Lessons of history

It is incredible how a conversation about events that took place in 1965 can be as heated as a disagreement on something that happened today. History stirs Greeks’ passions and drags them into arguments. The most recent example is the furor over comments made by former Premier Constantine Mitsotakis about that period. The interesting thing is that we think we have a firm grasp of the history of that stormy decade, when in fact all we know are stereotypes and cliches. There are a few basic principles we should never forget when examining history. The first is that history cannot be bound by taboos and should be open to the testimonies of everyone. Unfortunately in Greece we have been taught to believe that the «baddies» should not be given a voice. History cannot shun any historical testimony. It can corroborate or check it, but it cannot just cast it aside. The second principle is that no one is untouchable. Everyone should be treated equally, without fear or fervor. The third principle is that there is no such thing as one version of history. History cannot be explained in black-and-white terms. In Greece we have been taught all the «official versions» of recent history, and when young historians, free of ideological or party prejudice, try to research sensitive topics, they often come under fire. One thing is certain. Greeks do not know their history, especially their modern history. We are taught it through shallow journalistic presentations, the overly theoretical approaches of fanatic academics and through the mill of conspiracy theories. One day we will be mature enough so that history does not cause us such insecurity. For the time being, however, we do not know our history and this is why we have learned nothing from it.