From [HERE] by Dr. Amos Wilson
History as Mythology
I'm going to look briefly at European history as mythology, as propaganda, and as the creator of personality (which it is). It is mythology. European mythology (European hallucination) can only work against us where there is an absence of contact with reality, an absence of knowledge of Afrikan history. We hallucinate every night. These hallucinations are called dreams, and they occur at the point where we become detached from reality. We maintain our mental balance and sense of self by the input of our senses. It is necessary that for human beings to maintain sanity that they receive random input (and changing input) from the world. That is why we suffer so much when we are put into solitary confinement — where we can't see or hear anything — we may begin to have visions and hallucinations as a result thereof. There are what we call desensitization experiments. Some of us might have gotten a chance to see the movie, Altered States, that speaks to this kind of experience where when you remove a person's capacity to see, feel, hear, touch and so forth, very peculiar things happen to the mind. Hallucinations begin to occur, orientation is lost. The individual becomes imbalanced because the information that's normally used to maintain mental equilibrium is absent. We're in a similar state when we are asleep and the mind creates its own reality, its own movie show, and we watch it throughout the night. Often we don't know that we are in an unreal world until we wake up the next morning.
Mythology and hallucinations, such as those European history represents, can take us where it has taken us only as the result of the fact that we are not in touch with reality, not in touch with our Afrikan history in a realistic sense. European history is written in such a way, or projected in such a way, that we become detached and disconnected from the reality that maintains our sanity, maintains our balance and orientation. We then can fall victim to created visions and hallucinations, delusions and illusions.
In the final analysis, European history's principal function is to first separate us from the reality of ourselves and separate us from the reality of the world; to separate us from the reality of our history and to separate us from its ramifications. We will then take the hallucinations which result from these separations as representing what is real. That is its primary function — as mythology.
From the first day a reporter asked the first tough question of a government official, there has been a debate about whether government has the right to lie. It does. And in certain circum¬stances, government not only has the right but a positive obligation to he.
This is stated by Jody Powell (who served under former President Jimmy Carter, as press secretary) in his book, The Other Side of the Story. A very interesting admission. Many have heard me say that Europeans, who comprise 10 percent of the world's population, can only rule over the 90 percent by lying, by deceit and force. The only way that we can be in the condition we are in, as a people, is to believe lies. Our mentality has been reversed and our behavior made backwards because we take the lie for the truth, and the truth for the lie. A small minority in the world can only rule by making backwards the mentality of the large majority. It makes mentally backward the large majority by reversing the truth, creating lies and getting the majority to believe the lies that it creates. Powell has honestly admitted it.
European historiography lies in many ways. It even lies when ostensibly telling the truth. An effective propagandist doesn't want to tell too many big lies, too many obvious lies; he wants to tell the truth in a sort of way that gets him where he wants to go.
We have to recognize that European history-writing is an institution the way any other discipline is an institution. And the function of institutions in any oppressive society is to maintain the status quo. I don't care what institution we may talk about; whether we talk about the family institution, the criminal justice institution, the economic institution, the religious institutions, the health establishment, the educational institutions; they all have one thing in common in a Eurocentric oppressive system — to maintain the status quo and to maintain Afrikan people in oppression. We must keep this in mind. It is not so much what they say or don't say they represent. It is how they function that is of importance. The European writing of history is in tandem with everything else European and its purpose is ultimately the same: to maintain European power and domination.
European historiography does this by a number of means. It may do this by the pure falsification and concealment of history, by omission and by commission. It may do it by what I call a "theft of history." We, in studying Egyptology, are trying to take back what European historiography has stolen, completely falsified; to erase the new false identities it placed on the Afrikan Egyptian people. Or when there isn't a direct lie we get a history book that's written about Egyptians without any reference to ethnicity. We have an unwritten rule which says that if ethnicity is not mentioned then we are talking about White-folks. That rule has been so deeply ingrained within us that we can read history about ourselves in great detail but project whiteness right into it and "whitewash" our own identity.
We have been set-up by Eurocentric historiography in such a way that when the word "slave" is mentioned we assume that they are talking about us, Afrikan people. So we read about slaves in history and right away assume they must be talking about "colored" folks. As if no other people has ever been enslaved but Black people. In other words, historiography can create an outright lie (as it often does), or present itself "neutrally", "non-ethnically", and achieve deceptive ends since j\ it has already set us up to misperceive reality and truth. The European historiography so "beautifully" sets us up that we supply the lie while looking directly at truth.
