Friday, January 26, 2007

don't study history

These photos are from a family gathering at my sister's house last weekend. I am particularly proud of the last one because it seems like the sort of photo a journalist would put in a magazine with a caption underneath saying, 'Greg A--------, eminent agricultural reproduction scientist and wannabe Shakespearian tragedy actor, relaxes in his home neath a canopy of grapes.' (Okay, so the only part of that that is true is the scientist part.)

As a budding (or withering) historian, I am aware I should be trying to put a good word in for studying history. And yes, I do love studying history although quite often it's a pain in the neck trying to be unbiased and scholarly. All the same, if you ever admire someone and look up to them as a role model - don't do a history course on them at university. It's allright if you do it at school, because schools, in my experience, though worthy institutions, tend to teach popular history. But if you take a course at university, you have to look at differing views. And suddenly all these things are pointed out to you that you never would have heard otherwise.

I am currently doing a course on Gandhi. He has never been exactly a hero of mine but I've always had a vague, comfortable notion that he was an amazing, visionary man who should be lauded on high. Now, after only three to four weeks of classes on him, I would consider him as very often manipulative and naive. The lecturer hasn't told us anything of the sort, and this has all come from the reading I have to do in order to pass the course, but all the same, without doing a university course on him, I would have been left happily delusional.

I used to admire Martin Luther very much... and then heard some bad things about him. I used to admire Martin Luther King very much... and the same thing happened. It's not that I don't admire aspects of them still, and there are aspects of Gandhi that I still admire very much - but it's a little depressing discovering things you dislike about people that are looked up to as icons. I suppose none of us can expect perfection of people, but I think most of us wish there was some human who didn't ever disappoint. It might make us feel a little better about our own states of morality.

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