Lesson 118: The partiality of recorded history
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 2/11 ('Contagion')


On a distant planet where warring cultures had managed to totally destroy themselves, to extinction, Capt. Picard discovers technology still active that is able to shed new light on the history of the warring species.

Capt. Picard conjectures from the evidence found that perhaps the so-called hostile warriors on the planet may actually not have been hostile at all, but made to appear hostile by the surviving descendents of the planet now living elsewhere.

Capt. Picard states that victors write their history invariably to their own advantage, always in favor of themselves and usually cast themselves as heroes or even victims, but never villains and aggressors.


Not only do the spoils belong to the victor, but in cases of war, also the rights to author their version of the truth for history to remember.

If a man were to incite the masses to overthrow the government, is he a rebel or a revolutionary freedom fighter? Depending on the name of the antagonist, it is usually our own personal prejudice and not the truth of history that will answer this question.

Lest that statement sounds too harsh, ask yourself how you would label these leaders of men who overthrew established governments - William Wallace, Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, and George Washington.

If the US indigenous Cheyenne & Sioux nations ruled the US today, would the battle at Little Big Horn in 1876 still be called a massacre?

If Japan had won World War II, would the battle of Bataan in 1942 be viewed as a crowning moment of glory with no mention of the Bataan Death March?

If Napoleon's empire had survived the loss at the battle of Waterloo in 1815, would the term 'Napoleon's Waterloo'' reflect a positive and perhaps winning connotation today?

What if the battle at Yorktown was not the final struggle of the American Revolutionary war, and today, the people of the US all spoke with British accents and still bowed to the Crown of England, would the battle at Yorktown still be called a Siege or the Final Rebellion of the Insurgent Colonists?

In order for the truth to be recorded as history, pure unadulterated objectivity must replace passion and personal opinion.

This is almost an impossible task for us humans. We are quick to blame others and prone to praise our own. In situations where we have a dog in the race, we always choose the track that favors our entrant.

This jingoistic view of the world knocks us off the wall of neutrality and lands us on one side or the other in recording victories as massacres and massacres as victories, depending on, as Capt. Picard said, who writes the history.

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