Donate Now

“Knowing Your History” And The Cyclical Nature Of Things

Stages of Resistance

Bianca Bagatourian Headshot-head tilts slightly down and to the left, a green splash of color behind her.
Photo by Dawn Bowery
This piece is part of a blog salon, curated by Caridad Svich, called "Stages of Resistance." 
The series welcomes reflections on themes related to making work for live performance in political and aesthetic resistance to forms and systems that oppress human rights and censor or severely limit freedom of expression. We are in increasingly hostile, volatile times around the world, and this salon hopes to serve as a space for considered, thoughtful, polemical articulations of practice and theory on the subject of resistance, the multiple meanings of political art, and the ways in which progressive, wholisitic cultural change may be instigated through artworks. Stay tuned for more!

Nowadays, I wake up feeling like I’m living inside a contemporary Greek Tragedy. But as storytellers, at least we have that – to record and report our times through our own personal sedimentation and add to the dialogue of history.

In 2008, I had the honor to work with US historian Howard Zinn, a man for whom resistance was second nature and who felt dissent was the highest form of patriotism.

After interviewing Howard for months and reading his books and studying his essays, I asked him to simply tell me the essence of all the years of his work and he said this. “To know your History.” That history is the most important thing…That without history you’re an infant in the world…A blank page.

To me, whose most hated class in school had been history, this came as a big revelation. I knew at that moment I was exactly where I needed to be and hearing what I needed to hear. He continued, “Then, when your president tells you to go to war, you can look back and think about all the other times a president has asked us to go to war and examine the outcome and make informed decisions.”

And this made me realize especially that our telling of our times, at all times, by us as writers is of vital importance. The un-linear and chaotic world stories which make the plot of our lives recede and detour with their jaggedness and sharp edges, need to be retold by us, the storytellers. Not only due to the cyclical nature of things, but also because of spiraling which can move things upwards or downwards. They need to sink into our hearts and minds, and be made our own and then retold through the filter of each of our lenses. We’re not reporters conveying information, but artists trying to make sense and reflect. That is our gift. That is our tool. The layers and perspectives of us collectively will leave a better understanding of our times than any history books. His-story isn’t just that. It needs to be her-story, our-story, everyone’s-story.