Thursday, April 27, 2006

Let the people decide what actually happened (new democratic theory of Chinese history)

Here's the link in Australian Higher Education about the University of Melbourne's recent little flirtation with a sexy new theory of history, but first:

Last year in Chiang Rai three gun shots in the back of the head of three teenagers.

It woke my friend and his wife up. Everyone says that it was police executing gang members, but no one really seems to care what the truth of the matter is, maybe it was gang members killing gang members, yeah that sounds good, and in three months we'll have forgotten all about it. Right.

Meanwhile up at the university the resident postmodernist is telling me that we can never really know what actually happened. The truth, ha, ha, what is the truth?

I'm supposed to get goosebumps, a little frisson [moment of intense excitement; a shudder; an emotional thrill (source) ] from contemplating this postmodernist poetry, I suppose.

Meanwhile, people tell me about how China discovered America. Great book. You wanna read it. You don't wanna read it? Why? They don't publish books if they aren't true, you know.

Gavin Menzies is writing history with public opinion polls, marketing, salesmanship, a little arrogant "I'm going to tell ya the way it was" chutzpah, and of course the backing of the largest country in the world, that if you question, you'll be out of a job.

Is the truth really that important to you buddy? Ok don't say I didn't warn you, the next-month-you'll-be-on-the-street-and-then-definitely no-one-will-believe-you school of history.

History as good marketing, with a chorus of willing postmodernists just to get the universities' participation.

Thank god there are people who still care about the truth! Like Geoff Wade of National University of Singapore:

"Mr Menzies' history is junk, according to Geoff Wade, an Australian scholar at the National University of Singapore's Asia Research Institute who has spent more than two decades studying Ming China's relations with Asian states."

"There are no Chinese or other texts that suggest in any way that these four eunuchs, or any other Ming commanders, travelled anywhere at all beyond Asia, the Middle East and the east coast of Africa," Wade says.

"All other voyages derive solely from Mr Menzies' imagination."

"The currents, winds and dates Menzies cites in support would not have carried the ships anywhere near where he claims.

"There is no archeological, textual or archival material to support the Menzies thesis as set down in 1421."

"Wade thinks it odd that the University of Melbourne would give Menzies publicity and a forum."