The Internet is a wonderful place. The Internet is an awful place.
Yes, you know what I mean. The Internet is full of information, and it’s full of lies. There’s knowledge, but there’s very little wisdom.
When it comes to the art of bull shit, the Internet, especially in social media, is the place to go. Anyone living outside of a cave is well aware of the misrepresentations presented in memes. I’m not even talking about “fake news.” Just out and out lies that end up being passed around, and around, until people think it’s the truth. Especially when it comes to history. The irony being, it’s easy, it takes only minutes, to verify a historical piece. Current news is much more difficult, true. But the past is too easily researched.
I’ll give you the latest piece of garbage I was asked about. It concerns this photograph, of three young ladies, taking a walk and smoking a pipe. A cousin of mine tagged me on the photo because she was skeptical. Good for her. As I looked at the photo, along with the caption, (Rosa Luxemburg, Emma Goldman, Simone de Beauvoir smoking pipes on the beach...) I knew it was a lie right away. Because the women in the photo did not match the women they were supposed to be. This photo was being used to give the viewer a feel good experience about certain women. An, “…aren’t they cool…” attitude was the point. Their actual lives were immaterial. That is what ticked me off.
The study of history is not about finding people who are cool, or having a good experience. If stuff in the past was cool, we would want to go back there to live. That is what I call romanticizing the past. I detest that as much as those who demonize it. The study of the past is about learning the good, the bad, so that we gain an understanding of ourselves. History is the study of people, not events. Though history teachers make it about events, events don’t happen on their own. Therefore, it’s the people that must be studied.
Here’s a short study of the women mentioned. You will see who they actually were, not the lie of this meme. Their photos are below.
Rosa Luxemburg: Born March 5, 1871, Russia, died January 15, 1919, in Berlin. She obviously could not be represented in the photo. Unless, however, you have studied modern history, you won’t know that, will you. Ms. Luxemburg was a communist revolutionary, and died for her cause. She, and her fellow communists, were a part of the ilk that tormented Germans after WWI. They were the reason Hitler came to power. So no, we need not idealize her. She, in my estimation, was not cool.
Emma Goldman: Born, June 27, 1869, Russia, died, May 14, 1940, in Canada. Once more, it is rather obvious that Ms. Goldman is not in that three women photo. She was in her 60’s when that photo was snapped. Ms. Goldman is known for her anarchism. She was a prolific writer. Oddly enough, she is admired by both socialists and libertarians.
Simone de Beauvoir: Born, January 9, 1908, died, April 14, 1986. Born and died in Paris. Madame de Beauvoir was a writer, and, philosophically, an existentialist. She was the companion of Jean Paul Sartre. Madame de Beauvoir could have been in the photo, however, the photo is of a pipe smoking club in England. There are many photos available of the writer. I don’t see her smoking a pipe in any of them. Sartre smokes a pipe.
If you do some further reading on these women, you will learn there was nothing so amusing as smoking a pipe or walking on the beach in their bios. They were serious about their work. No, I don’t agree with most of their philosophical leanings, but I do honor them for their focus and action. They didn’t talk about it. They did it. Those who lie about them are dishonorable. No matter their philosophical leanings.