History in hindsight

Most of my what I write, comes from a discussions that I have that I can’t stop thinking about. I recently was talking to one of my oldest and closest friends. Somewhere in between our conversation moved towards about everything that has gone wrong over the last few years, things that are still going wrong around us.

That reminded me of other conversations I have had with people, looking at things around them with a very simplistic view, and the benefit of hindsight. A topic that always comes up, is the economic situation of India, and what we could have done better. Over the last year a lot of people, have been trying to tell me that everything India has been doing since Independence has been wrong. We could have been a superpower, if not for XYZ.

On the other hand, I have been deeply involved with understanding, politics, economics and history of the world during the same last year. The more I read, the more I understand the problems with giving opinions on hindsight. The phase is over, you now have the results, it is always going to be easier taking a decision now.

Often people form opinions and crucify others without having the context in which they operated. They have the knowledge and facts that were not available to the group of people who actually took the decisions. We are fed arguments without seeing the other conclusion, or arguments that have little to do with the actual circumstances. The Belief Bias, the tendency to judge arguments based on plausibility of conclusion, rather than how strongly they support the argument grows higher.

While looking at history in hindsight, it is easy to understand the results of the decisions, but was it equally easy then. We today have internet, so all information is easily accessible, but can someone really be sure of the outcomes in the future? When you look at history, always try to look at the broader perspective. History does not play out in a narrow perspective of a single person, or a small group of people. Is plays out from between millions of people, with different perspectives and in a different era. The mindset or people, their cultures the society around plays an equally important role. To get a deeper understanding of how to understand history, I would definitely recommend reading Horizontal History . It elaborates on how history has to be taken in a certain context.

The last century, especially the last 2 decades have made information readily available for everyone, but it was not the same always. Before you take a position, understand the era from all perspectives. Try to put yourself in that place and think about how people used to live, the kind of tools or technology they had, the access to information and the important events that define the time period.

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