“From the Islamic State to Sri Lanka, modern people are looking to connect with an ancient past.”
This is nothing new. Golden Age myths have long been useful to ambitious demagogues. This narrative is at the heart of all nationalist movements. The basic formula consists of a simplistic narrative of a glorious past of a particular group (whether national, ethnic, or religious) whose decline must be explained. Someone must be responsible this decline. Enter scapegoat (usually a marginalized, feared, or hated minority). The same pattern can be seen from Nazi Germany, to Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbiain the 1990s, as well as the present movements from Donald Trump (“We’re going to take our country back”) to Vladimir Putin in Russia, to the Islamic State, etc.
The anecdote is not less history, but more history. The distortions of these white-washed histories and their purposes need to be exposed. The comforts these narratives provide do not justify their existence. The consequences are too dangerous.