This society gets away by pretending that it is free and open. Ladies and gentlemen, it does provide tremendous amounts of information and puts that information right in our neighbor¬hoods, right before our eyes; we're just overrun with informa¬tion. There's so much information in libraries until one young man went into one and just by reading found out how to develop an atomic bomb...the mechanism, the whole thing...not from classified data, but data right on the library shelves. He had to have intentions and needs to do that, didn't he? He had to have goals, values, other things that took him to those books; and those mental structures allowed him to pull out the relevant information and piece it together. Without appropriate motivational structures information can be put right before our faces and we will gain nothing from it.
So we're in the situation, as Black people, where the information is put right before our faces and we gain relatively little from it. It can only be put before our faces the way it is because we have been so mentally and motivationally structured that we will not and cannot take that information and transform it to our own advantage. Therefore, this country talks about ...freedom of information! "See, we let them read anything." But it goes back to the phrase: The best way to hide anything from a Negro is to put it in writing.
Historiography may function as propaganda — propaganda being an effort to persuade people to a point of view on an issue. History can be used to intimidate. European achievements are inflated and the next thing we know, we are asking ourselves "How we can fight this great people?" We've been frightened! They talk about the great discoveries they've made and we say to ourselves, "Hey, we'd better hang in with these people because if we lose them we're going back to the Dark Ages." We think this way because they've destroyed our confidence, our capacity to think for ourselves and to believe that we are capable of creating a world as great or greater than the Eurocentric one that presently exists. In this way European historiography functions to maintain a social system, to "psychologize" and create a personality orientation in its readers or hearers.
Even if we forget every fact and detail of inflated Eurocentric history, its intimidatory impression stays with us even when the content is lost. That's the point of it, to leave the impression, because that impression will become a dynamic source of behavioral orientation toward the world.
The European doesn't care whether or not we remember the facts and the details as long as we just remember the impres¬sion, as long as our personalities have been impressed and transformed in a fashion compatible with European interests. Historiography may be used and function to rationalize ideology and justify the status quo, to motivate activity and to create consciousness. We see that all the time, the rationalization of slavery through the use of history, the rationalization of European domination through the use of history. Why is our cultural history stolen from us? So that we can think that we had no culture until the European gave us his, or projected his own upon us; so that we can feel that we are not capable of culture, and of developing a culture of our own, one that could be respected the world over; so that we develop an inferiority complex and the other kinds of complexes we talk about so often today.
When you steal a people's history you can justify ruling over them and thus justify domination. More importantly, history may be used to influence personality, culture, roles, and to motivate us to commit suicide, to provoke us to commit menticide (A term coined by Dr. Bobby Wright to explain the mental genocide practiced against Afrikan people) and may be used to create or rationalize fratricide, genocide and self-destruction.
How many times have we, maybe in our own personal lives, attacked someone because we were given the wrong history about them? How many murders have been perpetrated because someone believed a lie? How many wars have been started because the population was lied to and a history projected in such a way that it motivated them to kill? A bogus, thoroughly wrongful fabrication can lead one to imprisonment, can lead one to murder, or lead to wars, or to being killed and destroyed. So there is a direct connection between history and the way people behave and act, between what one thinks of as history and killing, death, destruction and imprisonment.
So history is no casual thing that one picks up while passing through school. It becomes a part of one's total orientation toward the world. If it were not, why then does the European see himself as the sole, valid historian in the world and tries to see himself as the only one who should determine what history is? We are, to a very great extent, what we are today as people as the result of believing lies presented as truth. We must recognize that this often comes in the guise of history.
Eurocentric history most popularly functions as mythology. Mythology has many functions. We can't go into them here today due to constraints of time. Mythology often can be seen as a form of denial of reality. If a memory is too painful to be recalled, if recalling it means suffering, pain, shame, guilt and other negative things, the individual may not only deny the reality of that memory and experience but may actually create a mythology in their places. By becoming obsessed and caught up in that mythology, he uses it as a means of keeping out of his conscious memory the traumatic experiences that he fears.
