Categorized | Culture, Politics

History as Myth and the Cult of Victimhood

Napoleon Bonaparte was reported to have once said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon”. In essence, he was correct. History is generated by consensus of individuals. The generally accepted narratives of what happened at any point in the past, and their relative importance to one another are not universal and vary from place to place. It can be said though, that written history, is not merely an objective record of events. In a deeper sense, history is myth.

In this context, myth does not imply that the narrative is completely false. Homer’s Iliad is considered to be well within the realm of myth for its larger than life characters, even though the Trojan War is regarded to have been a historical event. Such myths, which the Greeks referred to as αἴτιον (cause), serve a deeper meaning than the reporting of events. They seek to understand and explain and illustrate a deeper, underlying lesson about the world around us, and our place in it. History can therefore be a used as means for a deeper understanding of the human condition since the laws of nature and human behavior remain constant. History as myth is a tool for disseminating worldviews; a methodology of “distilling” the sacred and the universals truths.

However, while it is generally accepted that history can be studied and revised, there are certain events which remain taboo to discuss. For instance, it is “known” far and wide by every American schoolchild, that a heroic young Abraham Lincoln fought the Civil War to emancipate the slaves, despite the fact that he repeatedly said that he never intended to free the slaves. Those same children might also learn of the horrors of slavery, segregation and Jim Crow, but never get the chance to learn about the Black Liberation Army or the Black Panthers.

The mythos of victimhood among some blacks is a stereotype that is common among Americans. Some black people can blame a number of socioeconomic factors on their current state; in common parlance, it might be referred to as playing the race card. The liberal media is of course, quite willing to go along with the idea that blacks are victims of various societal factors, and can do nothing about their condition. But at least one prominent black voice Bill Cosby once opined that the victimhood mentality among his community is partly the fault of an anti-intellectual culture.

Radical feminism, too, relies on the concept of victimhood. The central dogma of feminism is that every woman is a victim, and every man is an oppressor. It does not matter that more women than men now attend college, nor that women often receive less jail time than men for similar crimes, nor that there are quotas in many companies and government jobs specifically for women, nor that divorce law often favors women; there is still oppression against women. The gay rights movement also relies on seeing homosexuals as “victims” of imagined “homophobia”.

The most sacred historical concept today is, of course, the Holocaust. Everybody “knows” that, the Nazi State, on Adolf Hitler’s orders, planned and attempted to kill all European Jews, and succeeded in killing six million of them, mainly in gas chambers in such death camps as Auschwitz and Treblinka. Everybody “knows” this, and failure to have sufficient faith in this myth is met with consternation at best, or imprisonment at worst. Moreover, so potent is this mythic concept that today’s evildoers, both great and small are compared to Hitler or, in broader terms, the “fascists”. As Orwell once stated, “I have heard it [fascism] applied to farmers, shopkeepers, Social Credit, corporal punishment, fox-hunting, bull-fighting, the 1922 Committee, the 1941 Committee, Kipling, Gandhi, Chiang Kai-Shek, Priestley’s broadcasts, Youth Hostels, astrology, dogs and I do not know what else.”

While it is not our intention here to debate the historicity of the Holocaust, (for there are many sites available on the internet that provide alternate views for those who feel curious or inclined to research them), we will discuss the role of the mythos of the Holocaust, as it is in no way a trivial matter when examining modernity. In such a sense, it becomes greater than the actual event, in that the Holocaust really does live up to its name: the supposed millions upon millions became the martyrs of the cult of victimhood.

Naturally, the most obvious role of the Holocaust is as the founding myth of the Israeli state. On the news, or in film, we are consistently reminded of the Holocaust, and that the “poor, persecuted Jews” must have their own state, lest they perish from the world. Fear is a powerful motivator. From the fiery depths of Auschwitz, we are told, emerged a beacon of hope, not just for Jews, but for all peoples. Zionists exploit and encourage the belief that Jews are a besieged people in a hostile world while offering the refuge of the Zionist homeland as the only chance for survival. The bogey-man specter of an ascendant anti-Semitism is bandied about – no matter what the Israeli government does, any criticism is derided as the next step towards a second Holocaust – as to the Zionist mind, there is always another “Hitler” out there desirous of finishing what the first on failed to do, so the only safe place for Jews is Israel.

While it is only natural that those who identify Judaism as a “race,” to want a state of their own, the victimhood complex is especially obvious when it comes to Israel. The status as “victims” allows for them to go beyond what any other nation would be condemned for doing. For instance, I remember at a pro-Israeli demonstration in Brooklyn, seeing signs bearing the slogan, “Keep Israel Jewish”. Could we really imagine what would be said if someone of European descent had a sign which said, “Keep Europe European” ?

"Nazis afoot!"

But, the fact is that the near-theological deference given to the Holocaust goes beyond the borders of Israel. If we were to take the Holocaust as it is known today as being factual, it would still mean different things to different people. To an American, America’s antics in its European escapade cement the role as the world’s “good guys”. The American believes sincerely, that his country rescued Europe from its dark days and liberated the camps, forever gaining the right to police the world and defeat the dark forces of fascism. To this end, the Holocaust serves as a reminder to Americans of certain evils, which can only be stopped by the “righteous Americans”. Hence, the reminder of the Holocaust is transformed into the necessity to spread the so-called ideals of “freedom” and “secular democracy” around the world, lest another “Hitler” should arise. It may be true that they do not truly believe in real democracy, but the pretext of “liberation” is often one which is welcomed enthusiastically by those who cannot see the true aims of the neoconservatives and world liberal elites. The American mentality is therefore merely a more universal version of the Israeli mentality (they, too, pay lip service to vague and lofty ideas such as “democracy”). Moreover, to modern American politicians, whether it is in Iraq or Iran, or any other nation, there are always certain “worthy victims” (usually certain ethnic minorities, women, ultra-leftist dissidents, or homosexuals) who need to be rescued from whatever regime they have chosen to deem heretical and oppressive at the moment. For instance, some propaganda surrounding the North Korean state goes to such lengths as claiming that there are gas chambers and concentration camps; propaganda against China, fabricated by the “Falun Gong” cult claims that there are secret crematoria in China (a claim debunked by even many China critics), and so on.

Naturally, groups like the Haifan Baha’i cult, “Falun Gong” cult, North Korean dissidents, Tibetan Buddhists, Iraqis, or Iranian atheists are considered “worthy victims,” worthy of invading entire countries (or at least some sabre rattling). Many others, such as Boers, white farmers in Zimbabwe, Iraqis, and others are considered “unworthy victims”. In this way, the cult of victimhood, lead by world liberal-elites, establishes a clear characteristic of cults: a polarized us-versus-them mentality.

There is no doubt that this cult of victimhood has shaped today’s world. The search for these “worthy victims” (as well as the simultaneous disregard for the “unworthy victims”) has become a way for the liberal elites to justify their interventionist policies. From the quest to “make the world safe for liberal secularist democracy,” to the social policies that they enact in our own countries, the concept of victimhood has become an important article of faith for those who ascribe to modernist, and liberal values.

About Gabriel F. León

Gabriel F. León is a staff writer for RidingTheTiger. He is of Spanish, Italian, and Irish descent and currently resides in Manila, where he is a professor of the English language. He is an avid sport fisherman.
  • Pingback: The Cult of Victimhood - Religious Education Forum

Archives