in addition to my research for my dissertation, I have been reading Mary Lefkowitz’s Not Out Of Africa: How “Afrocentrism” Became An Excuse To Teach Myth As History. While this book may well help me with my work,* I’m reading it largely for my own edification.
In her book Lefkowitz explains her frustration at having to refute theories about the supposed African origins of Greek thought which, for political reasons, have gained wide currency in our universities (and even in the media) despite being based more on political conjecture than serious scholarship:
To respond to the kinds of allegations that are now being made requires us in effect to start from the beginning, to explain the nature of the ancient evidence, and to discuss what has long been known and established as if it were now subject to serious question. In short, we are being put on the defensive when in ordinary circumstances there would have been nothing to be defensive about. Worst of all, making this sort of defense keeps us from going on to discover new material and bring our attention to bear on real interpretative problems. Instead of getting on with our work, we must rehearse what has long been known. But, nonetheless, the case for the defense must be made.
Sometimes, I feel that we intellectual conservatives are in the same boat as serious classicists in needing to debunk misrepresentations which have gained wide currency.
How many times have our readers, many of whom have only read left=wing tracts (and blog posts) about the origins (and ideas) of the modern American conservative movement, who have never attended a Republican event (save to search only the most extreme elements and report on them as if they were representative of the entire gathering) and never socialized with thoughtful conservatives, told us exactly what the GOP and American conservatism is all about? When we report our experiences as openly gay men and women at Republican or conservative events, they ignore our experiences.
(Never happened, they say, doesn’t fit their narrative.) After all, they read the DailyKos and the Daily Dish, they know us better than we do ourselves.
It doesn’t matter if we point how how we criticized George W. Bush on spending; they know that we were unfailing in our infatuation.
it would be nice if they could see us as we are and address the arguments that we make. As it would be nice if politicized scholars would address the Greeks as they were, acknowledging Egyptian influence on Greek culture without seeing that influence, significant thogh it may well have been, as the source of all that was great about Greece.
And it’s too bad that we, like serious classical scholars, have to devote so much time to rebutting silly allegations instead of promoting our ideas– and our candidates. But, then again, maybe that’s their strategy, to get us bogged down in defense so we don’t have time to develop a serious offense.
*I am wondering if I need address Martin Bernal’s Black Athena in my chapter on the origins of the owl-eyed goddess. Lefkowitz is one of many who has debunked Bernal’s shoddy politicized scholarship.