By Alexander B. Dolitsky

By Alexander B. Dolitsky

Opinion: Appreciation of history, truth and fact and understanding of beauty

  • Tuesday, November 9, 2021 1:55pm
  • Opinion

By Alexander B. Dolitsky

Today, our schools, and society at large, should be discussing essential social concepts that provide a background, foundation and historic context of the landscape in our country. I would like to address three imperative concepts: appreciation of history, interpretation of truth and fact, and understanding of the criteria of beauty and its social application

About appreciation of history

Many students of history ask, “What is a practical application of history?” Unfortunately, there is no simple answer because history is not simply a recording of facts and events; nor is it merely a logical classification of data in a chronological order. History is the development and evolution of mankind from the past through present and to future. History forms a picture of what has happened to mankind from its origin to the present moment.

History is functional in as much as it allows us to understand our relationship with the past and to other societies and cultures. History reveals a pattern of the nation’s emergence and growth. It gives us facts and allow us to search for underlying causes of historic events. It is also poetic, in the sense that we all have an inborn curiosity and sense of wonder about the past.

But what do the politics of the past matter to modern men and women in the 21st century? What relevance have Tsar Nicholas II, Woodrow Wilson, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Winston Churchill to modern concerns? Nowadays, it is fashionable in many circles to deny that there is an intrinsic value in historical study. Yet, whenever statesmen, administrators, educators, politicians or journalists wish to convince the public of the rightness of their actions, they appeal to history. It is important, therefore, how history is written and who writes it. We need reliable and accurate guides to the past.

The past could be viewed as a foreign country or different culture. The attitudes and behavior of historical figures are often alien to present generations. On the other hand, we should remember that the past was also peopled with foreigners — in the sense that most people lived in closely knit national, regional or even tribal communities — with access to much less information about events and conditions elsewhere in the globe than we have today. To these people, the world outside their communities often looked exotic and strange. At one level, this distance from foreigners fostered a romantic zeal for exploration; at another, it encouraged xenophobic resentment and murderous hatred.

The 20th century saw the occupants of the planet Earth come to know more about each other than ever before. But it also witnessed genocide and mass destruction. It is important, therefore, that we understand how these two contradictory developments came about in the historic context.

On Interpretation of truth and fact

The crucial distinction is not the difference between fact and fiction, but the distinction between fact and truth. Fact can exist without human knowledge, intelligence or interference (e.g., gravity, speed of light, or other natural laws of physics), but truth cannot.

I don’t think truth exists in any significant or objective way; truth is subjective. Reality is not about truth, but about the relationship of facts to one another.

Today, many radical school teachers believe themselves to be teaching the “truthful” history of the world, including American history. They aggressively and unwisely inject divisive concepts of gender identity, systemic racism, The 1619 Project, collective justice and white privilege and critical race theory doctrines into their teaching curriculums. This neo-Marxist type of teaching accomplishes two main objectives—racial segregation among our youth and hatred of our nation’s historic past. It is imperative to acknowledge and understand, however, that world events must be interpreted and understood in the historic context of their time, relying on facts rather than on subjective “truth” wrapped into neo-Marxist ideology.

On understanding of beauty and its social application

The concept and criteria of beauty is subjective to every individual. For some, the color blue is beautiful, for others green. I enjoy classical music. Heavy metal gives me a headache. This is why, in America, we exercise a freedom of individual choice and individual appreciation of beauty. Beauty is not a group phenomenon. Thus, for example, no government policy can make me prefer color green to blue.

The world may be beautiful or it may be dismal to us. It depends on the view we take, or the way we look at things. We may see beauty in everything, even in a truckload of wood that is just being unloaded at our door, while others may see a dirty load of logs—lacking in beauty. The firewood makes our house warm and cozy, and we appreciate this source of beauty.

The appreciation of beauty is the ability to see the good and beautiful in the objects which on the surface may not appear attractive. It is important, therefore, that we cultivate this ability to see in other people qualities that lie buried beneath the surface of what we may think is an “unattractive individual.” Beauty is present in every color, race, physical shape and nationality.

Disscussion

Just like beauty, truth also is “in the eye of the beholder.”

Although history is created by facts (i.e., independent of human minds), history becomes a story told by storytellers, and the biases and viewpoints of the storytellers become a part of that history; and what people remember of those stories depends on their own biases and viewpoints, too. So, history, too, is “in the eye of the beholder.”

History can be rewritten to be politically correct, and once the new story becomes the one people have learned, it becomes moot whether it really happened. Indeed, today we are living in the bleak dystopia of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” The novel about the dangers of totalitarianism, warns against a world governed by propaganda, surveillance and censorship.

The job of Winston Smith (the protagonist in the George Orwell’s novel), while working for the Records Department of the Ministry of Truth, was to rewrite historical documents so they match the constantly changing current party line. This involves rewriting newspaper articles and doctoring photographs (i.e., rewriting history) so they would correspond with whatever new history was being told today.

In fact, truth and history tied together by facts can simply be rewritten by clever progressive activists in order to change history. This is a reality of the today’s progressive movement wrapped into the neo-Marxist ideology.

Alexander B. Dolitsky was born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union. He received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1977; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and was enroled in the Ph.D. program in anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; social studies instructor at the Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center from 1990 to present. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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