History, forgivennes and power


History is subject to a perrenial double reading. As an agent of understanding leading to forgiveness and an agent of understanding leading to power. The two are contradictory and mutually exclusive, because forgiveness allowance, absorbtion, a toleration of illness. Forgiveness is a palliative, power is a health. Power is dangerous unless it encompasses everything.


History describes a landscape of obstacles and it describes journeys over that landcape. The next stage is for history to become the bed of politics. History becomes politicised. It imagines reasons for the way things happen and why they happened that way. From the manure of these reasons politics grows into a system of relative priorities. There are two basic options: One can use the description to understand what happened allow understanding to become an act of forgiveness. This way one can be tolerant towards the disbalances that have arisen out of the habit of that history. Depending on the scale of the disbalance such an attitude can lead to a benign tolerance or foolhardy tolerance. Or one can use the history not to excuse the failure of people on account of the height of the obstacles but formulate collective and inclusive strategies of mutual cooperation to scale the obstacles and overcome them. That is a large power. And as to the mistakes of the past?


“What’s compressed in 300 years of Caribbean experience is enormously epical. We’ve had our extinct aboriginals, the Caribs and Arawaks; our holocaust; slavery, indenture; migration. We’ve had our Battles: (...) But that concept of history is based on absurdity: massacre, death. Walcott insists the Antilles have another kind of history, the sea keeping no records or ruins. “In a big powerful country with a `history’, the ruins are more important than the people. We don’t have that, because we weren’t `great’ in that sense. And it’s good: it annihilates the idea of history as progress. Here there is only the primal blessed exprience of waking up to the reality of the earth.”


A quotation from an interview with Maya Jaggi in 1997.