If there was anything that you would think would be immutable, it would be the past. Short of inventing a time machine, it should be impossible to change any event that has already occurred. However, this assumption is actually quite incorrect. While the events of objective history themselves cannot be changed, our understanding of them can. Indeed, revising history is easy when you control the levers of education and popular culture. Then, it’s just a matter of telling the history that you want to be told while ignoring the history that actually happened.
A case in point would be the movie slated to hit the theaters tomorrow called Hidden Figures. If the hype surrounding this movie is to be believed, it will tell the “true” story of the American space program that put a man on the moon. The movie is a loose biography of Katherine Johnson, a black woman who played a role in the space program. The hype surrounding the movie, of course, portrays her as the single central figure in that program without whom nothing would have been accomplished. All those white guys with slide rules and crew cuts? They could have done nothing without her.
Now to be clear, there really was a black woman named Katherine Johnson who was involved with the space program – that much is true. It is also true that she was an accomplished mathematician and that she was involved in checking the calculations that were involved with the orbital mechanics of putting a man on the moon. But it’s a long way from that to the sort of “black woman single-handedly put a man on the moon” recounting that the narrative hype seems to be portraying. At face value this movie would seem to be exactly the sort of historical revisionism that progressives love to utilize for the purpose of “resetting the narrative,” so to speak.
Older readers may recognize this sort of revisionism as being akin to the phenomenon that used to be known as afrocentrism back in the 1980s and 1990s. Thanks to the progressive long march through the institutions, what used to be an academic oddity has turned into actual progressive cultural policy.
Afrocentrism involved the creation of an alternative history designed to improve the self-esteem of black students and other progressives. It involved the co-option of historical nations such as the Egyptians and the Greeks, claiming that these groups were really black Africans and were responsible for all of the great ancient mechanical and philosophical inventions – inventions which were (of course) later stolen by the white man.
Obviously, it is all stuff and nonsense. We know that the Egyptians were not black because they drew pictures of themselves. If anything, the Egyptians most likely resembled modern subcontinental Indians. Likewise, the Greeks drew and sculpted themselves quite a bit, as well as describing themselves in their literature. They were quite obviously white people. The Carthaginians, despite living on the Northern tip of the African continent, were Semites who would have looked very much like today’s modern Caucasian middle easterners, which is not surprising since Carthage was a colony of Tyre, a prominent Phoenician city-state. None of these peoples were black. To claim that they were is historical revisionism, as well as abject nonsense.
However, afrocentrism is perfectly consonant with the progressive tendency to place perceptions and narrative over reality. These are the folks who actually believed they could sway the election by simply having movie stars (i.e., people who get paid to pretend to be things they’re not) declare their dislike for Donald Trump. Not coincidentally, they’re also the same people who actually believe that the “Russians hacked the election.” They’re the folks who are all over social media seriously trying to frighten “Nazis” (nearly all of whom are not) into silence by warning them than “the Bear Jew” (Donny Donowitz from Inglorious Basterds, i.e. a fictional character) will come get them. And they’re the kind of folks who believe that using a movie to convince ill-educated and culturally susceptible populations of a falsehood will somehow make that falsehood real.
The ostensible purpose to this revisionism is to instill self-esteem in traditionally disadvantaged groups. The actual purpose is to undermine the primacy of Western civilisation in the West’s own nations. Per the progressive Left’s zero-sum mentality, to build up one group necessarily requires tearing down another.
This is what forms the basis for afrocentrism’s underlying thesis that “the white man stole civilisation” from the black man. Sub-saharan Africa wasn’t stuck in the stone age because its inhabitants were largely nomadic, nor because they tended to have lower average IQs than most other people groups. No, it was because the white man stole all their technology and learning and left them in the stone age (which, in and of itself, grossly miscomprehends how knowledge and technique spread across the ancient world). At the same time, Greeks and Egyptians were really black and were responsible for giving civilisation to the white barbarians of the north. If all of this seems somewhat contradictory, it’s because it is. It doesn’t have to make sense – the object here is ideological narrative, not credible or verifiable historical knowledge. It’s racially triumphalistic dogma which is not actually far removed from the Nation of Islam’s mythohistory about an evil black scientist named Yakub creating the white race in a test tube and then releasing it to wreak havoc on the peaceful ancient black civilisation (ironically, this dogma was given to NoI by its founder – a white man named Wallace Fard).
