Human memory is very short. This is one of those things that drive me bonkers when people talk of how it was “when”. Unless you were alive “When” what you’re getting are the stories you were told.
And stories are inherently untrustworthy. Yes, even oral transmission. Yes, even the sagas changed. Okay, some societies were more successful than others at transmitting long, complex stories orally. But even then, without writing things drift over time and become weird. And if it’s not something considered sacred or important, things drift over 100 years or so. What I call the space grandmother-to-grandchild. Because children misunderstand or their imagination adds bits that they then pass on as “as true” as the parts they were given.
I was reminded of this when I was singing a song I learned as a lullaby. I was singing it when working on the house for sale, and Robert who understands only rudimentary Portuguese said “Oh, for the love of, mom stop it. I don’t want to hear about a woman taken by death.”
At which point I stopped and blinked at him. “What?” I’ve actually always rather liked the song, which is of a stranger who knocks at the door and demands the daughter of the house accompany him some space (he is supposedly blind. So this is charity.) She walks him to the edge of the village, where they’re overwhelmed by his companions, and then it turns out it was a duke who tried to marry her but she refused him because she didn’t want to leave her family/status behind.
The problem is there is a lot of varied symbolism, and son who had just taken a class in myth (and the Jungian theories thereof) had started an interesting rabbit. It is possible the symbolism is for death, including that the stranger arrives at exact midnight, that he knocks on the middle door, that no one else in the house will wake, etc.
Being me, I spent sometime tracking the song. It seems to be very old (about 14th century) but the version I was taught was only collected as fragmentary bits, and the only version they have complete removes all the spooky stuff and instead is a frank Cinderella story, making the stranger a king and going on about how rich the girl was afterwards.
The point being as far as wording, it’s all completely different, and there’s only echos and hints to give “this is the same story.” That is less than a thousand years of transmission, in a language that didn’t change significantly. (Medieval Portuguese sounds more like Spanish but it’s perfectly understandable.)
So, in my explorations of “What if there were people we know nothing about, entire civilizations, say at Classical Greek level?” I kept face-palming when coming across intimations, that surely, of course, there were these long sagas transmitted orally for… seven thousand years, or ten or twenty. Look, sure, we’d get some of the same general “feel” but the details and language would be completely different.
The closest you have to this, that you can verify is the transmission of what I call “Bible lore.” When the church used Latin, people got taught a mishmash of what was in the New Testament and well… whatever they understood. And they passed that to their children. And it got passed on.
I spent most of my time in the village correcting the stories that had passed on, (yes, I was an insufferable kid.) Stuff like “No, our Lady wouldn’t be around at the time of the deluge, unless you mean Balaat, which means “our Lady” in Phoenician. What is wrong with you?” But nothing was wrong. Just invasions, language changes and people assuming what was now had more or less always been, projected backwards.
Human memory is vague and transmission is uncertain. All of us about my age (almost mid-fifties) who have kids, have gone through this. At some point I bet your kids came to you and asked, “When you were a kid, what was your favorite computer game?” or “when you were playing x or y how did you get around level 4?” And when you said you didn’t have computers as a kid, they assumed you’d grown up in poverty.
This is funny, and obviously kids figured it out when they grew up. But when the change wasn’t as rapid and catastrophic, that wasn’t necessarily true, and people just happily projected their circumstances backwards.
We see that in America, to an extent, with the projecting backwards of some sort of “paradise” around WWI and WWI. A “freedom” paradise at that. When, no, actually statism was rife and the way of the future and everyone believed in it. Which is what got us where we are, and why we must fight back.
It’s also what drives me to frothing at the mouth about the “diverse past” brigade. These are the people who will go insane, because you have no black and/or Chinese/etc people in say Medieval England.
EVERY time I talk about this, and how stupid it is, we get “the begs” “But there were moors.” “But the silk road” “But–”
The begs are bullsh*t. No, they seriously are bullsh*t.
Before the 14th to 15th century Europe was remarkably genetically uniform. Sure there were the Moors, who mostly are “Mediterranean” looking and mostly were in Mediterranean parts of Europe. Sure there were Chinese that someone had seen, somewhere. But there were no more than about 1 in a million of people who were TRULY exotic looking.
Look at the digs they’ve done of medieval villages. Not only were they all the same race, they were usually all relatively closely related. “Genetically uniform.” Unless you’re digging in a major port city, like London, and even there the “diversity” is less than you find in any of our very white suburbs.
I grew up in a relatively diverse country and WELL AFTER the middle ages, but people from the next village over were “foreigners” and people from 200 miles away had derogatory names attached to them. We did have a black person in the village. She was known as “the black person.” And we had a descendant of Chinese. The family was known as “the Chinese” though you’d need a microscope to see any difference between them and the other villagers. Then there’s my sister in law known as “of the (female) Moor.” Their entire family is. Who knows how many generations back. I’ll note they run to redheads and blonds, so — You figure it.
“But Sarah you grew up in a uniquely insular and closed in place.” Not even. Not hardly. We were about 30 miles from the sea, and the village was “diverse” in that a blond (Portuguese blond, which means light brown hair) or a relatively tall woman (like me) occasioned little remark.
