The Inevitable Romanticizing of Prabhakaran
When we think of William Wallace or Attila the Hun, we think of great men that dared to defy an empire. History is written by the victors they say, yet history remembers these men as heroes to be revered, or at least warriors to be feared.
When we look at the lives, the rhetoric, the military tactics, the sheer audacity of these leaders, one wonders if the real Wallace or Attila were as heroic as their legends tell us. The mythical proportions to which these characters have been elevated seem to have facilitated the omissions of their misdeeds – mostly in the case of Wallace. We all support the underdog, thus we scramble to sheathe their human errors, and rush to romanticize their ruthless resolve.
Real history, as opposed to popular culture, tells us that William Wallace was a monster. It took nothing less than a monster to defeat the stonehearted English. And it took much more than a monster to slaughter hundreds of women and children in the dozen villages his armies sacked on his command. He was in contemporary language, the quintessential ‘separatist’, perhaps even a ‘terrorist’. Yet we remember him as a freedom fighter. Attila the Hun was arguably worse. He decimated scores of cities in the Roman Provinces; murdering, raping and pillaging as he swept across the Empire with the singular ambition of bringing about its demise.
Yet we celebrate these individuals as great men of valor. And we teach our children of their brutal, yet heroic achievements.
Wallace was hanged, drawn, quartered and beheaded for high treason; the Scots never acquired independence; and the Huns were virtually annihilated. Under usual circumstances, the English and Roman historians should have erased the very memory of these so-called martyrs to a lost cause. However, world history did not permit this. This is because we simply cannot escape from the truth: that the world loves an underdog. Any man that cries freedom brings us to tears. Any man that challenges the oppressor inspires us.
The actions of these men should never have been condoned, let alone glorified. Their legacies should never have been remembered, let alone immortalized. Yet with the passage of time, fact became folklore and truth became legend.
They all love the underdog. They will forget his crimes and remember his message. They will demonize his conquerors and elevate him to martyrdom. And in a hundred years, the world would have romanticized him.
Thank you for reading.