Race And Racism: A Historical Look (8 of 15)

(If you want to read the full version you can go HERE,)

Part III: Modern Ideology

The Aryan Myth

For Judeo/Christians we have two images of the perfect life; the Garden of Eden and the New Jerusalem. But our history has only filled the space in-between. From the moment Adam and Eve were forced out of the Garden until as we Christians believe Christ will come again ending the space in-between we’ve never experienced living as anything other than a struggle between good and evil. God did not write a book titled Utopia, but what we read in God’s book is first those generations of men listed in Genesis 5, then the children of Abraham, then the Hebrews led out of slavery from Egypt, then live in the land of Promise, at no time do we see people of Yahweh in anything other than living in a world with clashes between good and evil. Adam and Eve failed living a perfect life; Noah failed living a perfect life; Abraham failed living a perfect life; Moses failed living a perfect life; David failed living a perfect life; Paul failed living a perfect life. The only exception was Jesus, who while living a perfect life was treated badly from imperfect people around him. As we look over history beginning right now and looking backwards we look over billions of people, none of whom, other than Jesus, was perfect but all suffered internally and externally good and evil. Only one, in what, 6,000 years, 20,000 years, a 100,000 years? In this sense it doesn’t matter if we are creatures of God or creatures of the goo, the struggle between good and evil has been our lot. Only Yahweh offers us the idea that we are ontologically better than this, that our being is inherently good, and though evil may have corrupted us like cancer corrupts the body, take the cancer away and the body is that perfect ecosystem of balance and harmony.

Go back to that image above to the blank earth, blank in that there are no Homo sapiens roaming about. Then go to the image of that same earth where now Homo sapiens are roaming, having either begun the journey on the shores of Eastern Africa, as we now call that landmass, or slightly above it in what we think of as the Middle East, or both; whether from God or goo we began looking alike, thinking alike, then time and place made changes to our looks and our beliefs and as we took our places on different parts of the earth we built societies and cultures and we clashed inside those societies and cultures and clashed with other societies and cultures. As Burchhardt put it, we had a period of time of growth, blooming, then decay.

In the mythical continent Atlantis that Plato created it wasn’t an exercise in finding our perfect beginning but a writer’s tool for making a point. So why did we mythologize it later? Because we wanted to believe we came from perfect, therefore we could find our way back to perfect. Well, the Judeo/Christian Bible does that but it doesn’t satisfy us because 97% of the Bible is set inside imperfect societies and people. We want to see perfect in the here and now, not the there (heaven) and later. So we make up our perfect man.

The Germans did this in the Aryan myth. The intelligencia, philosophers, sociologists, evolutionary biologists began looking at their societies with this question in their mind; “Why has it all gone bad?” You see, they were caught up in The Idea of Decline in Western History. The growth, the bloom had given way to decay and they wanted someone, something, or both to be the fall guy for it.

It was at this time that a new science, anthropology, entered as we catalogued and categorized everything we saw making special note of differences and what those differences meant to an ecosystem. It was now, in 1853 that a new idea, race, entered our thinking. As we looked at that first world globe where populations had already spread across the globe, the different continents are loosely filled with similar looking and acting people. What became defined as “race” really began as “linage”, no moral connotations involved, just differences seen in people from different geographical locations.

As we saw earlier, empires began when one nation gobbled up another nation. Typically, and naturally, the peoples of one nation were similar, or a term we now use, homogenous. It was only when a waring nation spread out that they began seeing people dissimilar to themselves, to include color differences in skin tones. Use caution here, though, because skin color was just one difference and as we historically saw not all that important a difference. What made difference matter was culture, and that defined, but not limited to, technological differences.

In 1853, the intelligencia, especially in Europe, proposed three racial types; Oriental or Mongol, Negroid, and White or Caucasian. Later Australoid (Australian Aborigine) would be added. Today, and to our total misunderstanding, we limit racism to color differences and think this was how it always was. In all of Asia, or as categorized as Oriental or Mongol, Chinese had different facial features from Koreans from Japanese from Vietnamese, all with similar skin tones, but the more so-called cultured Chinese looked down on and saw everyone less cultured than they, and the same in Japan, and felt they had a right to take over the less cultured. In Europe the Norse looked different from the French from the Germans from the English and none had difficulty waring against another believing themselves better. Around the world culture was the defining difference, not color.

