Saturday, May 9, 2009

Perak in 2109

Have you looked in a secondary school history book lately? I have to admit I had not but the events of the last week in Perak piqued my curiosity so I looked into one history book to see how we reflect on the past and what sort of stories we tell ourselves and our children about the past.

I looked at one book and came across several things about Perak. Most of all, it had to do with the establishment of the Perak sultanate, the discovery of tin, the spread of Chinese secret societies amidst growing greed and competition for the wealth in the land. Also, we get lots of details about the intrusion by the British and their ability to exploit the precarious situation in Perak for their own political and economic ends.

Frankly, it all seemed not only so distant (I suppose that’s one reason why it’s called ‘history’), but also so esoteric. Oh, I suppose to the nerds of history or even those historically inclined the long past legacies and legends of Perak make for so much intrigue and drama. Perhaps it even gives us some insights into understanding some present day Perak. Or does it really?

Picture some secondary school students in 2109. What will they study about the Perak of a century ago? What will our historians and politicians be telling these students about the Perak we witnessed in 2009, or more precisely, in May 2009  - and all that led up to it? Will it all really matter to those secondary school students in 2109? Will they care? Should they care?

I suppose one way we could consider and ponder these questions is to ask if we care about what our current history books say about Perak in 1709, 1809 or 1909. Do we bother about it? Does it really matter or is it just another set of historical scrap told in a way that some think it ought to be told and others may only see as more of some distant and esoteric story.

Do you care what story the history books in 2109 tell? Should we care?

G. Krishnan