I worry somewhat that we over-romanticize things.  The idea of the Wild West, for example, has been turned into some sort of glamorous time period in which cowboys could roam free, unfettered by such petty things as laws and relationships, while somehow remaining righteous.

War, too, is often turned into some sort of noble and glorious thing, with men fighting for their country.  This is particularly true for wars that we see as battles of ideals, such as the American Revolutionary War or the American Civil War, especially if we won the war.  Soldiers regret only that they have but one life to give.  After all, what does the life of a single man matter in the greater context of ideals?

Also of worry is today’s view of pirates.  Our view of the Golden Age of Piracy greatly resembles that of the Wild West. Bands of buccaneers would go and take what they wanted, laws be damned.  They were just searching for treasure, which was often buried on islands but occasionally happened to be located on someone else’s ship.  That’s okay, though, because they had a code of honor; while they sometimes had to do bad things, they weren’t bad men.

The Wild West was a time of extreme hardship and corruption.  War is and has always been hell.  And pirates were thieves and murderers.  These ideas have persisted largely because stories about the romanticized forms are, in general, more interesting than the realities.  That’s fine, but when people start to believe the idealizations over reality, there’s trouble.

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Saturday, October 16th, 2010 Thoughts No Comments