Lessons Learnt From History
By Sabir Nazar
28, Nov 2012
History is a very tricky subject. A famous quote by Aldous Huxley says, “That men do not learn from history is the most important lesson that history has to teach.” I don’t agree with this assertion as I have learnt lessons from history and have actually practiced a few of them in my life. Another historian believes that history is the selection of facts and events that suits our point of view. This is a universal lesson and is practiced by everyone in Pakistan.
Examine the speeches of Army generals, judges, bureaucrats, politicians, religious leaders, and anchor persons. History is our favourite subject and all discussions in our drawing rooms and television programs revolve around history as far back as 1400 years. Our discussion of sectarian killings ultimately goes back to the difference in history. Even a chef on food channels quotes a hadith from history to tell us the benefits of some food.
Another historian says that all past histories were selected biographies of rulers and powerful men. This is the golden principle practiced by our curriculum and syllabus boards that make textbooks for children by selective biographies from history. So here are few of my lessons that I learnt from history:
1. I have learned not to learn a lesson from the distorted history that was taught to us at schools. But, I practice what I learned from my syllabus books. History is for window dressing, the actual history is hidden at the back of the Al-Bakistan departmental store.
2. By the time we learn the actual history we have long passed the age to benefit from history lessons and are not even useful to our adult children who are already moulded by false history taught at schools.
3. I learnt from our selective history that starts from Mohenjo-Daro and skips 2000 years to Mohammad bin Quasim and then jumps another 500 years to Mahmood of Ghaznavi. I told my wife about my history from childhood, then jumped to school years, skipped my shenanigans in college and told her about my struggle to make a living staying clear of my free-for-all lifestyle before marriage.
4. My resume is again my lesson from history. I only wrote the success of my career and omitted the failures and my visits to jail during my college years. The long gaps similar to Mohammad bin Quasim and Mahmood Ghaznavi is a leaf straight out of a Pakistan Studies book.
5. My children also tell me selected facts. The torn shirts are because they fell in a football game, only subjects with good marks are proudly announced. I find out about the subjects they flunked in only at parent-teacher meetings that are held twice a year.
6. All my relatives excel in history. Ask them about the fight between our grandparents over a burnt meal that took place some 50 years ago. They will provide an exact account of the event, expressions and minute details. The complete command over history is manifested during marriage ceremonies or funerals, where all previous family disputes spanning over three generations come alive, with proofs and witnesses.
7. People learn so much from history in a short span of time, that if a person constructs a house, he becomes an architect. The next time if there is discussion about a constructing a house, you have an expert opinion on architecture. And if you have gone to a doctor for a sour throat or the flu, rest assured that he will prescribe the same medicine for all around him for at least one decade. He stops this only when the prescribed medicines are replaced by new ones.
8. Listen to all TV talk shows and you will see the lesson of jumping from Mohammad bin Quasim to Mahmood Ghaznavi being practiced by all guest speakers and anchors. In one sitting they will leap from the British period to Medina city-state and then come back to the Lucknow pact and then cross over to the Abbasid period and back to mismanagement in Islamabad. They will give example of Al-Zulfiqar in 1979 and prove that PPP still has a militant wing in 2012.
9. I have also learnt from history that you can kill all your siblings, imprison your father, kill and imprison your opponents but you will only be judged for sewing the Topis for your courtiers and writing the holy book with your own handwriting. This is practiced in different forms and we can put this Topi on the eyes of anyone (no pun intended on Lal Topi).
10. But the most important lesson is that while I am learning lessons from international history, the imperialist control of economy, foreign policies and extremism in Pakistan and other grand subjects like existentialism and free choice, it’s actually my wife who makes most of the decisions.
Sabir Nazar left architecture for painting but ended up as a cartoonist and now writes Hijjo. He is the jack of all trades.