Wednesday, September 14, 2011

History & Fairytale

History has it that about 1400 years ago, a famous conqueror invaded a tribe during a war. Many people were killed. Those who survived the war were held captive by the invading army. Among them was a 17-year old girl known for her beauty. Her father who was the chief of the tribe, and her husband were both killed in battle. She was about to be taken as a slave when her beauty was brought to the conqueror's attention. The 60-year old conqueror offered to marry her, thus escaping the fate of becoming a slave. So she chose to marry the 60-year old man. It was said that although she was angry at the conqueror at first, she eventually forgave him; in fact greatly respected him later.

Now, 1400 years later, upon reading that story, I can't help but have doubts of its accuracy. For that history does not resemble anything like any human behaviour at all. It is beyond my imagination that a 17-year old girl whose father and husband had been killed by an invading army would eventually marry the leader of that army—a man old enough to be her grandfather. It is beyond me that the 17-year old girl would climb into bed to sleep with that man. I can't help but think the circumstances leading to the marriage had elements of force in it. But what do I know about history—I'm not a historian; I'm only relying on a bit of common sense and knowledge of human nature.

The thing about history is that many, many years ago, people who were supposed to have witnessed those events when it happened, put them down in writing according to what they saw with their own eyes. Or failing which they would rely on information they gathered from a third party who were supposed to have been eye-witnesses of those events. That sounds like a fair deal to me.

But how does one see the contents of the heart and mind? How can one be sure that a 17-year old girl, whose father and husband had been killed by the enemy, genuinely forgave the perpetrator and actually had great respect for him?

Was it really history or just a fairytale arising from a true event which we wish had happened according to how it was told?

Sometimes, it is possible that we are told things from our very early childhood—things that we have no means of verifying so that we rely totally on those who had originally told the story. Except that what would happen if some other people would come up with a different version of the story which changes the earlier version completely? How would we react?

Well, since a favourite pastime of Malaysians is lodging police reports, that's one of the first things they would do, as can be seen recently when the Mohd Sabu chap had a different version of the Bukit Kepong tragedy several decades ago.

I'm neither for nor against Sabu's version, as to be honest, I know hardly anything about the event! But I must admit that his version of the history does not accord well with what many people have been programmed to believe. The subconscious mind is programmed into believing that communists can never be heroes. And so Sabu's version can't possibly be right, no matter what. How many people would actually sit back, keep an open mind, and spare just a few minutes to listen to Sabu justifying his case? I doubt that there are very many.

Most of us are quite unwilling to listen and consider the opposing version. We prefer to believe in the version which we wish to be the truth, but not really wanting to know the truth...

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