Humans have been proud to own as the master of the earth, but the ants do not think so. They are everywhere, their number is larger, they rule until the last bits of human bone marrow are swallowed, including human history. Since the emergence of mankind on Earth, the history of mankind was opened. It is a more ambitious subject that needs more exploration and archaeological evidence. Today when I try to talk about the issue with a simpler proposition, I don’t expect it to be very convincing.
The United States is one of the youngest countries on Earth. According to legend, before the arrival of the Europeans to the American continent, the ancestors of the Indians about 10,000 years ago came to North America from the northwest through the Bering Strait. In the early seventeenth century, the United Kingdom began to colonize the Americas. From George Washington who was elected the first president of the United States of America in 1774 to Barack Obama who became the 44th president in 2009, the American people have 234 years of glorious history. When we say “People have created history”, the United States is a vivid example.
At the same time, history shapes the people. Modern cities in some Western countries have “Chinatown”, which shows that, compared to other ethnic groups, the Chinese people are more likely to have their traces of history. Although the Chinese nation has always attached importance to their historical heritage, its ancient civilization still lacks the support of adequate written records. China’s government-recorded history started from the beginning of the Spring and Autumn Period. Historians generally believe that “Spring and Autumn Period” was the collective creation of Confucius and historians of the Kingdom of Lu. Confucius himself was a figure in that period; in Confucius’s writings, we can see how the ancient Chinese lived and even the life of the saints of humanity, their wisdom, as well as their daily food and other activities. In a sense, the Chinese history has shaped the image of Confucius as a sage.
History is the ancient records of past events in general terms. In other words, history is a statement of truth, the real records of what have occurred with the times of the characters and events. In addition to China, the Middle East, and European nations also attach importance to the records of history, with a view revealing how changes have taken places over time. The Bible is also a historical book. The adventurous spirit of the Germans and the Greeks not only brought us to the glory of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, but also to the acceptance of modern archaeology in the rest of the world in exploring their ancient civilizations. Even the Chinese Dunhuang culture or the birthplace of the ancient Indian Buddha was also “the Europeans found”. In contrast, people in South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia lack historical records, thus less evidence about the people of ancient Egyptian civilization, ancient Indian and Maya civilizations. We commemorate Cai Lun’s achievements, because he was the pioneer of paper making; he used bark, rags, linen and fishing nets as raw materials, greatly reducing the cost of paper, so that human civilization can be spread in a wider range of dissemination.
Herodotus, named “the father of history” , was born in Greece about the time of Confucius. In his masterpiece, “the Histories”, he declared his intention to “prevent the trace of human events from being erased by time.” That really is what history is meant to be.
Iliad and Odyssey, together called “Homer epic”, depicted the war, plague, and human wandering. Interestingly, the author Homer was a blind poet. He recorded and praised the Trojan War, its honor, respect, anger, destiny, and faith, which was the mainstay of human history. The first warrior of ancient Greece was half-human and half-god, and he fought for honor. Fate is the driving force of events. Destiny once set, the gods and heroes must follow it, often unable or unwilling to challenge it. How to determine fate is still a mystery, but the prophet often made an explanation. The people accept their fates heroically, or cowardly evade them. Fate does not determine every action or event but makes the final decision.
History is a mirror; ancient history can be a reference for modern people. From the trajectory of the ancients, we explore and understand the course of human development, inspire and promote the future life of mankind. History is the creation of the people, the great men in the process of creating history played an important role; at the same time, the situations have made heroes, history has created countless romantic characters. Washington, Confucius, and Homer were the people of their times. History is not dead, history is alive, bloody harsh. War and peace are the eternal themes of human history; peace is rare, and war has always permeated the history of the people. It can be said that the people’s history is the history of the people rushing constantly to their own death. At first, they fought for honor, anger, and justice; now we are fighting for sin and destruction.
When we speak of the people and history, this paragraph in the “Analects of Confucius” should be quoted. Emperor Yao said these words when he passed his throne: “Oh! Shun, according to the destiny of heaven, I want to pass the throne to you, and I now order you faithfully to hold the middle road. You shall help the majority of the people within the four seas out of poverty, I bless you, God has given you the position, and you will enjoy it for long.” Emperor Shun made similar remarks when he passed the throne to Great Yu. When Tang of the Shang Dynasty crusaded against Jie of Xia, he prayed to the heaven saying, “When my people have committed a crime, I am the one to blame. I am guilty, please do not implicate the people. If I carried out careful checks, made transactions fairly, reviewed the system of law, streamlined the social order, improved the official system, the world would be in good order and no people would do anything wrong. If I built a fair government, treated people fairly, I should have won their trust. And the people shall be more convinced and would work diligently.”
