History can be annoying. You know exactly what I’m talking about—that time when your teacher expected you to remember the year the American Revolution began, and you couldn’t remember. You wrote down “1776” because you vaguely remembered that year, only to find out that you were a year too late. The American Revolution began fifteen months before the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Who knew? And who cares?
But history annoys people besides students. It annoys dictators. Remember Joseph Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union? When he wasn’t killing people, he spent a lot of time figuring out how to write history without including certain really annoying people—the ones he’d ordered shot, for instance. He used his blue editorial pencil on everything, from official documents to maps to a “short” history of the Communist Party (actually, it was around 400 pages long). He took old photographs and had them changed so that people he didn’t like were taken out. No, Stalin didn’t like history, either. Not unless he could write it himself.
In Swipe, Logan wishes he could learn about pre-Unity history. Sure, he had studied history in school, but only the history that Lamson and Cylis wanted students to learn. Logan was supposed to know how the Total War was caused by disunity, and Unity is better, and the Mark protects Unity. In the post-Unity world, the point of learning history is to be loyal to Lamson and Cylis. Studying other parts of history is not allowed.
Why? Is there something dangerous about a number like “1776?”
Not exactly. But if you know that “1776” was the year when the Declaration of Independence was signed, you might know that the people who signed it believed their government could be tyrannical. That it could do wrong. And maybe you would think a little about that. Maybe you would realize that even Lamson and Cylis could make mistakes.
You might learn that the people who signed the Declaration wanted representation in Parliament. Never mind that the king appointed representatives for them. They wanted to choose their own representatives, representatives who might actually listen to what they had to say. You might wonder if your representatives really cared about what you thought. Maybe you would ask yourself why the Markless have no representation at all. What is representation, really? Does it matter?
You might also remember that the people who signed that Declaration won a war against their government. They broke free and formed a new country. And you might figure out that no human government lasts forever. Not even the Global Union.
Maybe you’re not a fan of history class. That’s okay. But give it a chance. Knowing history matters. It helps you understand that we weren’t the first people on earth, and—chances are—we won’t be the last ones, either. It helps you learn to see through someone else’s eyes. It shows you that just because something is a popular idea right now, it might not be so popular a hundred years down the road. In fact, people then might think we’re idiots.
But only if they know their history.