10 Common Misconceptions About Famous Organizations and Societies
By Gregory Myers, Toptenz, 24 March 2017.
By Gregory Myers, Toptenz, 24 March 2017.
History is often written by the winners, or at least by the survivors. And even in present day, news is often presented with a bias. Many organizations will go to great lengths to cover up what they are truly about, in order to continue to obtain funding and work toward goals that most people may actually oppose. It’s very easy for history, even recent history, to be blurred by the lens of misinformation. And our own biases and misconceptions can make us far more susceptible to be convinced by untruth.
10. The Incredibly Manly Spartans Were Far More Used to Male Love
Many people think of Spartans as examples of the manliest of the manly men that ever walked the planet. They were a pure warrior society known for caring only about glory in battle and being the toughest you could possibly be. They also spent most of their time growing up completely cut off from female contact - remaining in military barrack-like institutions that allowed only for training with males. Spartans also were well known for having pederastic relationships. It was encouraged for young training Spartans to have an older male to form a close relationship with, where the older male was known as the inspirer and the younger as the hearer.
More damningly, weddings were not formed through careful courtship, but essentially decided for the sake of convenience. Part of the wedding ritual also involved a sort of ritual rape, where beforehand the woman shaves her head and dresses in men’s clothing. Some historians have theorized that this ritual was designed to help ease Spartans into having sex with women, when they were normally used to having sexual relations with men.
9. Despite Their Peaceful Reputations, Buddhists Have a History of Violence
Buddhists are known around the world for being the most peaceful religion imaginable. Most people would never consider that the Buddhists might engage in violence or goad violence on, mainly due to the actions of people like Gandhi, and many monks who performed amazing acts of protest such as burning themselves alive. However, Buddhism is not always an entirely peaceful and kind religion. Many people think that Buddhism believes intentional killing is always wrong, but this is not necessarily the case. Buddhism tends to spend far more time worrying about the intention than the actual action. Monks have even prayed alongside soldiers, defending their actions by stating that they are not directly promoting death, but that it is better to have soldiers with a clear head.
In some parts of the world with Buddhist majorities such as Burma (also known as Myanmar), many monks have been accused of either not condemning, or even goading on violence against Muslim minorities. The fallout from these actions has been very brutal, as hundreds have died in deadly clashes, most of them Muslim. While Buddhism may be a mostly peaceful belief system, most religions are as well - humans just happen to be very good at finding excuses for violence.
8. The Knights Templar Were Mainly a Group Of Very Rich Bankers
Many people think of the Knights Templar as some secret group of shadowy assassins or very powerful warriors. The Assassin’s Creed game series has led people to believe they were an elite force of some kind, but the truth is a bit more boring. While they did have troops who fought for them, it is quite likely that most of them were far more loyal to their paychecks than they were to any nebulous cause. The Knights Templar were an early group of bankers, who formed a lot of banking regulations and structures that are still used in some forms today.
However, while the Templars were not much more evil or mysterious than most powerful organizations in history, like most people their influence became so large that they became a threat even to their own allies. As bankers nearly everyone was in debt to them, and as the crusades ended and support for their military campaigns ended, those who had debts with them started to look for an easy way out.
When Pope Clement V decided he wanted to merge them with another organization, King Philip IV of France used the opportunity to start arresting large amounts of Templars, and did everything he could to encourage terrible rumors about them - all because he was deeply in debt to them. While they likely had far too much influence, and may not have been a particular force for good in the world, it is quite likely many of the crazier rumors were largely exaggerated by their enemies.
7. PETA Actually Kills Animals and is Against Adopting Them
Most people know PETA as that zany animal rights organization, but the fact of the matter is that they don’t really care about animal rights at all. They are very much against people eating meat, and they are against people owning pets, but they don’t actually really care all that much for the rights of animals as many activists would think of it. The truth is that PETA is good at getting attention, and also really good at hiding what they are truly about. PETA believes that the animal population is so out of control that, until it is under control, the best thing to do is euthanize stray or even extra animals, even if they are perfectly healthy puppies and kittens.
PETA’s shelter at their headquarters isn’t even certified to be an actual adoption shelter - they don’t have the facilities or licensing to hold animals for more than 24 hours. PETA has killed tens of thousands of animals through quick euthanasia instead of even trying to adopt them out, because of their extreme beliefs. There is nothing wrong with being an animal rights activist, but there are many sane organizations out there that support such causes - PETA is not one of them.
6. The Suffragette Movement Wasn’t Entirely Peaceful
When many people think of the women’s suffrage movement they usually think of a largely peaceful movement, full of marches and letter writing, in order to ensure that women have the vote. However, while the United States movement was largely peaceful, across the pond it was quite a different story. The British women’s suffrage movement was marked by very militant tactics, that some have tried to label as terrorist. At times they were known to plant bombs, commit acts of arson, smash in shop windows and other acts of violence and destruction - far from the image many have of women’s suffrage protests.
While some of these actions made it to the United States, the British movement still remains the more violent of the two. This is likely due to the fact that the movement in Britain dealt with much more severe force in response to their protests, often ending up on the end of incredibly violent and brutal police beat downs for daring to stand up for their right to have their voice heard. Some people think that it was only violence that won women the vote, but this would also be inaccurate. While the movement was more violent than many might think, it would have never have been successful if it had only acted with destruction in mind.
5. Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders Were Shameless Glory Hounds
Many people tend to think of Teddy Roosevelt as one of the great American giants - a man of unflinching honor and bravery who proved his mettle in battle time and again. However, the truth is that everything about Teddy Roosevelt was carefully manufactured to create a very specific persona, and behind it all Teddy was a shameless glory hound who wanted to be given accolades and be told how special he was. While he was assistant secretary of the Navy he once said that he thought the country needed a war, all because he wanted all generations to get a chance to prove themselves as warriors. Some historians believe he had this complex because his father had chosen not to fight in the Civil War.
Teddy Roosevelt abdicated other duties and left to form the rough riders with the sole intention of creating an elite group that would gain great glory and honor in battle. Later after people had seen in the news of his glorious exploits, he said “I am entitled to the Medal of Honor and I want it.” His ego was incredibly large and it is clear that he did not fight in order to protect his country or do his duty, but solely for the glory that he would receive from it. Teddy Roosevelt may not have been afraid to throw himself into a deadly battle, but he did it for all the wrong reasons.
4. Australia’s Crime Ridden Roots of Legend May Be Somewhat Oversold
Many people have heard that somewhat insulting claim that Australia is a country where the people are almost entirely descendants of prisoners or prison guards. And while there is a certain level of truth to it (just look at notorious Australian outlaw Ned Kelly up there), there is also a huge misconception about what prisoner means in this context that has led a lot of people to create a false impression in their heads. England did send a large amount of people over to Australia to essentially form a new colony, without giving them any choice, but they really weren’t the hardened criminals that many people think of.
The truth is a bit sadder and shows how cruel and awful humanity can be. The types of people sent over tended to be completely nonviolent offenders and other dregs of society who were usually very poor. In many cases those sent over on the boats were children, and oftentimes the crimes they had committed were as simple as stealing a loaf of bread in order to eat - one of the least awful crimes possible. In other words, while many people think that England was sending over their violent criminals, they were mostly sending over the poor that they didn’t know what to do with.
3. Russia’s Genocide of Their Own Civilians Easily Rivaled That of the Nazis
Many people in the western world tend to think of Hitler as the most evil being who ever existed - at least in recent enough history to have full awareness of his actions and beliefs. However, the truth is that because the Russians were our allies during World War II, and because we had such a tricky relationship with them at the best of times, we have often glossed over the true evil of Joseph Stalin - a man who could easily rival Hitler when it came to massacring and torturing innocent civilians, including those within his own borders.
Stalin eliminated the Kulak class, a group of richer farmers, killing millions and deporting many millions more. Some of those who were killed were paraded naked in the street and even forced to dig their own graves. This elimination of the farming class caused a huge famine in Ukraine that led to the deaths of 3-5 million more people. Stalin was systematic in putting anyone who might be part of an opposition group, or any ethnic group he didn’t like, into brutal gulags. While he may have killed less than Hitler, the brutality of his camps easily rivaled that of the Nazi’s - and the Russians were good at hiding their overall body count. They never had the other countries marching in to inspect the numbers either, so it is hard to be certain whether the figures we have don’t downplay the atrocities.
It is also little known that the Russian soldiers who liberated Germany and Berlin raped many of the women that they came across when freeing people from concentration camps. These women had already had to endure such horror, and now they had to endure even more from people who claimed to be their liberators. While some could blame the dehumanization of war that could affect any human being and not just the Russians specifically, the damning part is that the Russian leadership knew of the issue and refused to do anything to discourage it.
2. The Amazons are an Incredibly Misunderstand Group and Less Crazy Than People Think
The Amazons are incredibly famous and known around the world, but most people are pretty hazy on who are what they actually were. Some people know them only as mythological and don’t believe they were even real - they were. And other people have taken to heart fantastic tales that claim that Amazons cut off one of their breasts in order to be better at firing arrows. This claim is of course not true, and also wouldn’t actually help you fire arrows better - although that hardly needs to be said. The even more common legends claim that they hated men and boys, were a mainly lesbian society and were very anti-man.
The Amazons were a group of ancient Scythian warrior women, indeed a mostly female society, but they had absolutely no quarrel with men and certainly were known as being lovers of men as well. While there may be some truth to them giving male children away to neighboring tribes to be raised, there is no truth to the tales that they castrated their boys. While they were above such insane actions, they could still be quite a zany culture. They were certainly keen on enjoying themselves, and smoked marijuana, got numerous tattoos, and even drank a fermented mare’s milk with powerful mind altering properties during some of their rituals.
1. The Founding Fathers Didn’t Really Believe in Democracy the Way Many Envision it Today
When talking about the direction that the United States of America should take in terms of political legislation and other decisions, many people will start theorizing about what the founding fathers would have wanted. Their names especially come up when people are talking about freedom from tyranny and the people making their voices heard. However, the truth is that the founding fathers wanted as little involvement from the common person as possible, and cared little for the kind of democracy most people envision today. When the United States had formed a union but had not yet officially won independence, most states did not allow you to vote unless you were actually a landowner - in some cases you were allowed as long as you paid a high enough percentage of taxes.
It was only after the war had been won that most states started doing away with the requirement to own land in order to vote, but that doesn’t mean that everyone suddenly had the right. They caved because the war had largely been started on the idea of “no taxation without representation,” so it would be hypocritical if taxpayers couldn’t vote.
Shortly after the war most states adopted laws allowing those who paid taxes to vote, but it was still some time before the laws became inclusive even to the common man who had little enough to pay in taxes that he didn’t qualify in many states, and much longer still before minorities and women were allowed the right to vote. And, despite many people romanticizing the founding fathers as a group that was against religious discrimination, many states in the early days of our union did not allow Catholics or Jews to vote.
Top image: Painting of the Amazons. Credit: Tischbein/Wikimedia Commons.
[Source: Toptenz. Edited. Top image added.]