I am most impressive with these words in the Analects of Confucius, “When my people have committed a crime, I, the emperor, am the one to blame.” This imperial edict shows the broad-minded character of the great ancient emperors, their mind wider than the ocean. Narrow-mindedness makes no great man, no great achievements, and no great history.
To save mankind, God gave his son out. Christ was crucified, which glorified the achievements and righteousness of mankind. Here is also a kind of mind, a self-sacrifice for the good of others. Among the ancient saints, Emperors Yao and Shun, Confucius, Sakyamuni, Jesus Christ are good examples. After Christ, there are no more saints in the world. After Christ, some wise men, such as Muhammad, Moses, and Mencius took the stage. For one to two thousand years, the kings and tyrants have ruled the world, like Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty and the First Emperor of Qin, Caesar, and Constantine the Great. In addition, there were some great men who contributed to human civilization, shining in the long history like the flashing stars, such as Newton, Sao Paulo, Cai Lun, Aristotle, Gandhi, Martin Luther, Columbus, Einstein.
In addition to contributing to human civilization, the great men must also have a broad mind. Isaac Newton is known as the most influential person in the history of science. In 1666, Newton left Cambridge to return to his mother’s home. One day, when he was walking in the garden, he fell to the ground and realize the famous gravity. In 1676, in a letter to Robert Hooker, Newton said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” In a later memoir, Newton wrote: “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” Modesty is a kind of wide-mindedness.
Einstein was hailed as the father of modern physics and genius. When asked about his religious beliefs, Einstein replied: “My feeling is religious insofar as I am imbued with the insufficiency of the human mind to understand more deeply the harmony of the universe which we try to formulate as laws of Nature”. He said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”. “My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance—but for us, not for God.” He added.
George Washington became one of the greatest presidents of the United States because he had a broad mind. Washington, in March 1797 after expiration of his presidency, returned to his plantation at Mount Vernon to continue working as a farmer. At that time, he refused to run for a third term to safeguard the US democracy. He made a good example for future presidents who have made America great.
Any great history must have great men as its companions; and any great man must have a great heart, noble character, morality for the people. Mahatma Gandhi led the Indian people to a non-violent revolution, to break away from the British colonial rule and establish an independent country. He was strictly self-disciplined. As a vegetarian, he practiced abstinence, meditation, from which he obtained the immense power to resist tradition and autocracy. Gandhi influenced important leaders and political movements. He inspired Nelson Mandela and succeeding generations of South African activists seeking to end White rule. US President Barack Obama in a 2010 address to the Parliament of India said : “I am mindful that I might not be standing before you today, as President of the United States, had it not been for Gandhi and the message he shared with America and the world.”
Amnesty is one of the important means of benevolent government in history. In 1989, during the June 4th Movement, the Australian Government announced an amnesty for more than 100,000 Chinese and international students who remained in Australia. Prime Minister Hawke’s mind and charity are rare in the world today. Throughout China’s history, nearly all dynasties had the practice of amnesty, especially in the glorious days of the Han and Tang dynasties. There were twenty-two times of amnesty during the reign of Emperor Wu Zetian alone! Since the Ming and Qing Dynasties, amnesty appeared less and less. Since the establishment of the Republic of China by the Communist Party, no matter how difficult people’s livelihood was, no policy of amnesty has been made and publicized, and the people are very disappointed. Mao Zedong was undoubtedly one of the world’s most influential figures. He led the earth-shaking political movements, he even had a proposition saying,”The emperors have become history, I am now the greatest man on earth!” Despite his rhetoric speech, Mao Zedong showed no benevolence to his people. “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” This did not apply to Mao; his narrow-mindedness took the lives of countless comrades and tens of millions of Chinese people. Many historians have put his name side by side with Hitler, Stalin and other crazy tyrants; isn’t this is a very sad thing?
At the time Emperor Yao passed his throne, Shun was not the most suitable person of the highest morality. Originally the emperor wanted to give the throne to Xu You who thought being an emperor was such a terrible thing that he fled with his family. Later, the emperor wanted to ask Zizhou to sit on his throne, but Zizhou preferred to be a hermit. When the emperor could not find the best, he had to choose the second best, then he found Shun and let him take the errand. In the past, when someone expressed his disagreement, the emperors could do nothing but to let him leave. After the Spring and Autumn Period, and the Warring States Period, that was no longer possible. The moment your disagreement was raised, your head might be cut off immediately. Under the heavens, every piece of land was the emperor’s territory, and no one shall have a place to hide, not to mention living as a hermit!
