“Chinese geologists uncovered evidence of a catastrophic flood some 4000 years ago — right around the time that legends say a mythical founding flood occurred.”
Source: Legends say China began in a great flood. Scientists just found evidence that the flood was real. – The Washington Post
Nathaniel Philbrick has written a new book about Benedict Arnold. In it he challenges some of the myths that have endured about Arnold and his treachery. I have not read it yet, but based on this interview at the HNN and one on NPR it sounds like a very interesting read.
“Stories about the Führer’s phallus have existed for over 60 years”
Read the entire article here: The Immortal Myth of Hitler’s Deformed Genitals | TIME
“On Friday night, Mr. Trump embraced another urban legend, claiming that an American general a century ago summarily executed terrorists with bullets dipped in pig’s blood.” There is not a shred of evidence for this claim!
Source: Donald Trump Cites Questionable ‘Pig’s Blood’ Story on Early Terrorism – The New York Times
Emperor Hirohito, as the infamous leader of Japan during WWII, is a fascinating figure, and therefore one would assume that an article discussing five myths about him would be very interesting. At least that’s what I thought when I saw this post at the HNN. It turns out that the brief article is interesting, but not for its enlightening exposé of the former emperor. Instead, it turned out to be a puzzling commentary that didn’t live up to the hype. The last three “myths” seem irrelevant given the fact that very few people know about or believe in them. What’s the point of debunking myths that no one believes? There may be some Japanese that believe them, but I’m not aware that these are myths of any note in the English-speaking world.
The first two myths are interesting and relevant to the debate over the dropping of the atomic bomb, however, the author of this piece, Francis Pike, doesn’t really achieve his goal of debunking them. Instead his own essay actually confirms the first myth (Emperor Hirohito was a God), unless he’s actually claiming that people believe that he actually was a god. But that is clearly not what he means. He is referring to the fact that during the war many Japanese believed that he was a god. His own essay confirms that this “myth” is actually not a myth: “Japan’s new regime re-emphasized the role of the Emperor as a living God, making it the heart of an ideological indoctrination taught in the new state school education system,” and “the Meiji Constitution granted him absolute power – he was after all enshrined as a God.” So much for debunking the first myth!
His attempted take down of his second so-called myth (Hirohito was simply a constitutional monarch forced into war by his generals) is also unconvincing. He uses several incidences where Hirohito “demonstrated his absolute powers” (which in itself doesn’t actually address the myth), including, most famously, his intervention to end the war in August 1945 as evidence debunking this myth. But all Pike has demonstrated is that Hirohito occasionally stepped beyond the boundaries of his assigned role as a figurehead of the state.
I don’t think “the world is on fire,” but Lawrence Davidson’s essay does hold some relevance to the violence that we see in some parts of the world. He argues that “there are millions of people, Muslims, Jews and Christians and others who not only still idealize a religiously imagined past, but want, in one way or another, to import that past into the present – and not only their present but everyone else’s as well.” This desire for some kind of mythical, ideal past is not new. These kind of golden age myths can be found throughout history, indicating a human affinity for them. They are particularly appealing in times of trouble, and Davidson is right to call them “downright dangerous.”
The problem is that while appealing, these mythical pasts never existed. They were created by scrubbing the particular period of interest of all its blemishes while embellishing the good. All attempts to recreate a mythical past have ended in human tragedy. Just as Procrustes was made to fit his bed by chopping off his legs, humanity is made to fit in an unattainable utopian box by destroying all that does not fit the ideal.
While Davidson focuses solely on the religious versions that are particularly prevalent at the moment, but this kind of golden age thinking can be found in other types of ideologies such as nationalism. We must all resist the siren song of these kinds of golden age narratives no matter how enticing they are.
History News Network | This is One Reason the World Is on Fire.
Ron Briley explores the reasons and consequences of the mythic narratives that perpetuate the sense of southern victim hood. “The notion that the Civil War and Reconstruction were foisted upon a defenseless South by a tyrannical central government retains considerable influence in a Southern ideology of persecution…Whether it is lowering the Confederate battle flag, mandating individuals to purchase health insurance, acceptance of gay marriage, or discussions of gun control legislation, there is a siege mentality for many in the South that their way of way in endangered. The region continues to rank at the bottom of most economic indicators dealing with health care, education, and levels of poverty, yet the Confederate flag promotes a legacy of racism that prevents impoverished blacks and whites from establishing common ground.”
Read Briley’s insightful essay on southern politics:
History News Network | The Persistence of Myth in Southern Politics and Life.