The Ukraine War — So How Do We Write History Now?
Are there 10 sides to every story?
It was the middle of the working day. I bent forward with a frown on my face, hearing the triple-buzz on WhatsApp. I was startled when I saw an acquaintance of mine (Kiran) re-tweet a picture that he had seen on Twitter. He then forwarded that tweet to me, accompanied by a barrage of his own (much sought after) commentary scrolling down my WhatsApp feed, clearly intending to stoke my troubled mind. Then came the links (below) which lent credence to his arguments. I couldn’t wait !! I was already dialing his number.
Vigilante punishment spreads in Ukraine
Images of people being tied to poles and subsequently beaten and humiliated have spread on social media in recent weeks…
Kiran : I read your latest blog post, you are a shameless Nazi sympathizer !!
Me: What !! I beg your pardon.
Kiran: You focus too much on the mainstream media while crimes being committed by Ukrainian nationalists go unreported.
Me: Okay, what crimes are you talking about?
Kiran: You deliberately ignore the links I send you. Did you know that members of the Roma community and other minorities in Ukraine are being targeted and attacked by Ukraine nationalists? Some of them even are tied to poles and have their faces painted!!
Me: Oh Sorry!! I was too busy watching Mariupol being bombed into oblivion by Russian forces and reading about thousands of its residents killed and displaced. Sorry if I am not overtly sensitive to what you’re showing me.
Kiran: There you go again! Repeating what CNN and BBC report day-in and day- out — you’re starting to sound like a broken record. These are media outlets that have been constantly upping their western propaganda game now more than ever.
Me: What kind of alternate universe are you living in? Don’t you see what’s happening on TV, how can you be oblivious of that?
Kiran: Oh I do. But I also follow social media, Do you?
Me: Aaaah Okay !! You mean those wannabe citizen journalists who point their mobile phones in the direction of sensational news whenever they see it, and upload whatever they capture to Twitter/Instagram? Is that what you call news? Is that where I am supposed to get my daily feed from, random uploads with absolutely no context, with no big picture?
Kiran: You should occasionally check out stories on Twitter. Common people lack any intent to twist or manufacture news. They just report it as it happens around them. They do not write any op-eds like journalists do nor do they have any of the fancy equipment like state-run media or corporate-influenced media houses do.
Me: So are you saying that common people do not have their own agenda? They must be saints !! Let’s assume that what you’re saying you’re true. Without the big picture nor any context on what’s going on around them, what will they report? What kind of story will they tell?
Kiran: Mario!! I don’t know, but maybe it’s time — we listened !!
And that’s when I sat back on my chair, sipped my cold black coffee, and pondered over what was said. The Empires that had come and gone were always a projection of military power, right from the Romans to the last colonials. The Barbarians that eventually replaced the Roman Empire were no less ruthless than the Romans were. Little is said though, about the North African coastal region colonies or parts of Asia Minor that were conquered by the all-powerful Roman army.
As they say, history is written by the victors.
The most horrific genocides of the last century have been documented and there are no ambiguities about who the perpetrators were or why these crimes were committed. However, times have changed and technology has now enabled multiple newsfeeds. Empowered citizen journalists who go after the truth may find events occurring around them incomprehensible to their small minds and could serve as the much-needed sounding board for drowned-out voices.
How does one write history when there are so many alternate, yet convincing arguments for 10 sides of the same story. How do we impress upon the future the rigidity of a narrative, when the whole shape and form of the global town-square has changed.
Maybe, it’s time we allowed it to. Perhaps journalists need to get back to just reporting the news with lesser window dressing. Of course, there will always be columnists with their ratcheted-up opinions. The time has truly come for to us listen to all sides — even that of the casual onlooker who captures violent scenes from his mobile that will mostly go unreported.
Generations to come need to see the world in 360 degrees for what it truly is, not through a specific lens. Let future generations know of the horrors of war, the injustice of it, and the bitter taste it leaves in its wake for decades. Let it sicken them enough to never starting one.
Yes, let there be — 10 sides to every story.