Autumn 2017 edition - page 36-37

Our perspective on historical events may
change as current events in particular, generate a
wider interest into similar events that occurred in
the past. People may re-evaluate the chronology
and build up of a past event in order to predict, with
a degree of certainty, the possible outcome of a
current one. Understanding how past events have
shaped and moulded the present serves to both
contextualise current events, and allow for a great-
er appreciation of their relevance. Although current
events may re-shape our perception of those in the
past, viewpoints also shift and deviate as a result of
the passage of time. This creates a detachment and
loss of subjectivity from an event perhaps meaning
it can be approached through another, conceivably
more atypical, lens. The passage of time also in-
creases the likelihood of discovering new evidence,
uncovering more of the overall picture of an event,
which increases the chance that our perception of it
will be changed.
Current events precipitate a need for histori-
cal revisionism, which can serve to alter our view-
point of aspects of history. The magnitude of much
of contemporary matters perhaps means people
feel obliged to investigate past events, to uncover
and appreciate parallels between the two. Acknowl-
edging the apparition of parallels means, inevitably,
there will be more understanding about how past
events came into volition. Catalysed by the start
of theWar onTerror, the BBC 2004 productionThe
Power of Nightmares strived for a comprehensive
re-evaluation of the roots of Islamic Extremism.
This was done to examine the possible reasons for
its peak in exposure at that time. Greater atten-
tion was drawn to an Egyptian civil servant Sayyid
Qutb, who “influenced the future mentor of Osama
bin Laden” to “start his own secret Islamist group.”
Without the attacks leading up to theWar onTer-
ror, the roles of figures such as Qutb may have been
overlooked, as their actions would have contributed
to very little. As it happened, the threat posed by
vocal Islamic Extremists became so tangible that an
understanding of their capability became incum-
bent upon an appreciation of their development.
Re-visiting the actions of Qutb proffers a greater
understanding as to the climate in which the foun-
dations for such a powerful organisation, were
permitted to flourish. As a result of the actions of
Al-Qaeda, we can now understand the significance
of Qutb’s actions, much more than we could have
done if al-Qaeda had been abortive as an organisa-
tion. We may now understand the implications of
contemporary events when we consider, with refer-
ence to the past, how they may impact us in the
The passage of time disconnects us from
past events, leading to alternative interpretations
as we become more objective towards unorthodox,
but nonetheless validated, viewpoints. More atypi-
cal interpretations are generally more accepted
once the absence of any connection to an event
has become apparent. This means the likelihood
of an interpretation appearing that truly alters our
perception of an event increases. German writer
Norman Ohler uncovered the prevalence of drug-
use within the Nazi hierarchy and the “Third Reich’s
relationship with cocaine and, above all, metham-
phetamines” and their effect not only on “Hitler’s
final days” but the “Wehrmacht’s successful inva-
sion of France (1940).” The Nazi Dictatorship in par-
ticular, was such a dark period of European History
that for many years subsequently, no one dared at-
tribute their actions to anything other than deeply
ingrained prejudices. However, sufficient time has
passed for people to investigate the underlying
factors contributing to the functioning of the Nazi
party, which now are more accepted as a discon-
nection and objectivity is felt towards the events
of this period. Not only that, but all investigation
into the clear-cut elements of the Nazi regime has
been exhausted, allowing for the exploration of
more atypical theories as to how they functioned
as a unit. Ohler’s research not only exposes an-
other side to the Nazi Dictatorship but also to some
extent provides both a validation for their impetu-
ous decision-making and an insight into the crux of
the Party – fairly obviously bringing into question
many of the factors influencing their actions. A very
different vision of the both the Nazi Party and their
supporters is proffered by the suggestion that drugs
perhaps had more of a hold on the Third Reich than
may have been expected.
A more sporadic shift in perspective can be at-
tributed to the discovery of both new evidence,
and data collections as we uncover more about a
historical event. Depending on the frequency and
importance of the evidence ascertained, this factor
can both transform and mildly alter our interpreta-
tion of an event. New evidence undeniably leads
to more clarification in some areas but, equally,
more doubt is cast upon other aspects on an event,
which could perhaps generate the need for more
research in order to uncover the bigger picture.
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (August 7th 1964) in
which NorthVietnamese boats allegedly attacked
US patrollers with “torpedoes and machine gun
fire,” is an example of this. It gave President Lyn-
don B.Johnson “legal justification for deploying US
conventional forces” and marked the start of “open
warfare against NorthVietnam.” However, in the
2003 documentary The Fog ofWar the US Secretary
of Defence Robert S, McNamara admitted that “the
August 4 Gulf of Tonkin attack never happened.” In
this case, the discovery of the Gulf of Tonkin reso-
lution's fabrication not only, obviously, changes
the perspective of that event, but the subsequent
events that followed. In this area, the new evidence
was hugely influential in generating the need for
research as it lead people to question the real
reasons for the US invasion of Vietnam. Further-
more, the fabrication generated more speculation
surrounding the actions of the US government, as
congressional support for involvement inVietnam
was based primarily upon this assault. The evidence
casts doubt upon not only the credibility of US De-
fence Forces but the US government too. Undoubt-
edly, the fabrication of this event influenced the
growth of the significance of questioning authority,
no matter their perceived importance.
Although the appearance of these factors
would undeniably alter our perceptions of history,
the extent to which our viewpoint can deviate is
dependent to some degree on the magnitude of
the past event itself. If at all prominent, the likeli-
hood of our perception transforming increases,
comparable with small changes if the event itself
has not had as influential repercussions. Arguably,
all three factors often interact with one another and
occur simultaneously, working together to change
the way in which we view an event. Despite this,
perhaps the most important impact of our changing
standpoints is how we take heed of them, and how
far into the future they reach.
Amelia Gamage
Adolf Hitler awards the Merit Knight Cross to his private doctor, Theodor Morell, in February 1944. Photograph:
Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Why does our perspective
on Historical events change?
1...,16-17,18-19,20-21,22-23,24-25,26-27,28-29,30-31,32-33,34-35 38-39,40-41,42
Powered by FlippingBook