[Editor’s note: Make sure to read Daniel Greenfield’s masterpiece contributions in Jamie Glazov’s new book: Barack Obama’s True Legacy: How He Transformed America.]
After canceling most people who lived in the last two centuries for not being sufficiently accepting of the current dogma, woke academia has turned its attention to the distant past.
After accusing Isaac Newton and Robert Burns of being complicit in slavery, the British woke war on the past has gone bigger. Edinburgh University had already renamed David Hume Tower after Black Lives Matter activists accused the philosopher, born in 1711, of racism. The Sir Francis Drake Primary School had to change its name and William Gladstone is next.
But even when you get rid of every famous Englishman, Scotsman, Irishman and Welshman, there’s no escaping the fact that it’s just a bunch of white people. As Mary Rambaran-Olm, an Afro-Indo Caribbean academic who decided to study medieval English literature, complained, the “field has traditionally been represented by white people and unsurprisingly still attracts mostly white students due to the field’s inherent whiteness.”
There are no complaints that black studies is too black, attracts black students and is represented by black people due to the field’s inherent blackness, but you can’t have the study of Irishness get too Irish, Welshness get too Welsh or England get too English.
The English, after being accused of colonizing the world, stand charged with colonizing the study of medieval England by the woke academics who want to ‘decolonise it’. Much like the decolonization of other parts of the world, the academic euphemism for ethnic cleansing, means getting rid of all the English. Or at least all the ones with the skin tone common on the isles.
The problem is that England before 1968 was much too white. And the study of it is inescapably the study of white people. Much as Cleopatra has been turned black, there have been efforts to claim that Shakespeare was really a black woman, but it will take an even more massive enterprise of cultural erasure before anyone but the Bridgerton crowd believes that.
In the anti-racist era where every field of study from mechanical engineering to literature must be viewed through the distorting lens of critical race theory, the only proper study of anything involving white people must be their ‘whiteness’ or their racism. But how do you study racism in a country where all the different races were, as Whoopi put it about the Jews and the Nazis: “two white groups of people.” The first step is getting rid of the actual people and making them a metaphor for the current politics and its take on the evils of white people.
Under pressure, the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists changed its name to the International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England. The campaign came from Rambaran-Olm and other woke extremists like Adam Miyashiro, a founding member of the Medievalists of Color, who whined that he was not allowed to present his paper “Beowulf and its Others: Sovereignty, Race, and Medieval Settler-Colonialism,” which described the monster “Grendel as an indigenous person with a specific biopolitics.”
Not only Newton and Hume, but even Beowulf was oppressing people of color like Grendel.
All woke academics know how to do is run everything through the woke sausage machine. The Western world now enjoys the same high standards of scholarism as the Soviet Union where every field, scientific or cultural, was reducible to Marxism-Leninism. In a minor update, woke academics like Miyashiro have been trained to feed anything into the woke sausage machine and then out comes a ChatGPT level paper on intersectionality, colonialism and racism.
When their sole skill in life, sophomoric political reductionism, is rejected because it offers nothing more than cultural vandalism they fall back on complaining that the field is too full of people of the wrong race.
“The thing that strikes one the most is absolutely how white this conference is. With the exception of a couple of East Asian scholars, virtually the entire roster of papers is from white scholars,” Miyashiro’s racist tantrum complained.
Even more shockingly, Tokyo University’s entire Medieval Materials Department is Japanese.
“It’s all white people!” the New York Times headlined its coverage. But medieval England was pretty much all white people. The logic of representation simultaneously demands that black studies should be the exclusive preserve of black people, Latino studies of Latinos, and Anglo-Saxon studies need to consist of a rainbow coalition of angry woke leftists of color.
Is there something wrong with the people from a particular nation and culture being the ones to study that nation and its culture? Miyashiro was not excluded from the conference on any grounds other than his refusal to engage with the culture as it was rather than with his own politics as they are. And that may be the ultimate crime of the medievalists, beyond their whiteness, they refuse to get with the times and make everything about woke politics.
Rambaran-Olm attacks the use of Anglo-Saxon by arguing that the “contested term is not neutral. In fact, one cannot be neutral in the face of racism. Scholarly work, even historical studies, are never separate from current social and political realities.”
What she really means is that history must be subservient to the political agendas of the now.
There’s nothing progressive about that. For nearly all of human history, history was really political propaganda. The past was a fictional narrative designed to prop up whatever king, government or ideology was in power. Pharaohs and emperors destroyed monuments to the past because they provided objective evidence that the past was not in line with their myths.
The emergence of scholarship detached from political schemes was one of the triumphs of western civilization. While imperfect, it made it possible for men and women to try to study the past on its own terms, not because it was politically useful to someone trying to explain why Beowulf was a racist trying to keep Muslim Grendel from settling in Manchester.
The Left is a weapon of mass cultural destruction. Everything it touches dies, even if not physically, then spiritually and intellectually. And it will take modern scriptoriums to keep the past alive as leftists keep on rewriting classic books and banning any apolitical study of the past.
Every totalitarian system needs to reinvent the past in its own image. The Left is no different.
The University of Cambridge’s Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic studies insists that “ASNC teaching seeks to dismantle the basis of myths of nationalism – that there ever was a ‘British’, ‘English’, ‘Scottish’, ‘Welsh’ or ‘Irish’ people with a coherent and ancient ethnic identity – by showing students just how constructed and contingent these identities are and always have been.”
Curiously, Cambridge’s Centre of African Studies does not seem to be on a mission to explain that African identity is a construct and that black people never really existed. But if you can get rid of the English, the Scottish, the Welsh and the Irish, the former inhabitants of the isles will put up less of a fuss when the whole thing is overrun, colonized and turned over to the EU.
It’s a good deal easier to rob people by first convincing them that they never had anything.
Take away people’s rights long enough and they’ll forget. But that only works when you also take away their myths, their stories and their legends so that they never get the notion to fight for a freedom that they never knew they had. George Orwell’s 1984 seemed implausible to most Englishmen of his day because they could not imagine a people so degraded that they had no sense of the past and remembered nothing of England: living only to exist from day to day.
In 2023, that’s just ordinary life. The knowledge of the past has been reduced to the work of a few fussy academics who still tour historical sites and parse the details of ancient grammar while a younger generation defines Britain in terms of rappers and fake working class accents.
And now the wokes would like to get rid of the academics, completely rewrite the past or, as they put it, “decolonise it”, to teach that the isles experienced a series of migrations in which the latest flood of Pakistanis, Iraqis and Syrians are only the latest and .least violent arrivals.
The Mayor of London is Sadiq Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants, while Scotland’s First Minister is Humza Yousaf, also the son of Pakistani immigrants. Some would call this colonization, while leftists call it decolonization. The difference between the two is a sense of ownership rooted in the past. Condemning medieval England as much too white settles the question.
If there’s no room for white people in England, how can there be any room for them in the study of medieval England?