Tuesday, October 31, 2006

All Comparisons Are Lame




In a previous post, I included my personal “review” on the way our renowned historians did their job so that traditions, customs, stories, and lessons of history, or experience, could be passed down to us over generations. As I said in the post, with lots of efforts I skimmed through “The Complete History Book of Dai Viet” by Ngo Si Lien. I felt I can understand why aged scholars of our time say young generations are bad at what they call “national history”.  It is because nothing is so boring as the so-called “national history” told so far in every history book of ours. The writing style is boring, the facts are scattered and often exaggerated, the presentation in short is unacceptably poor. As for me personally, I find all these books contained just emotionless letters and words. They failed to show any link between young readers of our time with “our glorious ancients”. They failed to present to our eyes the beauty of time, or the priceless lessons of history. 


When we come to our historians, none of them think of issues which forever are of concern to human race, such as leadership, cult and religion, politics, progress and decay, etc. Take religion and sociology as an example. None of our "thinkers" ever questioned why people had to pay worship to some supernatural force called "ancestors" or "Buddha". None of them ever asked why man should be superior to woman, or why the Vietnamese should honour a stranger from the alien north, Confucius.


I can’t restrain myself from making comparison between the preachs our glorified historians gave us with what their western workmates wrote:


“To those who study history not merely as a warning reminder of man’s follies and crimes, but also as an encouraging remembrance of generative souls, the past ceases to be a depressing chamber of horrors; it becomes a celestial city, a spacious country of the mind, wherein a thousand saints, statesmen, inventors, scientists, poets, artists, musicians, lovers and philosophers still love and speak, teach and carve and sing.


If a man is fortunate he will, before he dies, gather up as much as he can of his civilized heritage and transmit it to his children. And to his final breath he will be grateful for this inexhaustible legacy, knowing that it is our nourishing mother and our lasting life.”


(Will & Arient Durant)


Didn’t they show us the beauty of history?


Did any of our HISTORIANS (in capital letters) and teachers ever succeed in convincing us that we should sometimes look back on the past? Did any of them ever succeed in helping us stand straight to face the world, to enjoy life and to expect unawsome death? In short, was any of their words true? I believe that only when the words they said came from their heart could they convince us about something, or even go further to give us advice, as did the Durants to their American readers. Ngo Si Lien, Le Van Huu, Nguyen Trai... no, thanks.


Yes, I am fully aware that all comparisons are lame. But I can’t help comparing the lessons of history that I was taught, or crammed, at school with ones I got from the net - my Western teacher.  


But I don’t blame any historian or teacher. They themselves were taught to hold older generations in high esteem. I just dislike the way they, through boring and unconvincing preaches, brainwashed us into believing that our duty is such.