“The past is alive — it never goes away.”
– Aung San Suu Kyi, Oxford, 20 June 2012
One of the benefits of moving around a lot as a child (which I did) is that history changes from country to country. Like changing TV channels.
In my nine schools I studied the French Revolution three times. I enjoyed it each time. But each time was only a pale imitation of the time before.
However, I think the prize goes to my economics professor in France, Monsieur Berubé who taught me the most about how fluid history can be. He was an avowed French Communist (which in 1979 was different from a Russian or Cuban communist.) And his lectures on politics, history and… well we didn’t really do much economics… were remarkable. Everything I thought I knew was wrong.
And in the “re-writing history stakes”, I won’t even bother to mention how football fans, teenage girls or my utility company. They all seem to find rewriting the past to be great fun.
Today I read that companies are also coming under fire for creating back stories. Abercrombie — can you believe it — wasn’t a company that made dark teenage nightclubs in 1892! Cobra isn’t really Indian beer.
I know, next you’ll be saying pasta’s not Italian, or Shakespeare didn’t write his own plays.
My question is “how alive is history”?
Although founded in 2008, Able and How has quite an elaborate back story. It goes back to the early 1900s. Our company events are named after our ‘founders’ and their photos hang in our offices. Dear Leaders Hugo and Mabel.
Is it real? No. Does anyone fall for it? I don’t know. But it does represent our respect for history.
As Mitt Romney’s people would say, we do stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. And although our corporate history is entirely fictional, it does represent an understanding of what got us here. And, in a strange way, an appreciation that history is important.