So, lately I’ve run into outright attempts to invent the past.
The most egregious is in that course on myth I’m listening to while walking. He says there is absolutely no proof of a great mother (more or less exclusive) worship before patriarchal gods “pushed” her out. He says there is no sign that societies that worshiped goddesses treat women better… And then he proceeds for lectures on end to act as though such things were proven.
It is, I suppose, very attractive to the modern mind, with its idea that every Jack and Jill (but mostly Jill) needs a role model that matches his or her external or cultural characteristics that they assume worship of any sort of fertility goddess would mean a great respect for women.
Do I need to tell you this is poppycock?
I shouldn’t need to. We know almost every ancient religion worshiped at least one (often more) female deities, and we know that compared to us in the present so called “patriarchy” women were not only not respected, but were often used in strictly utilitarian ways as in “Mother, caretaker, etc.”
I see absolutely no reason to imagine that primitive humans were better than that, particularly since we do have archaeological evidence (scant, so non-conclusive) to back up the sort of hard scrabble/winner take all existence the great apes bands have, where the word “family” and “harem” are basically equivalent and the alpha male takes all.
In fact the evidence from modern day primitives, whether or not the worship of a female goddess is present, often leads one to conclude that the presence of a female goddess implies stronger patriarchy.
Things that are taken as support, of a great and happy matriarchy, such as matrilineal descent are actually proof of nothing. The Zulus have that, which did not stop them being the bamfest bamfs to have stridden through Africa in the 19th century, leaving destruction and desolation in their wake.
Oh, and to minds before our “class, gender, and race” obsessed ones, (partly because of grave mal-education founded in Marxist principles) it’s not necessary to have the same fiddly bits, the same color or even the same general shape as someone else to take them as a role model. More males were devoted to the Virgin Mary than women, a fact easily verifiable by reading any biography of Christians past. And more females held Jesus or a male saint in particular affection.
If you go even further back, many devotees of Cybele were male (at least until they ceased being males) and there were female devotees to male gods, too.
Look, I know this is hard to explain, but before we got so incredibly “sophisticated”, males in general liked females and vice versa (even those who didn’t bang fiddly bits with the opposite sex, or, in fact, with anyone.)
But this is merely one of the things to have gotten under my nose recently. Because evidence of myth making is everywhere, and not just in the far past, when it’s easier to swallow just-so stories.
There seems to be this strange idea that we must tell stories of the world as we wish it to be and then it will automagically become so. And because no part of the world, and no time in History can compare to Western society in the current times (and very few can compare to the united states of America) the way to bring their stories into existence is to tell us how bad we are in comparison to everyone else.
The fact that this is a blatant lie doesn’t matter. They still do it.
They are convinced, if they can shame us with these imaginary superior cultures that we will somehow adopt the ways they want us to.
One egregious demonstration of this is the claim that other times and places were more tolerant of different sexual personas. This one makes me want to SCREAM because… well… define “more tolerant.”
Traditional societies often had niches for sexually different people, including but not limited to those who lived as the opposite sex. BUT when the ignorant parrots of the western world go on about this stuff, they usually know just enough about the other culture to project all sorts of happy thoughts upon it. The thing is that assuming the persona and lifestyle of the opposite sex was often not a choice, and not because the person “felt” one way or another. Certain social circumstances dictated a certain change. Like, in Romania (I think) a woman whose brothers have been killed was almost required to assume a male persona in order to support the family. Whether she wanted to or not. And I have a vague idea that in certain parts of India, a woman who cannot find a husband is allowed to “marry” another woman. Note there is no mention made of sexual desire for her own gender. It’s more a matter of fitting neatly into society.
And then there were those priests of Cybele. What part was choice, and what part what was expected of that particular person in those particular circumstances?
Before modern time, even in Europe, how many second or third sons or daughters were committed to the church and a celibate state whether that was their choice or no? (And how many did honor to that state, anyway?)
Traditional societies more often than not have less room for the individual than the Western society, which means that projecting our idealized intent onto such societies, and viewing deviation from our norm as “tolerance” is an act of provincial stupidity.
The truth is it has been the Judeo-Christian tradition, flowering into the enlightenment coupled with the material wealth fostered by the industrial revolution and, yes, capitalism (in however small measure it is allowed even in the west) that has allowed our society to develop ideas of self fulfillment, of “pursuit of happiness” which would be considered downright strange in the past.
Note, I’m not implying that we’re perfect. Being human, we can’t be perfect. And if we don’t get lost looking for an imaginary past, our grandchildren might look upon us as intolerant barbarians.
HOWEVER I’m implying looking for lessons in the distant and the primitive does nothing for us here and now, particularly when most of those lessons are crazy made-up stuff.
For instance, what good is it saying that women were revered in pre-history, when we know that more than likely women in pre-contraceptive days and particularly in poor times and places were sort of a baby factory whose life was limited and confined by their biological function? What does it teach women? That merely letting go and daydreaming about a past that never was will make them superior to men?
Is this what we want?
It has long been said that the truth will set you free. This is often true, even when that freedom is the bleak and dry eyed horror of knowing how wrong things can go. (As in, say, studying totalitarian regimes of the past.)
The corollary is that lies enslave you. They make the perfect the enemy of the good, and in making current day people long for a past that never was, turn them into the dupes and followers of totalitarians and power seekers.
Or in other words, stop making sh*t up. It doesn’t help, and it might be hurting. The future deserves better than your lies about the past.