By now no one is surprised that Columbus is only understood as a murderer of Native Americans who lived in an idyllic state of nature before the white man arrived, or that he was somehow responsible for enslaving Africans, or that he didn't even discover the New World. This devalued mythology is as one dimensional as the typical idealized depictions of Columbus when I was in grade school; of course, in first grade, we didn't expect much nuance.
The contrast is most striking because there is another anniversary celebration going on. For those who have not been paying attention, apparently we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the death of that great humanitarian whose face launched a thousand T-shirts, Che Guevara....
The difference in treatment of Columbus and Guevara is notable for the way in which the cruelty of Columbus, who was the product of a simpler and more primitive time, is all that is left while the Guevara's more brutal, murderous cruelty, in someone who had the benefit of 500 years of civilization upon which to build, is completely ignored and glossed over.
More importantly, the legacy that emerges form the two disparate myths is of even more import. Columbus left a myth that through the years was used to support a National image of devotion to greater and greater freedom, to attempted redress of much of the damage he brought. Our Nation, resting upon the legacy of individualism and freedom grew wealthy and strong. The contrast could not be starker. Che's legacy has been used to support the noxious creed of Left wing idealism. Everywhere the Left has succeeded, the people have suffered terribly.
Both of the aforementioned myths are fascinating because they are key examples of how the political left manages and distorts history to the advantage of their totalitarian ideology. The myths are fueled by psychological denial.
The "Columbus myth" is prototype leftist distortion that attempts to rewrite history in order to delegitimize western culture and civilization (as exemplified by the U.S., of course) by setting up the fundamental Marxist dialectic. The "oppressor" is symbolized by Columbus, a white male European; and the "oppressed" role is given to African blacks and Native Indians.
The second prototype leftist myth is the "Che myth" that takes a brutal killer, Che Guevara, and rehabilitates and romanticizes his ruthless and murderous behavior, transforming it into something heroic instead of barbaric. The purpose of this type of myth is to legitimize the left's underlying marxist ideology.
As you can see, the left will use the Columbus-type myth whenever they want to undermine, minimize or ignore any accomplishment of Western Civilization. With a little creativity, you can delegitimize practically anyone--since human perfection exists only in a utopian fantasy--and practically any accomplishment can be ignored or undermined with a little historical finesse. Take, for example, the ending of slavery--one of the great accomplishments of the West and Western values--an accomplishment that is completely ignored when highlighting the West's early participation in a slave trade that had existed for millenia. This kind of historical reality is used as evidence of a fundamental "hypocrisy" inherent in the West which the left takes great pleasure in constantly pointing to as a way of enjoining their supporters to abandon the supposedly imperfect values of the West.
History for them has no particular meaning or purpose when it cannot be used to support the crumbling ediface of their ideology. But it is useful to the degree that it can be rewritten, revised and reinterpreted to fit the Marxist agenda. This revision is done deliberately and with the express design of molding historical reality to meet the needs of the present quest for power.
Thus, the left can fully understand and even support Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs as they 'study' the Holocaust. After all, what is the Iranian leadership doing that leftists don't already engage in with gusto (e.g., with Che and Columbus) ?
Or, take another leftist promulgated myth; the one where Israel and the Jews are made out to be the impediment to a Mideast peace; and that they ruthlessly oppress the peace-loving Palestinians who only desire their own state. In these two myths we also are able to see the delegitimization of the proponent of "Western" values; and a romanicizing/legitimization of an approved and sanctioned "victim"group--all perfectly consistent with the neo-marxist mindset of the 21st century leftist totalitarians who refuse to abandon their discredited ideology.
In order to succeed in undoing and undermining the clear and unambiguous evidence of socialism's and communism's utter human toxicity, the totalitarians of the political left have had to undermine nothing less than reality, reason, and truth. Not only are words and language completely redefined to mean whatever anyone wants, but more importantly, history had to be deconstructed--ostensibly to expose it's lies, but really to render it meaningless and supplant it with mythology. In this way, the ideas and values that are the foundation of Western civilization can be mocked and shown by postmodern "logic" to be no better than any other random ideas.
Thus, for today's nihilistic left, freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose; and anyway, it isn't significantly different from slavery; democracy is just as much a fraud as tyranny; that which has always been considered as good, is really just as evil as evil; and so on.
Twentieth century postmodernists thus set themselves up as culturally and morally superior to all other humans in history, and with the postmodern relativistic advantage, they could pass judgement on everyone and everything. Thus from the superior postmodern perspective, there was nothing of value to learn from a slave-holding Thomas Jefferson; there is no moral superiority in a system that strives toward increasing individual human freedom and dignity compared to a system that doesn't even recognize the rights of the individual. There is no difference between right and wrong; good and evil--all are suspect, all are hypcritical, all are imperfect; and thus all such concepts are rendered irrelevant.
By now, everyone is familiar with this leftist delegitimization, since it is applied to anyone or anything valued by Western culture.
By using the "Columbus myth", all individuals, thinkers, explorers etc. from the past can be ridiculed, demeaned, and scorned because they failed to live up to the left's postmodern and politically correct standards of conduct. All their ideas and accomplishments are, ad hominem, are then able to be considered meaningless and described as "hypocritical"--the absolutely worse possible sin from the leftist perspective.
