Traveller's tales

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The euphemisms of the victorious

The pages of our history books are full of titles, names, and labels. We are fond of saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and that illustrates the point that it is the victorious that label the events of history, though we should not condone violence in any form.

It is only when the victim gets the chance to label that the true nature of the event comes through in the name. The Final Solution becomes nearer to the truth when it is relabeled the holocaust, Alexander the Great was better known as Alexander the Accursed by those he vanquished in his wake.

More recently, we have had the obnoxious phrase, ‘ethnic cleansing’ given to what in effect was mass murder in the Balkans.

And nearer home, we have labels like ‘the Battle of Culloden’, when what really happened was slaughter, and the Highland Clearances, not given any other name, but as infamous in history as anything that Stalin perpetrated in Soviet Russia, though on a much smaller scale.

Scots today still regard what happened after Culloden, as well as the ‘battle’ itself, as little more than a war crime.

In these days of talks of ‘crusades’ and the like, of freeing a people, taking the moral high ground as our own, we should remember that it hasn’t always been this way, and that not much further back than living memory, the English were guilty of much to be regretted in the course of history.
Said Roderick MacLeod,
" I saw the townships set on fire. Grummore with 16 houses and Archmilidh with four. All the houses were burnt with the exception of one. A barn. Few if any of the families knew where to turn their heads or from whom to get their next meal. It was sad, the driving away of these people. The terrible rememberance of the "Burnings" of Strathnaver will live as long as a root of the people remains in this country."

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