We burnt our own history

(Epistemic Status: Polemical. No lies but meaningful omissions)

When I read conservative websites, the more intellectual ones, they see the history of the west as being something meaningful. They see an unbroken line stretching from antiquity through the greeks and Rome, the rise of christianity, the dark ages and finally the renaissance and birth of a new democratic and free world order. They see the grand enterprise of western civilisation, how our norms and values are a combination of so much that came before us. How most of the values we see as normal today, from not hating the weak to seeing virtue as morality rather than strength or beauty or wealth, came about from the triumph of christianity over paganism. It’s a good story. Better than the ahistorical denial of western culture the far left embraces. It’s still wrong. It’s wrong because it misses out a very important part. The part where we burnt our past.

Aristote. Plato. Diogenes. Anximander. Pythagoras. We trace back many of our ideas today to the greeks. From science to democracy. The funny thing is that all we have are fragments and fragments of fragments. That’s because christians spent hundreds of years manically and pathologically burning every trace of pagan writers, tearing down statues and generally exterminating any echo of the past which didn’t conform to their manic outlook on the world. Many writings we do have come from the muslim world where the knowledge of the west was preserved for centuries. Our modern translations often aren’t from greek, they’re second hand, translated from arabic.

It’s worth remembering that ideology always contaminates the search for truth. Just like the left choose to ignore or downplay the fact that the west did have a distinct culture and history so the right downplays or omits the horrors christianity and the church wrought. It’s not (usually) intentional. It’s just that when making up stories about the world our brain tends to want to show our tribe in a good light and other tribes in a bad one and modern political tribes tend to identify more or less with historical ones.

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