The European must undoubtedly fear the truth of Afrikan history. Recall the phrase: Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. Arid if we are not free today, then we must not know the truth. If Eurocentric history and other disciplines are true then why aren't we free? The knowledge of truth threatens those who wish to imprison us, keep us imprisoned, and keep us dominated. The projection of the European version of history into our minds as mythology is a way of repressing truth within our own minds and within our breasts as a people.
European historiography functions to maintain repression. Often, the person represses painful information that threatens his equilibrium because he may be profiting by the lies he tells himself and others. The European profits by the lies he tells, the false perceptions and consciousness he creates in himself and others. Therefore, truth and a more realistic history threatens these gains. His self-esteem and vision of who he is and what he is, is maintained through the projection of his history as mythology. That's one of the functions of mythology — to maintain self-esteem.
The European projection of history not only serves to drive out and repress truth, but also to maintain the inflated European ego. Therefore, truthful history is not only seen as a correction of his history, but as a direct attack against his ego, status and position in the world. That's why Afrikan-centered history is reacted to with such great anxiety. That's why almost anything Afrikan is reacted to with alarm. But it is only through Afrikaness, only through the projection of the truth of Afrikaness, that our freedom can be attained as a people, and European domination brought to an end.
Whether a mythology is perceived as true or false is sociologically unimportant. Some Blacks would debate Elijah Muhammad's view of the world, about the White man being the Devil, Of course, the "negro" who doesn't want to do anything gets into the fine points of that. He's very careful to distinguish the good ones from the bad ones and the ones in-between. He has a graduated measuring rod; he works them out by degrees. But when the White man enforced segregation down South, the good Black-folk and the bad Black-folk sat right in the back of the bus; it didn't matter. The mythology didn't differentiate: "You're black; get back." That's the deal; you're bad. The function was not that of telling truth. The idea was how that mythology (i.e., all Blacks are bad) helped maintain the racial status quo. The idea is not whether Whites are Devils or Angels, but what would happen if we dealt with Whites as if they were Devils. How would that transform our situation as a people? How would that transform our behavior as a people? Would it move us closer to doing for self, would it move us closer to controlling our destinies, our own behaviors, gaining control of our economies and our nations? Would it remove us from being manipulated and used by another system? It is not about truth alone; it is about self-control. It is about the gaming of power. It is about being able to protect and advance our survival. But if we get caught up in the minutiae of trying to figure out whether there are good ones and bad ones and others in-between, we may find ourselves being destroyed in our studies. That's why we have to recognize that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad was the greatest psychologist we ever had, and many of us still have not come to understand that yet. Some of us thought that we were doing our "intellectual thing" when we got caught up trying to point out his "mythologies." Not at all; we must look at function.
So European history, whether it is true to the extent and/or in the context within which it is projected, or whether it is false, is really not the ultimate point. It's the fact that it functions as a mythology, and as mythology it functions to maintain European power, domination, and control. It is our attack against it as a mythology that we must be concerned with as an Afrikan people. Because the mythology becomes a part of our mental structure. It is used as a tool of intellection, a tool of comprehension", a tool of dealing with the world and relating to the world. A mythology organizes the world, organizes behavior; it organizes interpersonal and intergroup relations. Whatever mythology we believe is one that organizes our approach to other people, our perception of ourselves and of other people. It provides answers. The answers may not be right, they may be wrong; but it still provides an answer. And that's psychologically satisfying. Nothing threatens us and nothing upsets us like unanswered questions. Often Man projects a mythology in order to get himself out of his agony of dealing with unanswered questions and to put his mind at rest.
We have to recognize the function of mythology since mythology seeks to mold character and to motivate, as well as to de-motivate. Mythology often takes control of the domain of discourse, in the sense that just the presentation of European history — leaving Afrikan history aside — implies that Afrikan history is not worth learning. I often tell college students that "you look at your college catalog and you see a course in there and assume that because it's in the catalog it's worth learning." You say to yourself, "If it's not there then it must not be worth learning; because if it was worth learning it would be there." You look at the list of required courses and you don't see anything about your history as being required. You assume that the most important courses are required and since the ones related to us are not required then they must not be important. Just the reading of the catalog inflates one group and deflates the other. It creates a superiority complex in one and an inferiority complex in the other. When we name things, when we speak of things in order to exclude contrary truths, we create and uncreate reality. This is the role that European historiography has arrogated to itself. [MORE]