As it turned out, Europe, that body of people we see in the map of Europe, developed a culture quite different from other continents of people. It wasn’t because they were basically Caucasian in skin color, though they were, Europeans benefited from two distinct cultures, Greece and Rome whose influence on thinking, philosophy, art, and science led to a progression in technology that shaped how Europe developed. While aspects of other cultures from different continents found a home in Europe and were adopted in and added to Europe’s cultural expression, Europe’s technological advancement gave them an advantage over other people around the world.

As we saw earlier, from the dawn of history, nations and tribes took others from other nations and tribes (having nothing to do racially) as slaves. Africa was an easy target for taking slaves because as a whole the continent was divided into tribes, typically at war with one another, not advancing far enough into technology to help them fend off outside peoples, like the Arabs at first, then the Portuguese, then the English, and unable to stop European nations from colonizing Africa. 

From Wikipedia on the “Berlin Conference” we read these facts:

“Before the conference, European diplomacy treated African indigenous people in the same manner as the New World natives, forming trading relationships with the indigenous chiefs. In the early 1800s the search for ivory, which was then often used in the production of luxurious products, led many white traders further into the interior of Africa. With the exception of trading posts along the coasts, the continent was essentially ignored during this period.

“[Then] due to many factors including diplomatic manoeuvres, subsequent colonial exploration, and recognition of Africa’s abundance of valuable resources such as gold, timber, rubber, land, and markets, European interest in the continent had increased dramatically.” 

The Berlin Conference was Europe’s blessing to colonize Africa. And they did, but not primarily because Africans were black but because they were not capable of stopping European strong-arming them. Three national groups took more than materials out of Africa, they also took people as slaves beginning with Arabs, then Portuguese, and finally the English. But William Wilberforce’s Slave Trade Act 1807 abolished the slave trade in the British Empire. It was not until the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 that the institution finally was abolished altogether.

Why did the Arabs, Portuguese, and English take Africans as slaves? Because they could, helped by Africans themselves, not because they were black. Because they thought of Africans as primitive people because they were less technologically advanced and in some weird justification that gave them the right to take slaves.

While this was going on, peoples from other continents (and now thought of as races) migrated to Europe and while not the melting pot that happened in America did become part of European society.

Jump 50 or so years later and the question why is our society, or nation, in decline and you look for a culprit and guess who stands out, those who are not “us”, not European.

Carl Gustav Carus, was a German physician, biologist, and philosopher, born in Leipzig, Germany. Carus was widely known for his work in physiology, psychology, and philosophy. He was also a landscape painter and art critic. Carus “argued that since Europeans more closely resembled the classical idea of physical beauty than non-Europeans, this was a sign of their preordained superiority over, uglier people,” Herman writes of him in The Idea of Decline. This certainly included Africans who were the darkest skin, but also included others with lighter skin tones, Orientals.

Joseph Arthur de Gobineau was a French aristocrat who is best known today for helping to legitimize racism by use of scientific racist theory and “racial demography” and for his developing the theory of the Aryan master race, who took his ideas from Carus. In his book, Essay, Herman says of Gobineau’s thoughts; “[W]hite Europeans are, of course, superior to their Negroid or Oriental counterparts. As Gobineau explains. the white man enjoys a greater harmony of physical energy, intelligence, and moral scruples. Of all the existing races, he remains the most vital—and it is this vitality, a life force or essence passed from the living organism to its descendants, that lies at the origin of all human creativity and civilization.” Racist, for sure, but it’s the rationalization of elitists like Carus and Gobineau, and later others like the great German composer Richard Wagner, who are looking for a scapegoat to explain Western civilization’s decline.

Into this thought came the Aryan mythology.

“In Europe the notion of white racial superiority emerged in the 1850s, propagated most assiduously by the comte de Gobineau and later by his disciple Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who first used the term “Aryan” to mean the “white race.” Members of that so-called race spoke Indo-European languages, were credited with all the progress that benefited humanity, and were purported to be superior to “Semites,” “yellows,” and “blacks.” Believers in Aryanism came to regard the Nordic and Germanic peoples as the purest members of the “race.” That notion, which had been repudiated by anthropologists by the second quarter of the 20th century, was seized upon by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and was made the basis of the German government policy of exterminating Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and other “non-Aryans.” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Aryan People”.)

It was them, the black people, the brown people.