At least that is what the winners will tell us
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 17, 2014
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, or whomever he originally heard it from, “History is written by the victors.” Regardless of who said it first, the idea is probably as old as history itself—and still the statement is ever so true. We just need to look at contemporary situations to understand that we are in a constant flux for power, and there is no simple, peaceful solution in sight; examples could be found on every continent (omitting Antarctica, of course). But should we, as outside observers, acknowledge that whether the result may be good or bad for us, the winners are still winners and should therefore be respected?
We all want to change history for the better, but what might be better for us may be worse for someone else. Let’s look back to the birth of our nation—the genocide of aboriginals. We are of course now living in a society that is the consequence of that act. For us, it no longer feels like that big of a deal, because we weren’t there suffering or struggling through the backlash of the incident.
The same goes with the Chinese head tax, which was a fee introduced in 1885 to discourage Chinese immigration. Although, I’m of Chinese descent and feel the redress offered in 2006 was a small step in the right direction, it was far from resolution. But I also feel slight passivity to fight for that cause, knowing the struggle it takes to get any recognition from the government, let alone an apology.
The people in power today are ploughing forward without taking a look back at the mess they’ve made. We are not learning from our history, but not only are we not learning from it, we are using the history itself to intimidate. The winners of the past have become bullies of the present and that is evident in the Crimean crisis in Eastern Europe.
With so many diverse groups living together and such rich history on all sides, no one is willing to back down. Will there ever be harmony in that small patch of the world? Perhaps. But if we just glance slightly to the south and a smidgen to the east and see the endless dispute in the Middle East, we can say that resolution may never happen, because a victor is never crowned. Peaceful solution simply doesn’t exist, it cannot exist. I’m not just saying this because I’m pessimistic about the human race, but because history is not built upon handshakes and compromises—it’s built upon winners and losers.
The downfalls of Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Fulgencio Batista, and Saddam Hussein, to name a few, are all examples of how the losers have paved the way for the winners. There were no handshakes—there were only executions and suicides. Ask yourself, is it likely that Kim Jong-Un and the North Korean dictatorship will simply wake up one morning and submit to Western democracy? That’s unlikely. If we want people to behave a certain way, we can rather ask or we can force. One is of course more effective than the other.
We North Americans are lucky to be living in the aftermath, as we clean up our own country and observe the destruction of others. The destruction, as our history has shown, is inevitable. We must also remember that the problems of others are not our fight. We have fought our battle and now they must fight theirs. They must, in a sense, establish their own winners and losers—and it won’t be pretty.