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Random History lies my teacher lessons

Finished History Lessons. Overdue fines wheee.

Later excerpts including a bunch from North Korea, Cuba, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Interesting to see the obvious propaganda spin. And personality cults. Cuba didn't have that actually, but NK had "the greatly adored leader Kim Il-Sung" a lot and Syria had "the Fighting Leader Comrade Hafez Assad". Creeeeepy.

I also re-read a bit of Lies, which I still have. Vietnam section said that his first sample of books tended to spend nine pages on the War of 1812 and nine pages on the Vietnam War. None had iconic photos; newer books had a few. Almost no books have *any* coherent perspective on the war, like "why we went to war"; one line was "War broke out, and the US got involved." He emphasized he wasn't criticizing the books for not agreeing for him, but for failing to answer questions like "why were we at war, what did people think about it", etc. He also noted a case of duplicate text, probably from two publishers using the same freelancer. Those authors on books? They probably didn't write the book. Especially in cases where the putative author is, like, dead. But even living ones are likely signing ghostwritten stuff and collecting checks without even knowing what's in the book, because who wants to read 1000 pages written by anonymous ghostwriter committee?

He borrows a couple of useful words from Kiswahili, for concepts common to many African societies: sasha, the "living dead" or recently departed, and zamani. Sasha aren't zombies, they're dead people whom living people remember, and who can be talked about or have their likenesses portrayed by people who knew them. When the last person who knew you dies you pass into the zamani, the generalized ancestors who are collectively revered. Richard Nixon is sasha, George Washington is zamani. You don't need all that to express the concept of "textbooks are shy to talk about recent history that living people lived through", but they're neat words anyway.

He says the textbooks tend to end on vapid optimistic notes of progress, and says the later textbooks are actually worse on environmental issues.

Loewen also had really interesting chapters on the erasue of anti-racism. I.e. there's a narrative of progress on racial issues which is belied by the facts: Reconstruction was a local high point of whites trying to help blacks, and of blacks holding office (that does get mentioned a bit), which then plunged into a nadir in the 1920s-1950s where it was inconceivable that whites would have done such things. So of course "carpetbaggers" had to be venal and out for profit, not risking their lives to teach ex-slaves how to read, and John Brown moved from saint to madman. Talks about how much slavery drove US history, like the push for expansion and the Mexican-American War, and the Seminole Wars not because whites wanted to take the Everglades per se but because the Seminole were a refuge for runaway slaves to escape to, and that couldn't be allowed. Indian syncretism, and Indian slavery (of Indians, or by Indians) get short shrift in texts too.

See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/374952.html#comments


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Sep. 21st, 2013 08:19 am (UTC)
ike "why we went to war"

I blame the French.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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