We once had my aunt from Brazil (she married my uncle) come back and try to trace her origins. This took us, circa 69, on a long trip through the mountains of Portugal (they’re not real mountains. The tallest mountain in the country is 1km if you count the tower built on top. But mountains enough) driving through old roman roads and dirt tracks made for ox carts. We found villages where work stopped and a holiday was declared because they had visitors. In these villages the title for an older woman was “auntie” because she PROBABLY was.
In the middle ages? With no transport except shanks pony? People who trace such things say divorces happened in the following way: you couldn’t take your wife anymore, so you walked fifty miles away and declared yourself a bachelor. Your wife, meanwhile, when you didn’t return, was officially a widow.
Now people move around, they always have. So here and there you’d find one person who’d started out in Africa, or maybe one who’d come from Asia. But they’d be so few as to be irrelevant in terms of population, really visible and yep notorious in terms of “oddity” (to the point people would come to gawk at them) and in general “Strange”.
So unless THEY are the point of the story, to put them in the story being treated as just another person is not historical. It’s wishful thinking.
The problem we have is that the left wants to project “diversity” into the past so we will all think that every society was this mosaic of different, exclusive societies.
This is because the left is what is known as “delusional” and “Self defeating.”
When there was “diversity” in the past, and it didn’t end in a war, it was like when Portugal imported an untold number of slaves in the sixteenth and seventeenth century (seriously, even beggars had slaves to beg for them); they were never sent back, but by the mid twentieth century black people were almost as rare as blonds in continental Portugal (I once mentioned this in a group discussion and some idiot came back with she’d been to Portugal in the eighties, and she’d seen a lot of black people and they’d taught her their lovely songs, or something equally asinine. Yep. Thousands (maybe as much as a million) black people came to Portugal after the African colonies were handed over to the USSR and their Cuban mercenaries under the guise of “independence.” Those people were like Cubans in Florida, escaping at great peril from a murderous regime. BUT that was post 75, not before.) So what happened to all those black people? They got “genetically swamped” and the general hue of the population got slightly darker.
And that’s what happened to any “diversity” in the past. I found, reading a biography from the 19th century, where the high class British woman says all servants are “Portagee” that apparently there was a large influx of Portuguese into England at that time. What happened to them? They got genetically swamped and I guess some Englishmen can tan. (In my day the outflux of immigrants was to the countries half-depopulated by WWII: France and Germany, most of all. And sometimes in France I come across someone with a Portuguese name. But most of them? They’re Frenchmen.)
The truth is that diversity in the past was more melting pot than salad bowl. Sure, if you had some reason to be resentful or separate (thinking of the Mouraria in most Portuguese cities (aka the Moor neighborhood that remained after the reconquest)) you’d have your separate area. Though I’ll note genetically by the 20th century those areas were the same as the rest of the country. Linguistically and religiously too. In fact, Jews are the only minority in a majority population that succeeded in keeping somewhat separate/keeping language and customs/and some genetic integrity. Note I said “some.” Jewish people in Germany looked more German than Jewish people in Spain. (Leading to the story On Venus, Have We Got A Rabbi.)
Mostly diversity is what you have when there was some great population dislocation (invasion, mass immigration, etc) and it’s a step on the way to “reconstituted homogeneity.”
By projecting the type of “salad bowl” diversity they favor into times that were startlingly (to us) non diverse and where what “diversity” there was was on its way to being smoothed out, what the left is doing is trying to create the idea that all this “separate but equal” forever is the NORMAL state of affairs, and the way human societies are.
The reason this enrages me is that it works. People see this in books and movies and series, and become confused, so that I get the “begs”. “But there were moors!” “But there was contact with Asia.”
It works on projecting the lie backwards. It doesn’t make it any less of a lie.
What it does is make people believe the gulfs between populations are so vast, so insurmountable, that we should each “stick to our own kind” and balkanize society. After all, all these diverse groups have been keeping isolated since ever. There must be reasons for it.
What the left can’t understand is that if people believe and embrace that, what they’ll have is not their beautiful mosaic of cultures. Because humans are naturally tribal, and naturally loyal to their own kind, what they will get is the new-racialist theories that are starting to appear. “Hey, if these people have always been there, won’t mingle with us are and incapable of learning our language/customs, we don’t need them.”
The Jews are the only group that managed to keep separateness in Medieval Europe. They paid for it in suspicion, progroms and frankly massacres whenever things went wrong. They are still the object of suspicion and hatred by the new racialists.
If you convince the majority that all these other minorities have been around that long, that separate, that’s the level of suspicion and hatred you’ll be calling down at them.
And this is why I say the left is delusional and self-defeating. The end of their careful lying is the exact opposite of what they think they want.
I don’t like where they’re pushing us (as opposed to where they think they’re pushing us.) but that’s the least of my annoyance. Mostly I’m annoyed that they’re forcing lies on future generations.
To decide where we’re going and how we’ll live, we need to know the truth, the unvarnished truth and how things worked themselves out.
To build a future based on lies is like building a bridge with rotten boards. It might look pretty, but it will mean death and devastation long before you get to the other side.