Author Archives: jang96

Silencing the Past

Whether it is because it’s the last book of the semester, or because of mere lack of understanding, I found Silencing the Past difficult to follow. Or perhaps it’s the repeated references to American history that is alien to me. But here goes.
In Silencing the Past, Michael-Rolph Trouillot wrties about how historians write history, and what history really is, and how certain aspects of history are “silenced”, which means that the bits that are not silenced is what we in the present know or perceive as history.
According to Trouillot, “at best, history is a story about power, a story about those who won” (Pg.5), which is something I was told back in high school, and to this day I believe it to be true. For example, most education systems in the present teach students about the events of the two world wars, mostly from the point of the victorious allies.
I found it quite fascinating to read about how Trouillot believes that, “history is another form of fiction is almost as old as history itself”, and then compares truth and fiction: “If I fabricate such sources…I have not written fiction, I have produced a fake” (Pg.5). However, what is the difference between a fake, and fiction? Fiction, by definition is a form of literature that is based on something that isn’t real- imaginative narration. I struggle to see how it differs from a “fake”, is it not also something that is not real, and is a form of imaginative narration?

Rousseau: The natural man

From reading Rousseau’s A Discourse on inequality,  I found it interesting how Rousseau’s idea of a man in the natural state differs from that of Hobbes in Leviathan. Rousseau suggests two principles: first, that one’s “own wellbeing” and “own preservation” (70) are man’s main concerns in a natural state. And second, that man does not like to witness, “any other sentient being perish or suffer, especially if it is one of our kind” (70). Man is suggested to be almost animalistic in nature, and is concerned with his own well-being. Despite this self-concern, Rousseau also claims that men care for the lives of others. As long as a man’s own interest in his life is not threatened, “he will never to harm to another man or indeed to any other…” (71).

This view differs greatly from Hobbes, making his views conveyed in Leviathan seem almost cynical and even critical of men in their natural state. According to Hobbes, men are motivated by fear of fellow men and by their fear of death. Men have a strong desire, or appetite for power, which Hobbes juxtaposes with fear.

These two vastly contrasting arguments both raise interesting points. According to Rousseau, we are both primal, yet we seem to care for others as long as we are not at risk ourselves. However Hobbes highlights man’s greed and hunger to seize power from fellow men. This made me raise questions of humans in our natural state: are we really constantly in fear of death? Or are such fears only possible to have once we are out of the natural state, as according to Rousseau? Even now, I’d argue that we do not have a concrete answer to what we really are in our natural state.