Thomas Jefferson, George Washington--all the Founding Fathers for the most part--did not have the consciousness of the postmodern intellectual: they were slaveholders! Yet they dared to consider the problem of human freedom, bound as they were to the cultural norms of their time. That they could not entirely break out of the culture of their time, but still could push the envelope of civilization forward is irrelevant to the postmodern left.
If we are only allowed to think of Thomas Jefferson and other founders as hypocritical colonial slaveholders, then we are forced to pronounce his ideas on the struggle for human freedom as no better and no worse than Hitler's Kampf.
Jefferson's mind-blowing, paradigm-shattering declaration, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" has no more meaning or worth than Yasser Arafat's statement that, "Since we cannot defeat Israel in war; we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel." Both are either completely meaningless; or both are examples of freedom-fighters--who cares which? Bush = Hitler; Good = Evil; Freedom = Slavery; there is no way to judge because the nihilistic relativism we subscribe to has taken away our ability to morally distinguish and discriminate between right and wrong.
At the heart of both the Columbus myth and the Che myth is a profound psychological denial and a desperate refusal to face reality and come to terms with the malignancy of their anti-human, utopian and totalitarian ideology.
Anna Freud once wrote that the ego of a child in denial "refuses to become aware of some disagreeable reality.... It turns its back on it, and in imagination reverses the unwelcome facts."
The essence of psychological denial is a refusal to look at or acknowledge reality.
Fortunately, reality exists outside of anyone's head and is objective and verifiable. It is not altered by whim, desire, lies or myth. This is not to say that people might not believe ideas that do not conform to reality--in fact, they do so all the time. Just like Anna's description of the child's ego, the ego of an otherwise normal adult may also resort to childish, immature and primitive mechanisms when it feels threatened.
You would think it would be a simple matter to be "in touch" with reality. But it isn't. It requires a great deal of cognitive effort--i.e., thinking--and often that effort must assert itself over powerful emotions that draw the person away from the real world to a place more comfortable and unchallenging to their inner reality.
So, how does a rational person determine what is true and what is delusion? How do you decide if something is a myth or is real?
Psychological denial and the avoidance of an unpleasant reality are certainly not confined to one side of the political spectrum or the other. But what I find endlessly fascinating is how the political left has created and fully integrated specific ideological tools that facilitate their ongoing psychological denial.
It reminds me of all the paranoid patients I have observed over the years, who effortlessly are able to dismiss or explain away any facts that don't fit in with their carefully constructed conspiracy theories. If you get too assertive in pointing out those uncomfortable facts, you find yourself in no time fully integrated into the theory. For the paranoid, the case is closed and the argument is finished. His self-esteem depends on it.
Columbus is evil and Guevara is good. The left's self-esteem depends on those myths.
The political left has been utilizing the same psychological strategies inherent in the paranoid style since the end of the cold war and the close of the 20th century. The rise of politically correct speech and the dogma of multiculturalism; the insistence on cultural diversity while enforcing a profound homogeneity of ideas and lack of intellectual diversity in academia; as well as the distortions and rationalizations that are currently the hallmark of intellectual debate within our institutions of higher learning and politics-- have all combined to dissuade those on the political left from pursuing a course of intellectual honesty and/or emotional insight.
This is what makes it so frustrating to debate or argue with today's typical postmodern leftist. Some are willing to engage in discussion, but you can always count on their complete dismissal of any fact that does not conform to their ideological perspective. No matter how many times you point out the historical facts and context of Christopher Columbus; no matter how much evidence of Che's brutality are brought forth, the myths have been pre-packaged to conform to the ideological dogma and there is no way to get them to think outside that packaging to the reality.
When it suits their purposes (i.e., when they are losing the argument), they will resort to the claim that reality and truth are merely subjective constructs anyway; that Che "meant well" because he believed as they do; or that Columbus was motivated only by "selfish" capitalist greed; and that any evidence you present to the contrary is only someone's "opinion" and that their opinions are as good as anyone else's.
Such a position should logically disqualify their position to begin with, but of course, it doesn't.
The essential problem of the left in acknowledging the truth of either Che Guevara or Christopher Columbus--or any of their other myths-- is that these myths have become inextricably entwined and inseparable from their most sacred ideological beliefs. They need both the kind that legitimize and romanticize their own fundamentally immoral ideology; as well as the kind of myth that delegitimizes America and the West. These sacred myths have become the cornerstone of their faith in the evil of American and Western values; and the false mirror in which they see reflected their own goodness and compassion.
At the center of all psychological denial is a hidden agenda. That agenda is usually not completely conscious--meaning that the denier has not thought through the issues surrounding his denial; and may not even be aware of what his motivation is in asserting something is true when it isn't; or false when it isn't. But when the hidden agenda is exposed--i.e., when reality is acknowledged and when the myths are busted; then it has to be accepted that all humans are imperfect, their behavior inconsistent, and their motivations impure....Yet, the ideas those imperfect humans champion must be judged according to whether they acknowledge reality; and whether they advance the cause of human life, liberty and dignity; or whether they destroy those fundamental values.
All you have to do is look for the graveyards of the millions who perished in the left's implementation of their lovely ideology in the last century; the graveyards that their mythology has been designed to obscure and disguise.
In Pete Seeger's immortal words (but not, as Shrink says, exactly the way he meant them) :
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?
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