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Why Study History?

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A belief among many Black youth is that Black and European history have no relevance. For those who say: “The past has gone and it’s the here and now that is important,” I suggest they pause to think of their earliest ancestors in Africa face to face with a lion.

Who would have the best chance of survival -- the earliest caveman who knew nothing about the lion he faced or that cave man’s offspring who saw the lion walk up to their Dad and eat him alive?

The correct answer is the offspring who was smart enough to study the habits and nature of lions in order to be able to defend himself. Everybody else was eventually eaten by the lion.

The beginning of getting what you want and not getting what you do not want is to realize that human’s nature and animal’s nature and nature’s nature are exactly the same today as they were thousands of years ago.

This means that every Black youth is still faced with the same categories of problems -- survival, health, companionship, competition, and the like. In each of these categories everybody has always had the same feelings and emotions.

How these feelings and emotions were expressed depended upon their culture but, in general, everybody’s actions and reactions were the same. Each of these statements represent a principle. Principles are fundamental truths.

It is from principles that ancient Africans fashioned Common Sense. In this context, “common sense” means that aspect of reality recognized by all reasonable members of a given culture who have a similar view of how its members should behave.

African’s most important principles were:

(1) that there is one universal high God;

(2) that every human being is made in the image of God;

(3) that every person, by sharing God’s image, is spiritually related; and

(4) that a person is defined as human by performing actions that lead to harmony.

To ancient Africans, the internalization of these four constituted a mentally and spiritually healthy person. These four also represented a structural framework around which one ought to design one’s life in order to have the right relations with and behaviors toward others regarding folkways (customs not related to morals) and mores (rules of a moral nature).

Another name for the ancient African structure of values is an Archetype (i.e. the original model).

This archetype did four things for its people.

First, it served as a standard against which one’s behaviors are compared for similarities and differences.

Second, it was a guide, like that of a map or the “north star” light for maneuvering through the maze of life.

Third, it was a provider of a system of values which helped direct one into making life-shaping choices.

Fourth, it was a pattern against which the behaviors of others could be judged.

Studying history shows you, for example, the brilliant outcome of ancient African values; their approaches methods, techniques and manners; their types of problems encountered in using and not using it; and the various ways people fared who did and did not use it.

Knowing this helps you to recognize the people who do and do not use it. Also you can do the troubleshooting to find out where and when you failed from either not using it or using it improperly.

This is the method designed by the smart offspring of the cavemen in order to survive and thrive in life. These are the reasons for studying history and the humanities in and outside of school.

Wise youth modify pertinent information gained from history to fit their individual situation. Studying History Is The Single Best Way To Gather Principles From Which You Can Fashion The Way To Live Your Life.

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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