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writingcyh
08-03-2013, 06:59 AM
“A sense of the past is an essential [art of our identity. The past is in many respects a foreign country, but on the premise that travel broadens the mind, this is all the more reason to go there.” Adapted from Rosamond McKitterick, History and Its Audiences

Assignment: Do we need knowledge of the past to fully understand the present?


Present is built upon the past. In order to fully understand what is actually happening at present, we need the knowledge of the past, or else we may be misguided into believing things that may not represent the whole story.

The example of Japan’s denial of her history can illustrate this statement. Some right-winged politicians in Japan still deny their invasion into neighbouring countries during the WWII. They dismiss any claims regarding the use of comfort women, the Nanjing Massacre despite concrete evidences presented by other countries. They even amend history textbooks for students in an attempt to hide these facts. If Japan’s next generation is not aware of this part of the history, they may criticize other nations for the allegations against their own country, which are false in their viewpoints because of the inaccurate descriptions of their textbooks. As a result, the students may misinterpret the current disputes regarding the responsibilities arose from WWII and fail to learn from the past as they do not have the knowledge of the past.

Literature also provides another example to support the statement. In Animal Farm, Napoleon became the ruler of the farm after the overthrown of Mr. Jones, the farmer. He claimed that the animals were living in a better world under his administration than that in the past when the animals were often treated badly by Mr. Jones. However, many of the brutal acts done by Napoleon to strengthen his authority were covered up. Besides, many of the ‘ordinary’ animals had already forgotten the Mr. Jones’ era because of fading memory or Napoleon’s depiction of the past. Therefore, they failed to realize that their current living conditions were not any better. Their ignorance led them believe that Napoleon was a better ruler than a human, which was not true as Napoleon himself was seen comparable to other humans at the end of the book.

We can understand many of the events happening right now without any knowledge of the past, but our understanding of the present might be flawed. We need to first understand the past so as to have a full picture of the present.