS guard and counter of foreign currencies at Auschwitz appeared on the BBC series Auschwitz to state that the holocaust did happen - David Irving is WRONG! Somethings are "true", at least in some sense. Others really are soley a product of the human mind.

The Prime Minister of Australia has a very black and white view of history (well a white one), and recently commented on how he wants the teaching of history to be changed. He's happy less people feel bad about the slaughter of aboriginal Australians and how they were dispossesed. He doesn't think Australians are or should be confused about their national identity. We are a country with a Judeo-Christian background (is this why he locks up asylum seekers, funny I thought a good Judeo-Christian background understood what Exodus says about strangers in your land, or the prophetic call for justice), and a British justice system. This is his weapon against the "obsesssion" with multiculturalism. Anything from Labour, exterminate it!

There are many narratives that make up the history of a country. There are many older than 60,000 years hear too. I continue to worry about the power of a conservative government to try and push only one, myths of mateship, of Gallopoli (when I say myths - I mean events with mythic force, not made up stories). White, male myths. Not black ones. And not Christian ones either (so much for his religious background). Of course not all narratives are as important to everyone as some. What narratives will be important for Australia in future.

Archbishop Peter Jensen recently gave the Boyer lectures on the future of Jesus - a man with a story that has influenced world history. Is his story going to be part of Australia's in the future? Would that story include or exclude some? Not all stories can include others, but I suggest that of Jesus can include most narratives, if not all. Some it will invalidate, all it seeks to put to rights. However, unlike Howard's threats to re-engineer history as he has done politics, aboriginal relations, taxation, industrial relations and now national security (whilst denying we need a bill of rights), the story of Jesus invites you in, not enforcing itself on you. Or at least that is how it should be in this age.

No comments: