The Importance of History

Captain Nelson Tuhafeni Kalangula

Understanding history is much like standing on the shoulders of giants with observation and anticipation of expected outcomes. It allows us to learn from the successes and failures of those who came before us, gaining valuable insights that can help us shape a better future. Here are some reasons why history is so important:

  1. Understanding the Present:
    History provides the context for understanding the world around us. It helps us explain how our societies, cultures, and governments came to be, and why things are the way they are today. Without this historical context, we are left with a fragmented and incomplete understanding of the present.
  2. Learning from Mistakes:
    History is full of examples of both triumphs and tragedies. By studying these events, we can learn from the mistakes of the past and avoid repeating them in the future. For example, studying the causes of past wars can help us prevent future conflicts.
  3. Fostering Empathy and Tolerance:
    History teaches us about the lives and experiences of people from different times and places. This can help us develop empathy and understanding for others, even those with whom we may disagree. By learning about different cultures and perspectives, we can break down barriers and promote tolerance.
  4. Inspiring Innovation:
    History is also a source of inspiration. It shows us the incredible things that people have accomplished in the past, and it encourages us to believe that we can achieve even greater things in the future. By studying the lives of those who challenges the status quo, like – artists, and many other leaders, we can learn from their creativity and determination.
  5. Promoting Civic Engagement:
    History reminds us of the importance of civic engagement. It shows us how ordinary people can come together to make a difference in the world. By studying the history of social movements and revolutions, we can learn how to fight for justice and equality.
    History is not just about memorizing dates and facts. It is about understanding the world around us, learning from the past, and shaping a better future. By studying history, we can become more informed, compassionate, and engaged citizens.
    It is clear that history has also taught us that it is written by the victor, subsequently creating an opportunity for distortion. We do not hear much of other freedom fighters other than those who went in exile. This leaves out many key figures who contributed as much if not more to the attainment of our freedom from the apartheid rule. Distorting history can have far-reaching and damaging consequences, impacting individuals, societies, and even the course of future events.

Here are some of the key disadvantages of distorting history:

  1. Undermining Trust and Legitimacy:
    When historical narratives are manipulated or fabricated, it erodes public trust in institutions and governments responsible for preserving and teaching history. This can lead to cynicism, apathy, and even social unrest.
  2. Perpetuating Prejudice and Discrimination:
    Distorted history can be used to reinforce harmful stereotypes and justify discrimination against certain groups. By erasing or misrepresenting the contributions of minority groups or portraying them in a negative light, historical distortion can fuel prejudice and hinder social progress.
  3. Hindering Reconciliation and Healing:
    Accurately acknowledging and learning from past injustices is crucial for healing wounds and fostering reconciliation. Distorting history, however, can prevent societies from confronting their darkest chapters and moving forward. This can impede efforts at peacebuilding and reconciliation, particularly in countries with a history of conflict or oppression.
  4. Impeding Critical Thinking and Informed
    A distorted understanding of the past limits our ability to critically analyse the present and make informed decisions about the future. By failing to learn from past mistakes and successes, societies are more likely to repeat the same errors.
  5. Weakening Democracy and Human Rights:
    Respect for historical accuracy and truth is essential for maintaining a healthy democracy. When history is manipulated to serve political agendas or suppress dissent, it can undermine democratic values and human rights.
    It is important to remember that history is not a fixed and unchanging narrative. However, it is crucial to ensure that historical accounts are based on evidence and strive for objectivity. By critically examining historical sources and engaging in open dialogue, we can work towards a more accurate and inclusive understanding of the past, fostering a more just and peaceful future.
    By acknowledging the dangers of distorting history and taking steps to promote accurate and inclusive historical narratives, we can ensure that future generations learn from the past and build a better future.

The Herero and Nama Struggle for Independence
When we speak of independence we often leave out the initial stages and those who carried us to our goal. The history of the Herero and Nama people in Namibia is intertwined with a long and burdensome struggle for independence, marked by both tragedy and resilience. Here’s a brief overview:

Pre-colonial times:
• Both Herero and Nama were semi-nomadic pastoralist communities with rich cultural traditions and social structures.
• They occupied vast swathes of land in present-day Namibia and South Africa.
Colonialism and German occupation (1884-1915):
• German colonization disrupted their way of life and led to land dispossession and resource exploitation.
• Resistance movements arose, culminating in the Herero and Nama War (1904-1907) against the German colonial forces.
• The war was marked by brutal German atrocities, including mass killings and concentration camps, leading to the genocide of the Herero and Nama.

South African rule and continued resistance (1915-1990):
• After World War I, South Africa took control of Namibia, perpetuating the colonial system of apartheid and discrimination.
• The Herero and Nama joined forces with other tribes (though divided in ethnic groups) and continued their struggle for independence through political organizations and armed resistance.

Independence and its aftermath (1990-present):
• Namibia finally gained independence in 1990, but the legacy of colonialism and the genocide continues to cast a shadow, due to inheritance of laws and ways to life, and perhaps a historical gap in its gain for independence narration.
• The Herero and Nama people face challenges related to land rights, reparations, and cultural identity.

Key points to remember:
• The Herero and Nama genocide remains a deeply painful chapter in Namibian history.
• Their struggle for independence is a testament to their resilience and determination.

• The fight for justice and reconciliation continues, with communities seeking recognition, reparations, and cultural autonomy.
Many who claim victory in Namibian history have come to distort and bend that history to their fitting, thus creating cliques instead of unity and consolidation. A number of Namibians feel cast out and benefit less from opportunities due to the nature of how the later told history was made to become a more exciting story. We should not forget where we come from and we should remember that history is likely to repeat itself if we do not tell the truth or leave some of the historical truth untold. May this be a year of truth to liberate our people with good knowledge of their roots and at the same time serve to restore our pride as Namibians. May we make the best out of the year of 2024.

(Captain/Flight Lieutenant Nelson Tuhafeni Kalangula is a former Namibian Air force Helicopter pilot, an Aviation Safety and Aircraft Accident investigation certificate holder, Author in the making, with a Bachelor of Commerce Honours and B-Tech Business Administration in academic qualifications.)

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