Md Tamhidul Islam
The undying argument regarding who was the first originator of the quote, “History is always written by the victors,” is perhaps the most precisely nuanced anecdote in support of the notion that might is right. As cliché as it sounds, the broader implications of both these proverbs put together is impossible to ignore.
Winston Churchill is most famously associated with being the author of the quote despite there not being any evidence being found in proposition of his authorship. The question is, why him and not Hermann Göring, Churchill’s enemy in World War II — who, unlike Churchill, had
various documents backing the claim of his authorship over the quote?
Is it simply because Churchill came out victorious in the war, having vanquished Hermann and subsequently making his statements, biased assumptions, and jokes cracked in the House of Commons more concrete? Unlike the traumas of war, we can relive the history of wars through
literature, movies, cultural norms, etc. Unfortunately for us and for history, none of these mediums are truly unbiased, unchanged, unfabricated.
War in itself is filthy enough to hit the core of a human being and move it towards a turbulent sea of vehement emotions. It is, in fact, true in a majority of cases that “winners” of wars get to shape the narrative that rises in the near future as “history” because they hold the power of interpretation, validation, and deletion. Even though no war is ever truly won because all engaging parties inevitably lose out on certain principles, ethical behaviour, and most definitely peace, the comparatively less worse off get away with the power of telling the tale and shaping how that tale ought to be perceived.
Shakespeare, for instance, had the privilege of portraying Richard III as the quintessential evil, and Henry as the quintessential patriarch in his drama Richard III because Henry won the battle between the York and Lancaster families. The contention lies within the acceptance of the fact that the action itself is much more significant than its impacts. Richard III, despite being an effective and popular administrator, has to arbitrarily face the wrath of confirmation bias turning him into a monstrous being only for history to be beneficial to the sitting monarch of England, Elizabeth I.
As politically incorrect as it sounds and probably is, white-washing the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions was both feasible and carried out due to its stemming from the idea of inherent superiority which is bestowed on the victorious side in a war. While such acts of demolishing what’s true might seem like simplistic war weaponry which a side has strategically unlocked and perhaps achieved, it doesn’t change the bottom-line: The immediate next generation and the ones coming after that won’t learn about the Ottoman Empire in the EU, and the North American School Systems won’t get in touch with the history of the Indigenous North-American tribes predating the arrival of the Spaniards, Dutch, Portuguese, and English. A portion of earth will never be able to look up the true Hebrew, Babylonian, and Akkadian history.
Linearly put, just like George Orwell warned us in 1984, we never get to shape our opinions, thoughts, and perceptions. It’s always the interpretation of what we know as truth, and sadly, such interpretations are also predominantly framed by the victorious side, mostly due to their geopolitical advantages, leverages in the power spectrum, economic backings, and so on.
For the sake of argumentation, if we make the assumption with a grain of salt, in certain instances, the “losing” side did get to shape the story. Unfortunately, it turns out, the losing side in these cases also turned out to be blessed with the attached privileges and ended up deliberately using them to suppress the flip side of the coin.
In the American civil war or the Vietnam War, we notice classic examples of how the US lost or at least suffered from more casualties and still got away with reflecting upon themselves as the protagonist superhero entering to save the day in the name of patriotism. Somehow, in the process, the Vietnamese became known as farmers who stood no chance, and the whole struggle ended up being downplayed.
The expenditure of the seven hundred words above, for me, concludes in one scenario — we are growing up watching Sony Ten Sports, and India always wins. Why? Because any match in which the glorious side loses is automatically discarded off the highlight reels, and we’re unconditionally conditioned to believe that India never loses a match. The bigger picture here ends in the death of the smallest. Millions of screams unheard, countless explanations buried, immeasurable suffering deemed irrelevant. War is dirty, the motives behind wars are dirty, and tactics used in wars are dirty. However, feelings, views, and reality aren’t.
Tamhidul is a part-time teen economist and a full-time meme connoisseur with plenty of time at hand to discover the planet’s secrets. He is also a part of the TDA Editorial team. Reach out to him at [email protected]