History is a nonfiction narrative that reads like a novel, packed with actions, emotions, and characters, in the discovery of the universal human traits; it is both considered as parts of Humanities and Social Sciences in modern academia with the beauty of literature and the authority of science. That is why history is the most potent basis of political tool for manufacturing ideology in the form of a myth. Nazism was the proverbial example of the myth as an effective propaganda that called for the unity of the Germans. But the building of myth is not confined in the Germans; it’s an in-vogue political trend across the Seven Seas, which shoehorns ambitious political ideology into a suitably fashionable story of national pride and beguiling ethnocentrism.
Historian Michael Wood’s article “Dangerous Histories” in this month’s BBC History is the most apposite to such current revisionist view on history. In the article, his example of India, where the rise of the Hindu nationalist movement imbibes the populace with the mythical Hindu past that was claimed to be distorted by medieval Muslim conquests and British colonialism, bespeaks a danger of rewriting an untruthful history without objective facts, tempered by blind jingoism and askew ethnocentrism. In fact, such revisionist rewriting of history contributes to a powerful social cohesion of the populace in times of national crisis. It’s really a case of mass mind-control by means of myth, the imagined history tinged with false patriotism and insular outlook on the world.
History is a collective narrative of a people who have been together through thick and thin, warts and all, sharing the same culture in the same place for centuries. Thus, it shapes the sense of identity of the people among others. However, if history serves to berating peoples of other nations to claim its own cultural superiority over them and therefore rightful subjugation of their cultures, then history as the factual subject in the academia loses its force of truth and becomes no more than a propagandist manifesto of jingoism. Let history be history, not a legend. Maybe it is high time we invoked the spirit of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, who put forward factual and empirical elements in historical narratives.
Astronaut Valentina Tereshkova
Surely, it must have been the Soviet’s ambitious plan to claim superiority of its scientific advance and social progress over the capitalist imperialists. However, in recognition of its achievement, free from bias and embellishment, we should transcend the subjectivity of the political ideology and reach universal truth and applicability, which is a principle of studying history as championed by the ancient Athenian historian and general Thucydides that still reverberates down to date.
Fifty-six years ago from today was when twenty-six year old Valentina Tereshkova successfully orbited alone in a rocket named “Vostok 6” with her call sign “seagull.” It was two years after Yuri Gagarin had commenced the age of spaceship, and it was the first time of womankind to be in space. Coming from a model proletariat family of a tractor driver father killed in action in the Winter War against the Finns and a textile worker mother, Tereshkova was the “It” poster woman for the Soviet Union’s social and cultural ideological emblem. Raised by her mother, she didn’t go to school until the age of eight and left six years later to work in a local factory. It was during this period Tereshkova discovered a singular hobby of parachuting.
The Soviet authorities were looking for candidates to become the first woman to go into space two years after Gagarin’s space travel. Goddess Fortuna winked at her and inspired her to apply for the candidacy, which was the job to be had only for the asking, because she was the woman they were looking for: (1) there were relatively few she-pilots to endure the rigorous training requiring mental as well as physical strength; and (2) she was the child of a war hero whose life was sacrificed for a patriotic cause with immaculate proletariat family credentials. That is, Comrade Tereshkova was the Soviet’s ideological manifesto incarnate in all aspects.
After fifty-eight orbits lasting more than two days, Tereshkova returned to earth and found herself famous. But she deserved such recognition and respect because she demonstrated courage, go-aheaditivess, and strength eloquent of womankind in the most elegantly powerful way without brandishing a banner of feminist screed that the equality of women’s rights must be also exercised in space by orbiting in a rocket. Moreover, her non-elitist social and cultural backgrounds in comparison to those of famous Western European or American woman notables was worth noting that true equality meant for all regardless of rank and meritocracy because it would reveal everyone’s adumbral talent.