History, freedom, ethics

By Yousuf Awadh Al-Azmi

“Freedom is the spirit of the ethical stand, and without freedom there are no ethics, mastery, creativity and duty.” – Mustafa Mahmoud

I wonder sometimes what is the relationship between ethics and the science of history, and are ethics a science? Here I will talk about examples of several persons and wonder how they will write history. I, of course, am not speaking about the inaccurate saying that history is written by the victorious, as for sure it is not an accurate saying. This particular expression brings out questions about who is victorious and who is defeated, and has the victorious really gained victory, or is it just gaining points? Is the defeated really defeated, or is it just on paper? Moreover, what is the aspect of victory and defeat?

I will refer you to an event that is going on now, in front of the world and on cameras – the military operations in Ukraine following the Russian invasion a few months earlier. I ask you here – who is victorious and who is defeated?

Do not talk to me about the Russian newspapers, as they talk about victories. The Ukraine media do not only speak about victories, but that they repelled the enemy’s attack. So let us pause for a moment and ask – are victory and defeat linked to attack and defense? Is every attacker victorious, and every defender defeated? Do not hasten your answer, and standardizing will be in history books. But on which history will you measure, that of the victorious or the defeated? The history of the attacker or the defender?

Each party in such international wars claims victory, justifies it, constructs the unknown solider monument and places flowers on it. Do not think with the mentality of the state that claims victory, and it is for sure that countries that admit defeat are rare, and there is no doubt they will not admit it except when the defeat is considered a catastrophe or totally decisive – what took place in Germany and Japan following the World War in the last century is a clear example.

Back to the science of history and its relation to ethics, be sure that the writer of history is a human being who has good deeds and inclinations, takes correct steps and makes mistakes – not an angel for sure – and has like us certain tendencies, be they personal or at the race or country level. Also, what is important here is that does this person face certain pressures, such as pressure by a political or a security system?

It is not an easy matter. It is not just to write several pages, commend this and criticize that. It is something much bigger. I believe the ethics of the history writer is what decides the level of credibility and lies in their history writing, and I do not doubt that. There is another question too, as questions are endless: What about the author who is commissioned by a political authority to write a history book about an event or a country? The answer is easy: Not fit for reading and is unreliable. Why? Because writing history is simply not an administrative decision issued by someone, then paying a reward to the writer!

Am I being strict with my opinion? I also ask you – do you expect the supposed historian to write all the pros and cons, or will they write what the reward payer likes? Freedom is the air an history writer breathes, and without freedom, you are in front of an administrative employee – you dictate them decisions, and they write them, no more!

No knowledge, development or credibility comes with repression, and it is not possible for the restricted to write freely, as the most sublime degrees of ethics is to be free! The relationship of history with ethics is like the relationship of man with water – will you be able to live without water?

Check Also
Back to top button