Reading Historical Narratives as a Loser

History has many losing parties. This is a reflection of the losers on reading history.

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A wise person in the field of history once says that history belongs to the winners. As a West Papuan, and a history buff this explains my aversion of reading the history of my own people. Especially the more contemporary ones, starting from the integration of West Papua (then Nieuw Guinea) into Indonesia. The reason for this aversion is simple: I’m the loser in the story. Well, my people are, and I share this sentiment.

Let me tell you how reading a historical narrative feels when you’re the loser. The closest analogue that comes to mind is witnessing an accident in slow motion. All you can do is silently watch it unfold before your eyes. You know something bad is happening, but you cannot stop it. And reading the historical narrative is reliving this experience over and over again.

The thing about reading the historical narrative is that it is painful. As someone who loses, reading its narrative is a walk through to your downfall. As if the current mess we’re now in is not enough as a reminder. We’re here right? Still living the consequences of our loss and inevitably designing what-if scenarios in our head. What if we won? Would life be kinder? Would we cherish our history the way the patriots seem to?

This phenomenon is common. I suspect the Native American tribesmen and women experience this whenever they read their history. I suspect the Aborigines in Australia go through the same pain and agony everytime they read their history. It’s difficult not to have aversion, especially when your loss (seems to be) permanent.

You may try to negotiate with the facts, making peace with how everything unfolds, but in the end reading historical narratives still hurt you. The fact that it is real is will not go along the way in consoling you. It’s as if reality is kicking you over and over saying: you lose, honey, and here’s how that happened.

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