By ALEXANDER DOLITSKY
Essential social concepts provide the background, foundation, and historic context of our country. These concepts should be discussed in our schools and in society at large.
I would like today to address three such concepts: Appreciation of history, interpretation of truth and fact, and understanding of the criterion 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 inasmuch as it allows us to understand our relationship with the past and to other societies and cultures. History explains the pattern of the nations’ emergence and growth. It gives us facts and allows us to search for underlying causes of historic events. It is also poetic, in the sense that we all have inborn curiosity and a sense of wonder about the past.
But what do the politics of the past matter to men and women in the 21st century? What relevance have Tsar Nicholas II, Woodrow Wilson, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or Winston Churchill to modern people with modern concerns? Nowadays it is fashionable in many circles to deny that historical study has intrinsic value. 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; on 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, holocaust 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. Indeed, modern journalists should rely and base their observations and reporting on facts, not on the abstract, manipulated, and often fabricated “truths” promoted heavily in this country by left-wing journalists.
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,” “Project 1619,” and “white privilege,” and “critical race” doctrines into their teaching curriculums. This neo-Marxist type of teaching will accomplish two main objectives: (1) racial segregation among our youth, and (2) hatred of the historic past of our nation. It is imperative to acknowledge and understand, in contrast, 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.
Here is an interesting chart, created by Google Books Viewer as an attempt to digitize the world’s libraries, about truth, reality, and facts (showing English language usage trends over centuries). As the chart indicates, facts overtook truth around 1900, but then around 2000, truth started to overtake facts again. Reality, however, is the dark horse, hanging in the back for almost 200 years, but now overtaking facts (since 2000) and even gaining on truth somewhat.
On Understanding of Beauty and its Social Application
The concept and criterion 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 to us, 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. The firewood makes our house warm and cozy, and we appreciate this source of beauty.
In short, 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 the 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.
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 1976; 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. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. 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 (see www.aksrc.homestead.com) from 1990 to present. He has conducted about 30 field studies in various areas of the former Soviet Union (including Siberia), Central Asia, South America, Eastern Europe and the United States (including Alaska). Dolitsky has been a lecturer on the World Discoverer, Spirit of Oceanus, andClipper Odyssey vessels in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. He was the Project Manager for the WWII Alaska-Siberia Lend Lease Memorial, which was erected in Fairbanks in 2006. He has published extensively in the fields of anthropology, history, archaeology, and ethnography. His more recent publications include Fairy Tales and Myths of the Bering Strait Chukchi, Ancient Tales of Kamchatka; Tales and Legends of the Yupik Eskimos of Siberia; Old Russia in Modern America: Russian Old Believers in Alaska; Allies in Wartime: The Alaska-Siberia Airway During WWII; Spirit of the Siberian Tiger: Folktales of the Russian Far East; Living Wisdom of the Far North: Tales and Legends from Chukotka and Alaska; Pipeline to Russia; The Alaska-Siberia Air Route in WWII; and Old Russia in Modern America: Living Traditions of the Russian Old Believers; Ancient Tales of Chukotka, and Ancient Tales of Kamchatka.