On Vikings and Victims: White-Guilt in Context

by Raymond Ibrahim

American Thinker

All-permeating “white-guilt” did not appear out of thin air. It has taken a sustained propaganda effort, a wide-ranging mobilization of education and culture, to inculcate and sustain self-loathing among American Caucasians. Like the Coca-Cola TM brand, white-guilt needs endless repetition to remain struck in the thought and behavioral processes of the masses.

The movie Pathfinder, which I saw on cable, offers a vivid example of the sort of brainwashing intended to refresh the white-guilt TM brand in the thinking habits of young people in particular.

Set around 900 AD, the film deals with Viking incursions into North America.  The Vikings are portrayed as ironclad giants — more monster than human — mounted atop massive Clydesdales, barking and grunting obscenities in some strange tongue; the natives, as expected, gentle, innocent, and peace-loving. This theme, of course, is not new.

Subtleties playing on white-guilt, however, are spread throughout. Consider the usage of language. The Vikings speak only Norse, with English subtitles (though the viewer could do without, since apparently the north-men had naught to utter but barbarities and cruelties). Conversely, the natives rattle off in 21st-century colloquial English. If the movie was primarily interested in authenticity (let alone objectivity), both languages — Native and Norse — should have been used (as in The Passion, where Latin, Hebrew, and Aramaic are maintained throughout). Moreover, if either of the two languages should have been rendered into English, logically it should have been Norse, which is at least etymologically related to English and in the same linguistic group.

Of course, philological fidelity is not the movie-makers’ primary interest; empathy by association is. Violent Vikings are left to babble unintelligently about fire, war, and iron, while Natives talk of love, peace, and courage — all in very smooth English. Americans are supposed to identify with the natives, not their Norse co-linguists, nor, for millions of American viewers tracing their lineage to Scandinavia, their ancestors.

Language manipulation aside, the depiction of Vikings as brutal warriors and plunderers is at least plausible and historic. The Native presentation, on the other hand, is neither. Indeed, the cultural anachronisms of Pathfinder suggest that 10th-century natives were akin to modern-day liberals, easily “traumatized” and constantly in need of “therapy” and “reaffirmation” — concepts wholly non-existent in the 10th century.

From the start, a native woman encounters dead bodies and starts shrieking (she is “traumatized”) and running madly — as if living in 900 AD North America (or anywhere else at the time, for that matter) men, women, and children would not find the sight of rotting corpses banal. In the midst of this carnage, she happens upon a Viking boy who brandishes a sword at her. Instead of reacting instinctively — fight-or-flight — she casts a loving look at him as if to say “You poor boy; what have they done to you?” and embraces him.

In fact, the main reasons that make the hero of the story, this same young Viking grown into manhood, agreeable, are his “liberal-therapeutic” tendencies. He has “daddy-issues” (his father beat and abandoned him for not being “man” enough) and is “confused” about his “identity,” finally sloughing off his violent Viking (read: “white”) heritage in favor of a sort of “multi-culti” native identity, thus making him the triumphant hero we can all support and identify with.

Of course none of this should be surprising; neither presenting dead white men as the personification of evil nor presenting non-whites as the personification of good — especially Native Americans, who have all but come to be the paradigmatic “noble other” who suffer countless and untold depredations at the hands of the white man. This theme is well rooted in popular culture, thanks to academia. Indeed, this motif is so ubiquitous that none other than Osama bin Laden exploits it to make white Americans feel shame and guilt.

This “noble-victimized-non-white” paradigm has further come to be applied to almost all non-whites. For example, early sub-Saharans are always portrayed as a peaceful people who simply wanted to live and let live-until warlike white man came along. (Pointing out that it was fellow Africans who sold their kinsmen into slavery is unpopular in polite — that is, white-guilt laden-conversation).

The most recent rehashing of the “noble-other vs. evil white-man” paradigm is based on the U.S. response to the Islamic world post 9/11. Following al-Qaeda’s lead, academia and the media have been quick to portray George Bush as a ravenous brute (like the Vikings, also speaking an unintelligible tongue) who mindlessly attacks the peaceful others — this time Muslims — in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

What seems to be missed by all, however, is the simple fact that, if whites have been traditionally aggressive or exploitative of non-whites, that is not because the former are intrinsically violent (a racist point, incidentally) but simply because they were able to. And that’s the bottom line of all history: capability. Did whites defeat and uproot Native Americans, enslave Africans, and colonize the rest because they lived according to some sort of unprecedented bellicose creed alien to non-whites? Quite the contrary; they did so because they — as opposed to natives, blacks, et. al. — were able to do so.

Had 10th-century Native Americans developed galleys for transoceanic travel, or advanced fire arms, or compasses, or organized military structures and stratagems — or any of those other things that have made the Western way of war supreme — and had they arrived on the shores of Dark Age Europe, is there any doubt that they would have done the same exact thing?

Would they have conquered and subjugated in the name of empire, or would they have looked at the inferior pale savages and “respected” them, in the name of “diversity,” leaving them wholly unmolested? What if 18th-century, sub-Saharan blacks were technologically or militarily more advanced than their northern neighbors and could have easily subjugated and enslaved them? Would they have done so, or would they have left them in peace in the name of “multiculturalism”? These are the hypotheticals that no one seems interested in asking, since the answer is not only clear as day but immediately places whites and the rest of humanity on the same moral grounding.

Nor can the argument be made that non-whites did not reach such a militarily advanced state because they were a peaceful and content people. If so, why then did they also constantly war, kill, rape, plunder, and sell each other into slavery — as history so unambiguously records? If this is how they treated, and often still treat, their own kin, what would they have done to the “other,” such as the white man? As for Muslims, history attests that whenever there has been a caliphate on the ascendancy, it had no compunctions whatsoever about launching devastating wars of conquest. Approximately 85% of the “Islamic world” today was subjugated during the Islamic conquests (or, according to the white-guilt lexicon, Islamic “expansions”).

None of this is meant to exonerate the crimes of the white-man, but rather to put them in context by indicating that all people — all races, all ethnicities — are the same; they war, and, when capable — keyword — go on the offensive in search of conquest and hegemony. Depending on scope, it could be either tribal or international hegemony. Some religions incite these innate “passions,” others mollify them. Yet these passions — which, according to that astute philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, “carry us to partiality, pride, revenge and the like [e.g., war and conquest] — apply to all of humanity. To say otherwise is to be racist.

Raymond Ibrahim is the editor of the Al-Qaeda Reader, translations of religious texts and propaganda.

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