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Genghis Khan vs. the Canceled West

Genghis Khan vs. the Canceled West

It seems the legacies of historical figures like Christopher Columbus and Thomas Jefferson can’t be discussed without activists arguing that they were problematic characters. Such figures are not judged as products of their time but as villains in the woke creed. And because of their villainous reputation, we are also not allowed to appreciate their achievements.

By contrast, whenever we talk about non-white persons, nuance suddenly becomes important. Thus, it seems likely that the decision to cancel historical figures in the West is driven by anti-white animus. Just look at today’s treatment of prominent historical figures from other cultures.

Genghis Khan and his Mongol Empire are a notable example. History reveals that Khan was a tyrant who often killed subordinates for flippant reasons, yet despite his psychopathic tendencies, he demonstrated impressive leadership abilities. Authors Marie Favereau and Jack Weatherford offer this balanced appraisal of Khan and his empire in their respective books, The Horde: How the Mongols Changed the World and Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World. Both have received glowing reviews from respected outlets.

In fact, many writers seem able to heap praise on this known tyrant Khan, even casting him in the image of many woke-left pet ideologies. Khan’s possible role as “the father of globalization” is discussed by Yale Dean Emeritus Jeffrey Garten. “The international networks of free trade pioneered by Khan and his successors, meanwhile, changed the world in underappreciated ways,” Garten writes. “The printing press, gunpowder and the compass were all brought to Europe on Mongol trade networks.” Remarkably, Watkins gives this praise of Khan’s worthy attributes without being accused of promoting tyranny.

Khan also wins the feminist badge. “If anyone in central Asia 800 years ago could be called a feminist, one was Genghis Khan,” Carl Hartmann writes in The San Diego Union-Tribune. Hartmann bases this assertion on the fact that Khan did not relegate women to an inferior status. Presenting such a dispassionate assessment of this noteworthy legacy of Khan is indeed laudable, so why can’t white people defend the legacies of men like Columbus and Jefferson without inviting venom?

Khan’s complex legacy is further explored in an insightful review by Nathaniel Scharping in Discover Magazine. “From early in his military career, the Khan promoted a meritocracy, upending the traditional aristocracy of the Mongolian steppes. It was a policy that would continue throughout his rule and after his death,” Scharping writes. He also notes that Khan “promoted religious freedom and banned the use of torture throughout his kingdom.” Khan’s empire continued after his death, with his successors nurturing “trade routes and diplomatic relations that helped sustain its strength and brought news and knowledge from the outside world to Asia.”

Like the British and the French, the Mongols presided over a vast empire entailing the subjugation of conquered peoples. Evidence even suggests that the Mongol invasion had an adverse impact on Iran, but for some strange reason contemporary historians are uninterested in shaming the Mongols for past imperialistic ills. This is despite the fact that writers like Abbas Edalat and Ira Lapidus are rather specific in explaining how the Mongol invasions retarded conquered regions. Likewise, economists are obsessed with studying the effects of European imperialism, but they are unwilling to explore the implications of the Mongol invasions with equal fervor.

The mindset of these activists and disingenuous academics is quite simple once we appreciate the uniqueness of Western civilization. The Western world was the first region to modernize, and it is also the progenitor of many innovations. As a result, Westerners—unlike racial minorities that live in the West—do not occupy the position of the underdog. The West has been the most tremendous force in the world for centuries, launching a global movement to abolish slavery, advancing the concept of freedom, and spurring the industrial and scientific revolutions to name just a few of its accomplishments. Yet some think that it is only appropriate for white people to atone for the “sins” of their ancestors by continuously genuflecting to demands that white, Western culture be erased.

Unfortunately, few are challenging this swindle. People who refuse to push back against calls to remove statues of Robert E. Lee and other historical figures are doing the bidding of illiberal and misinformed activists. 

If people have a right to self-expression, and if whites are people, then we should afford them the right to celebrate their heritage without harassment. Just as Genghis Khan’s good and bad deeds are weighed and given a balanced appraisal by many academics and talking heads, so, too, should we give the same treatment to the important and influential white figures of the West.

Flickr-William Cho, CC BY-SA 2.0

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