Friday, August 24, 2012

I remember it like this

The thing about history is that it is almost always about strange people. And more often than not, about strange-ass white folks doing the most unexpected things.

Just about everywhere you go, history includes the description of what Europeans was up to a couple of hundred years ago. Not because of the intrinsic interestingness of what these people did, but because of the scale of it. Take anything that is screwed up today, and sure enough the reason for that being screwed up is something these distant Europeans did back in the day. And in order to understand why things are the way they are, one has to take into account the European state of things.

There's no way around this. Just look at any political map of Africa, and note those straight borders between countries. They are that way because some white folks got together and decided that they owned the place. So they took a ruler, drew a straight line and said "to the west of this line is your lands, to the east mine, and as long as you keep out of your part I'll keep to mine".

The notion of asking the locals what they thought about this new order was not present in the heads of those drawing those lines.

So in order to understand why things are as they are, one has to get into the heads of these strange faraway people. No matter that they are long dead and that one might not meet more than a handful actual white people during the course of one's life - one must still understand what they were up to in order to make sense of things.

It is not an unfair thing to say that most of recent history can be described as "and then white folks came and screw things up". Whatever happened before that "and" varies from place to place, but there are undeniable similarities in what happens after "then". And thus, "history" and "white people" come together as a package.

Often a brutal one.

The reverse, however, is not true. White people more often than not do not have to give a damn about what anyone else thinks. They can, if they want to and are curious enough, but it is not necessary in order to make sense of why things are as they are. Rather, it is a disinterested investigation of the peculiar ways of distant cultures, of little consequence for the day to day routine of being.

 That difference is not unimportant. Even though white people sometimes have a hard time understanding why anyone bothers to bring it up.

They are strange and peculiar in that way.

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