The whole purpose is to denigrate the accomplishments of Western civilisation through a sort of “historical socialism” whereby history’s winners see their successes and accomplishments “redistributed” to those whose history…hasn’t been as winning. It is coupled with the more general tendency to degrade Western accomplishments and achievements through the attempt to cast them in a negative moral light. This is why the only thing schoolchildren know about Christopher Columbus is that he was an evil racist who genocided peaceful Native Americans. It’s why the only thing they know about World War II is that the USA interned Japanese in camps. It’s why the entire history of American civilisation can be boiled down to evil white men either making blacks pick cotton for them (both before and after slavery ended) or else killing off peaceful, pipe-smoking, environmentally-harmonious Amerinds. None of the manifestly positive aspects of the West are mentioned in modern publik skooling.
The other progressive conceit that is at work in all of this is the belief that different people-groups are entirely fungible. This is not the case, however. In fact, different cultures exist because of unique attributes possessed by the various races and the ethnic groups which form subclades beneath those larger racial classifications. These cultural attributes, values, and bases are not simply transferable from one group to another as if culture was just a coat you could put on or take off and hand to someone else. Nevertheless, this conceit leads to the false impression that when it comes to Western civilisation and its glories, anyone could have done it.
One example of this in fairly recent literature would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s book The Years of Rice and Salt, whose central thesis is exactly this belief. This book is an alternate history in which the Black Plague was much, much worse than it was in real life, essentially depopulating the entire European continent from Ireland to Constantinople by around 1400. As a result, there was no modern West – no European renaissance, no European age of exploration, no European industrial revolution, no European modernity. Europe was repopulated by Muslims from North Africa (and renamed Firanga), and the North American continent was eventually divided between Muslims from Firanga and the Chinese, with some independent Native American buffer states in between.
Yet, without the existence of Europe, Europe’s history still happens in basically the same way, in roughly the same time span. Muslim and Chinese explorers discover the Americas in (what would be, had Europe still existed) the early 16th century. An Uzbek Galileo discovers the speed of sound, when he’s not working out the principles of gravitational acceleration. Modern “enlightenment” liberalism begins to evolve in the Sino-Islamic fracture zone in Central Asia. The industrial revolution breaks out in India, and quickly spreads both east and west. This Europe-less world even manages to have a massive, continent-wide European-style world war which exhausts the industrial powers on both sides. The book closes with a very Westernish Chinese scholar in not-California encouraging free investigation and thought in an idealised not-Berkeley.
The whole point being made is this – anybody could have done the West. Anyone could have done the science and technology and philosophy and culture and all the rest that we think of today as uniquely Western. Yet, this is manifestly ridiculous. Nobody else at the beginning of the 15th century appeared, by any account (even their own), to have been in a position to replicate the unique spectacle of Western civilisation. The West exists because Europe was populated by Europeans who had a unique set of cultures, ways of viewing the world, religious outlook, and inborn attributes like IQ and a drive to explore. A Europe-less world would still be in the late Iron Age – not a bad level of development, but certainly not one to compare to what actually happened in history.
It’s all about co-opting and diminishing the culture build by white Europeans and their descendants around the globe, and redistributing it to those who did not build it. It’s a globalist version of Obama’s “You didn’t build that.”
But the trouble is that none of this does anybody any good at all. It certainly doesn’t do Europeans and their descendants any good to see their own civilisation, race, and cultures denigrated and stolen from them. However, it also doesn’t do the blacks or the Muslims or the Native Americans or anyone else who are on the delivering end of this cultural genocide any good either. Reality always asserts itself. No matter how much black “scholars” proclaim that “We wuz kangz!” and that black Egyptians had magical flying pyramids until the white man stole them, none of this does actual black people living today any good. Lying to these folks isn’t helping them. Presenting a manifestly false narrative of history to “boost their self-esteem” only hurts them. It makes them resentful about things that didn’t even exist and which didn’t happen. It only stultifies the already lagging efforts to integrate them functionally into American (and by extension, Western) society. If the progressives were really serious (which they’re not, by the way) about helping blacks, they’d dispense with the mythmaking and simply teach history as it actually happened – both the good and the bad – and attempt to learn valid lessons which could be applied in actually helpful ways. Living in a mythical, magical dreamworld has never once helped anyone, and it isn’t going to start doing so any time soon.