“Sure, today's Olympics are corrupt, rife with cheating, and riddled with scandal, but at least today's games aspire to the noble ideals of the ancient Greeks—amateurism, fair play, and peace,” writes J. Wisniewski in 5 Ridiculous Lies You Believe About Ancient Civilizations, before going on to explain,
“For love of the game” certainly didn't exist two millennia ago. Ancient Greek athletes were just as motivated by material gain and glory as today’s—hell, the word athlete even means “one who competes for a prize.”
The article uncovers some long-standing myths about those ol’ Greeks and Romans that we pay so much lip service to: the notion of their allegiance to reason, their love of orgies, feeding Christians to lions and the culture’s effervescent whiteness. Actual history has given way to recorded history—recorded by those with an agenda in mind.
The myths of orgies and man-eating lions were propagated by Christian writers who wanted to paint pictures of bloodthirsty, sexually ravenous tribes bent on cruising straight into Hell with their bacchanal ways. As Wisniewski notes, the Romans were as sensually awkward as any other intimacy-starved cleric. As for the felines, there are exactly zero recorded accounts.
Rewriting history is certainly nothing new—modern Americans have especially intriguing accounts about our country’s prideful and nationalistic ‘founding.’ Truth is, we often can’t understand what’s happening today, much less thousands of years ago. This week alone we’ve uncovered a secretive Supreme Court quietly penning sketchy procedures and got an uncomfortable birds-eye view of what force-feeding at Guantánamo really looks like.
Just as in the past, we have the faithful to thank for the most blatant and heinous rewrites. Forget about trying to whitewash Bush the Second’s tremendously failed legacy; his fellow Texans are doing quite a number on spinning biblical fantasies at the moment.
The sanctity of life issue being thrown around in Texas has no historical or even biblical grounding in fact. Those attempting to shut down medical clinics nationally, or in this case, making it illegal to have an abortion after 20 weeks, have used ‘biblical values’ as the reason for their stance. The biggest problem is that there is nothing written on this topic in the bible.
As Goldy points out, the closest the bible comes to even touching this issue is in Exodus 21:22-25, where if a man injures a woman so as to cause a miscarriage, he has to pay a fine, as it is a property crime. Not surprising, given that women at this time were essentially treated as property. If the man kills not just the unborn baby but the mother as well, he has to pay with his life.
At least here we have something in alignment with Rick Perry’s take on the ‘sanctity’ of life: while he’s unreservedly pushing for an end to late-term abortion at all costs, he also just racked up his personal 261st death-row execution (and Texas’s 500th since 1976). The ‘tooth for a tooth’ philosophy of biblical scribes holds true. At the very least, here Perry is consistent with his beloved book, even if his anti-abortion stance is anything but.
The rewriting of history often coincides with a complete lack of accounting for science—it has been found that 41% of sex education in Texas is factually incorrect. Another example of this is Perry (among others) denouncing Obama for not approving the Keystone pipeline before any conclusive evidence of the environmental impacts could be weighed. Then again, facts matter little when pre-established agendas are at hand.
We suffer from a complete opposite problem than our forebears when it comes to the writing of who we are. In the past, such documents were few and far between, given that literacy rates were direly low; one of the markers of our social evolution as a species was certainly broadened education. We have relatively few sources to go by in piecing together the last few millennia.
Today we suffer from an overabundance of information. I’m not sure how anyone in a century’s time will piece together any sort of reliable picture of what 2013 in America looked like—we can’t even do that now.
As I sit here writing this, simultaneously watching NPR’s live feed of the Texas abortion bill debate in Austin, the commentary by questioners and politicians has absolutely nothing to do with any form of life that I or my friends encounter; I’m certain they’d say the same of my circle.
The diversity of the possibility of life has always been extreme in its wild potential. It’s one thing to have a varied experience, quite another to purposefully invent a past to fit into the present you want it to be. We can’t know for certain what happened thousands of years ago, much less 100 years back. But we can use the tools of our day—science, reason, and honest discourse—as a means of collectively moving forward. Anything else just keeps us in limbo.
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