Oral History

The one idea of this piece that stood out to me was the idea of oral history as a transformational process relating to both real events and the witnesses that experienced them. I think that this transformational process happens all of the time. One way I see the product of this process is through the news. Every time a news station reports a story, the real event has to be processed by a direct witness, who will then relay the story to the news station, who will then decide how they want to present the story. In this way, we receive a watered-down version of the real event because it has already been diluted by witnesses and others who pass on the information. This makes it hard to keep a real event ‘real’. To maintain the realness of an event for yourself, you have to witness it firsthand, and even then you may have a skewed interpretation depending on how well you were able to pay attention or how many of the details you caught. The same diluting of a real event happens when you here your friend tell you a story. What you’re hearing is not the real event, but your friend’s interpretation of the event or the way your friend wishes to present it. For example, if your friend got into a conflict with another person and he/she wants you to take his/her side, he/she will most likely skew the details and facts so that it sounds like he/she is in the right. Also, the “grapevine” is a dangerous way to get information, because there’s no telling how many times the real event has been reinterpreted before it is presented to you. Unfortunately, it is impossible to maintain realness of events in history, since those who experienced it firsthand will eventually die. It has to be passed on somehow. Since there is no way to experience all (or even most) important events for yourself, you just have to trust that the sources have interpreted and presented the event in a way that best maintains accuracy.


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