A Chinese motto says, “ The people is the water and the state the boat. The water that floats the boat is the same that swallows it.” Since the Great Yu passed the throne to his son, the system of power transfer by demise was no longer practiced. “The world for the public” became “the world is private.” History was no longer open-minded. Lincoln ‘s Gettysburg Address and the Declaration of Independence have shared the same spirit, declaring that “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The idea of a government by people and for the people was the same as the Chinese Emperors’ “the people is heavier and the kings lighter.” However, whether in China’s two thousand years of history, or America’s two hundred years of history, its later governors, the kings or presidents, have mostly walked their way in the opposite direction. Buddhism says that we humans are living in the “degradation age”, that is, as time goes by, human morality deteriorates. What the Buddha has said is indeed the truth.
When I checked the historical records of China, I was astonished to find that “the people has no history”. Although we often say that history is created by the people, but names of people were seldom recorded in the official historical files. In Sima Qian’s Historical Records, in addition to the chronology, there are the records of kings and emperors, noble families, biographies of honorable people. Where are the seats for ordinary people? Sima Guang’s Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance has 294 volumes of three million words, telling stories about the kings, the princesses, and ministers. For ordinary people, even their graves are hard to find. Both Sima Qian and Sima Guang were government historians, they were not in a position to record stories too far away from the emperor and his officials. Therefore, I say the people have no history. Once a people has been recorded into the history of biography, he is no longer an ordinary people. As eggs become chickens, they are no longer called eggs; as an ore is melted into gold, gold will no longer be an ore.
Dynasty changes in the past two thousand years in China were mainly due to rebellions against dissolute and unmoral rulers. The present Communist regime is a freak in human history when people live in fear and without dignity whether in wealth or poverty. Corruption and political torture are widespread. This vicious regime must end.
The significance of the People’s pursuit of civilization and progress lies in happiness, but history tells us that happiness is so far away from the hearts of the people. Aristotle was known as “the last one who is proficient in all knowledge.” He set the standard of virtue for man, much higher than his teacher Plato’s “wisdom, courage, temperance and justice”, that the goal of man’s perfection is “happiness”. Aristotle divided mankind into four classes: moral, self-disciplined, unmanned, and evil. Whether among ordinary people, or the ruling group, the moral and self-disciplined are seldom seen; only the unmanned and evil rule the world today. As the Buddha said, “the people of this world no longer do good, no longer respect the elders, no longer have kind hearts, no longer feel ashamed of themselves. They speak with two tongues, hate good people, kill their parents, show no fear of the heavens. ”
We live in an inverted world, and in less than three decades this inversion will come again. In the last century, we have witnessed the two world wars, the East-West confrontation, the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, the United States’ bombing of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, territorial disputes between China and East Asia, Southeast Asia, the use of nuclear weapons, conflicts between States, struggles between domestic parties, and domestic violence. Every one of these is to lead the world into destruction. In history no one is nobler than the other; a country’s national hero is the enemy of another country.
The leaders of the world today, whether he is the president of the so-called democratic country, the Prime Minister, or the General Secretary of a dictatorship, they are no more than celebrities, group leaders, or crazy party members, mostly narrow-minded, selfish, insolent of their believers. Few deserve the word “Great”. We are not talking about the leaders of North Korea, Myanmar, Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, the Philippines and other small countries, most leaders from big countries like the United States, Britain, France, Russia, and China have problems with their morality. They bully the weak, help the evil, and care little for the poor. Their governance lack benevolence and has nothing to do with virtues and wisdom. They work for their own interests. In this world under their rule, most people’s lives are difficult, conflicts and disasters are commonplace.
In this pluralistic world of societies torn apart, people show their anxiety, those in power are not capable of giving solutions. They build walls as barriers, both physical one and spiritual one. Without an open mind, the United States uses violence against violence, creating more enemies day after day and this superpower is now in decline. The EU’s goal is to eliminate borders, to form a peaceful and affluent community, but now the migrant and refugee crisis challenged the principle of open borders and the idealistic union has suffered a great setback. Without an open mind, the European community of many countries look only into their own wallets, a division is inevitable. China is trying to correct its mistakes, but the party refuses to admit its sins. Those in power are the same narrow-minded, their road to national rejuvenation is after all just a dream. Behind the blood and tears, only the silent prayers were heard about history. “If my people have committed a crime, I am the one to blame.” These words are repeated as an echo by our sides. Only to forgive the people, give the people amnesty, can history have a way out.