Sunday, January 13, 2008

Bad Student of History

DvF-M: You're a bad student of history.
Me: I'm not a student of history! I'm a student of biology! And sometimes of culture.

There's a back-story about this. I said I didn't like learning about wars throughout history. I was more interested in learning about inventions and socio-cultural developments/changes. Frankly, learning about wars themselves bore me to death. Of all the things I learn in history classes, wars are too often one of the first things I forget. I'm just wholly uninterested. I don't mind learning about the events leading up to wars or the consequences and aftermaths of wars; I just find learning about the wars themselves boring.

DvF-M thinks this is an aberration or something. Wars are dynamic - a mechanism of rapid and exciting change. Technology advances, progress is made, political structures change, etc. One of the reasons he finds Chinese history more boring is that, to him, it "fast forwards" quickly from time period to time period. It goes from one invention/development to the next, as there aren't many wars (of significance) that are talked about. To him, European and American history are much more interesting because of all the wars.

Interesting how I find the exact opposite to be true for me. American history is so boring. I hated learning American history; and I forget most of it. European history is pretty cool, lots of stuff happened other than the wars. But I find Chinese history (or Asian history in general) fascinating. Then again, I may be biased. What I find interesting is how different Chinese history developed in contrast to the West ever since its beginning. I like learning about the evolution of Chinese culture and how gradual it develops.

To me, wars represent the worst in humanity. Yes, it brings about great changes. But at what cost? Is that cost worth it? And when technological advancements are often in weaponry, is that progress? Is the ability to cause more death easier and quicker progress? Arguably, lots of other things resulted as a "byproduct" of wars, such as the space race, radar, etc. I argue that some of the best human developments weren't the result of wars. The invention of language and particularly written language. The development of medicine. Culture, art, philosophy, science, social changes, economic changes, etc. These things are perhaps more subtle, but no less interesting nor important.

And part of this might be because I am a student of biology, the study of life. Unnatural death is an aberration; the potential for global warming to cause a mass extinction is an aberration. And as a pre-med (hopefully med student soon-ish), wars and unnecessary deaths are antitheses to me. I don't tell my ROTC roommate (RG-M) about any of this, though I suspect he knows my position.

So anyway, I'm apparently a bad student of history because I don't like wars and find learning about them uninteresting. So I don't like learning about when lots of people die for the same damn reasons throughout history in more or less similar ways. Is that so wrong?

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