Political Correctness and Suppressing the Past
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S recent advertisement in the New York Times announced that Christianity was not responsible for the Holocaust, in spite of the fact that the cultural products of Christendom bristle with negative characterizations of Jews. One way to approach this argument would be to say that Christians don't need to be forgiven, thank you very much (see related editorial.) But on the other hand the advertisement reminds us first and foremost of the tendency of interest groups to effectively denature the contrasts that comprise what used to be called Western Civilization.
This isn't a "Jewish only" thing, although it seems that every time we turn around there's another request to bowdlerize a performance of The Merchant of Venice, or suppress the ethnicity of Dickens' master-thief Fagin in Oliver Twist. There's also the matter of African Americans who object to Huckleberry Finn, Amos and Andy reruns, Conrad's Nigger of the Narcissus and so on. There are occasional glimmers of complaints from feminists, gays and Hispanics but these have yet to acquire much momentum. Give it a chance, and pretty soon Western Civilization will have its starting date given at some point in the 1970's.
We often hear complaints about how dumbed down the educational system is, how much our younger generations seem oblivious to the history and culture of the past. One wonders if it has ever occurred to anyone that one reason why past history and culture are ignored is because they aren't taught, and they aren't taught because they aren't politically correct, or, at least, they aren't politically correct in the right way.
They certainly were "politically correct" in their own way. They had no hesitation in taking some elderly woman with a sharp tongue and burning her at the stake for being a witch. They thought it was perfectly appropriate to take the disabled and the insane and the violent and put them in stocks in the public square where everyone else could laugh at them. If you and your ruling class cohorts suddenly found yourself out of power, the odds were good that the ensuing political realignment could cause a serious misalignment between you and your head. We, on the other hand, would never do things like that. We have elections too frequently.
Our historical forebears also had no problem with turning the other side into demons. From the time of the Old Testament until quite recently, anyone who didn't share your religious convictions was an infidel, destined to burn in a lake of fire, someone who could be tortured or murdered with impunity. Whereas today, the buzzword is tolerance — or else.
Naturally, the opinion makers and academics today like to think we are so much more enlightened than those who lived in the past. We don't destroy people because they are "minorities" or because they are disabled, or gay, or women, or Jews, or Native Americans or African Americans. We don't even destroy people because they are witches. Instead, we try to destroy people for other things, like not believing that crematoria can burn 12,000 people in a day, just because some guy said so in 1945. We try to ruin the reputation of historians who don't understand why, if it looks like a bomb shelter, and it has a bomb shelter door, it isn't a bomb shelter, but a homicidal gas chamber.
One of the reasons we don't see the analogy between our treatment of revisionists and the witchcraft era is because we won't allow ourselves to see it. Just as we have defined new classes of the "evil ones", we have hidden the fact that the same kinds of things that people say about revisionists today are the same kinds of things that were said for hundreds of years about — Jews. And not only Jews, but Freemasons, Jesuits, and anyone else who had the misfortune to be a half-inch off the center line of their own cultures. And yes, these medieval "minorities" also made scathing attacks on the parent culture as well.
The past is not hidden to conceal the revisionist-witch mania analogy, of course. The past is hidden mainly because it is feared. Those academicians and opinion makers, paid by the word, have, as a result, put too much faith in the weight of words, and not enough in the ability of intelligent and cultured people to make distinctions, see the present in the past, and strive to be more humane based on a sound understanding of their culture. As a result they have to suppress Shylock because it might inspire anti-Semitism, or they try to hide Nigger Jim so readers won't turn into racists. And above all, they have to suppress anything that might hurt someone's "feelings." On the other hand, they want to make sure that we get a daily dose of the Holocaust, never mind if that hurts some German's feelings.
"Political Correctness" is just a variation on triumphalist ideologies of the past. "Everybody up until now was doing it wrong, but we got it right, this time." That's the slogan, but it's an old one. And it's a kind of slogan that breeds hatred, intolerance, persecution, and, yes, mass murder. Frankly, it's also the kind of thing that inspired the destruction of much ancient culture, as in the destruction of the Byzantine and Alexandrine libraries because they were considered impious. We would know these things, and so would our children, if they were allowed to study the past and its culture, warts and all.
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|Title:||Political Correctness and Suppressing the Past|
|Sources:||The Revisionist # 5, Feb. 2001, Codoh series|
|First posted on CODOH:||Feb. 27, 2001, 6 p.m.|