Recently, I’ve seen many references to the cold war and its point of views. Twenty years after the cold war ended and they are still alive and kicking! One of these that is quite prevalent is what I call the ‘oppression myth’. Though there is truth to some aspects of oppression this myth is primarily a result of America’s “desire” to villanize rival governments and desire to “justify” its political beliefs. As a result, this myth is primarily one of ‘jumping the gun’ or ‘being too hasty’ and not taking the time to look at, or even understand, other governments. All they need is a ‘hint’ of something and – whaam! – the myths begin. And once a person or government is labeled ‘oppressive’ they see it in every action it does.
As a result, this myth is more a reflection of America’s mentality and point of view than what’s really happening in the country they’re talking about. Often, this myth makes America continually misinterpret the affairs and situation of other countries and has led to erroneous perspectives of the world.
There are often common themes found in this myth. In fact, the common themes can be so common that their observations of governments is nothing but a carbon copy repeat of what they said about another country ten years ago, which is a carbon copy of what they said about another country fifty years ago, and so on. It’s this endless monotony of explanations, frankly, that drew my attention to this myth. It’s also this endless monotony that shows it is a myth as one explanation cannot explain the incredible complex situations that surround politics and society.
Here are some commonly seen themes:
- There is often an ‘evil leader’ who one day decides to ‘oppress’ his people. This, usually, is taken from the context that he is just ‘evil’ and ‘bad’. Typically it is said as if he intended to do it all by himself, on his own initiative.
- Sometimes, it is a group of people that ‘oppresses’ and, in a way, ‘take over’ the country. They are generally looked at as being a ‘foreign’ body in the country, who somehow infected their country. Typically, they are not viewed as reflecting their country at all nor its situation.
- The people are almost always ‘oppressed’ innocently. The people never had anything to do nor contributed to their countries situation. In general, that was the ‘evil leaders’ fault. He’s to blame for it all. The people are always blameless, if not saints.
- The countries problems are all a result of the ‘evil leader’ and the resulting innocently ‘oppressed’ people. There is no other reason why a country could possibly have a problem except by these causes.
- People are always seeking ‘freedom’, which is prevented in the ‘oppressed’ countries, causing horrible despair. ‘Freedom’ is the intent of everyone in the world all the time. It’s more important than food and is constantly on everyone’s mind. As a result, the ‘evil’ ‘oppressive’ governments are preventing this from taking place – what horrible people!
- Democracy has this weird knack at being the only answer. It is the solution to solve everyone’s problems. Typically, it slowly turns into a question of ‘Americanization as the answer’. They act like this is the natural state and course of events in life, as if it is all life is about.
In its simplest form it can be stated this way: The government is run by a person or persons whose intent is to ‘oppress’ the people in some way. The people are nothing but victims of this. The only solution is democracy.
Unfortunately, this line of thought has little truth in it at all but, yet, have become widespread throughout the U.S. In almost any discussion of any problem of any country in the world there are traces of this myth somewhere.
Typically, the oppression myth is very narrow in its interpretation of things. In fact, it’s so simplistic its ridiculous. It is a very one-side narrow political/social conception that, really, explains very little. The oppression myth does not take many things into consideration such as:
- The complexity of political/social situations.
- The country’s culture.
- The fact that some countries “justify” their abuses, corruptions, and so-called ‘oppression’. This works much in the same way that our countries abuses, corruption, etc. are “justified” by the system, which allows them to continue. This “justification” is one reason why they are so hard to overcome.
- The contribution of the people of the country in a countries political/social problems. The population of people consists of the bulk of the country and are usually a significant element in any countries problems. In some cases, they created their own ‘oppression’ and problems and the ‘evil leader’ just went along with it (like a oppurtunist).
- There are also different conceptions and points of view as to why things happen in countries and societies. In fact, many problems in countries are caused by these various interpretations, sort of like the endless democrat/republican explanations that go on in this country.
Because of how little the ‘oppression myth’ takes into consideration it cannot be looked at with any reliability no less as a source of ‘how countries work’ or ‘why things happen’, in my opinion. It seldom explains the ‘actual happening’ that is going on in a country. In many ways, all it is an ‘idealized’ explanation of “a type of problem” and that’s all. It’s almost like a ‘paraphrasing’ of a specific political situation. There are so many elements to a country, a government, a society, a people, etc. that its impossible to have any one single explanation. Here a few examples of the complexity that can happen in a political/social situation:
- Seldom are a countries problems caused by a one ‘evil’ leader. A “one person” seldom has that type of power to do such things. He just doesn’t ‘rise up’ and ‘oppress’ the people on his own accord, all by himself. He needs help. Typically, he gets into power, and maintains power, as a result of many other factors. These factors, ironically enough, often entail help from the population itself, the culture, or the countries situation. In some cases, it is actually the people themselves, its culture, or the countries situation that keep him in power.
- Also, many leaders do not necessarily initiate or cause things to happen. In fact, many leaders are often ‘following on the wave of the times’. This often gives the illusion that they are causing it.
- There is a tendency to turn leaders into scapegoats for the countries problems.
- The people are also seldom ‘innocent’ victims. In a country, people play a far greater and active role than people realize. Many people support and side with the ‘evil’ leader, or the ‘oppression’, far more than we would think.
- People are generally not ‘seeking freedom’ as a motive in life. This is not what people ‘want’, nor does it motivate what they do. In fact, my inquiry is that this is something that is seldom on the people’s minds. The idea of ‘being free’ seems to be something the U.S., or the west, puts into their heads (as it’s a western idea).
- Often, what is called ‘oppression’ is actually conditions seen in all countries, in one form or another. A good example is the class struggle or poverty.
- What constitutes ‘oppression’ may vary from culture to culture and people to people. Sometimes, a culture allows for great abuse in some conditions.
- Often, an ‘oppression’ is not caused by anyone, any government, or anything. It is just caused by historical circumstance and the situation.
There are just too many variables. It makes it impossible to say that any one ‘thing’ is the cause for all the problems in a country which the ‘oppression myth’ states. This means that we must beware of ‘simplistic explanations’. Because of this there are certain things that make me very apprehensive when I hear them:
- The condemning of leaders and their villanizing.
- The claims of ‘oppression’.
- The claims of the people wanting ‘freedom and democracy’.
Whenever I hear any of these I immediately look at the claims with suspicion. I never assume they are true and I ‘inquire’ about it, never accepting it as fact. Most of the time, I find we are dealing with a distortion caused by the ‘oppression myth’.