It’s often said that history is written by the victors. I don’t think that is entirely true, but I can definitely tell you who history is written for, and that’s the suckers.
I’m referring to the history books people are forced to read in schools, by the way, not to serious and specialized history books. (The kind that almost no one reads.)
What brought up this subject was a comment I stumbled upon this morning, in a Wikipedia article about the origins of banking:
Wealth was deposited and kept in temples; in treasuries, where safety was afforded by the will of the gods.
I’ve actually studied ancient Mesopotamia, and I don’t for a minute believe that the guys who looted their local farmers believed it was protected by the gods. If they did, they wouldn’t have kept it in the most secure building in their kingdom, surrounded by thick walls and isolated from approach!
That line – that five thousand year old line – was created for the suckers, the people who gave the thugs their money but wanted to feel noble about it. And it’s still working! The ruler is automatically afforded every benefit of the doubt, at all times and in all ways.
History – at 3000 BC and even now – is written for the suckers: the people who maintain that eternal benefit of the doubt.
A Day at the British Museum
Let me explain how this works:
Several years ago, as I was completing a book on history called Production Versus Plunder, I visited the British Museum in London. There were some particular artifacts I wanted to see again, and I wanted to walk around and consider all the museum’s pieces of history: to see if there was anything important that I had overlooked or misrepresented.
On the second floor, where the most ancient artifacts are displayed, I found a sign entitled The First Cities. The text on this sign expressed the definitive mythology of ancient history, as it is now taught worldwide. It read:
This required organization and administration… With expansion came social differentiation and the development of an appropriate bureaucratic infrastructure, required to initiate and oversee the necessary public building programs.
This text was written for suckers, and it is simply false. Among other things, organization followed the creation of civilization, and public building programs came long, long after. (We covered a massive refutation of this sign in FMP #37.)
Signs like this on museum walls are written to justify the rulership of their place and time, to make it seem like the ultimate and inevitable end of human development. (Museums are nearly always suck-ups to their local ruler.)
I Could Go On
I have stories about other museums (and others about textbooks), but they’re not important just now. What is important is this base fact: The history you learned through approved channels was mainly propaganda. Its purpose was to hold you as a docile, obedient cog in their machine… a sucker.
I’ll close with two relevant quotes. The first from journalist H. L. Mencken:
The plain fact is that education is itself a form of propaganda – a deliberate scheme to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite for gulping ideas ready-made. The aim is to make ‘good’ citizens, which is to say, docile and uninquisitive citizens.
And another from educator John Taylor Gatto:
The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.
Remember that no one – no person, no group – is entitled to a permanent benefit of the doubt. That is mere servility, and it is inappropriate for any thinking being.