Idolized Historical Figures that are Actually Controversial People

Photo by James O’Hanlon, taken on August 3, 2019, Some rights reserved,

Unfortunately, the American education system has a tendency to idolize historical people that, when researched, you can discover that they often didn’t practice what they preached. While yes… everybody makes mistakes and there’s a difference in time periods, some actions are inexcusable. There is a major difference between saying the wrong thing every once in a while and being unapologetically inappropriate or unethical. 

Gandhi is example one: although he is widely seen as a composed, morally-good and guided person, his behavior often showed signs of pedophilia, racism/colorism and possible internalized homophobia. He enjoyed sleeping in a bed with naked women – sometimes as young as 18 and one being his grandniece. He was also a hypocrite because even though he believed that nobody should have sex… he was the exception to that idea, of course. Despite his protests for equality and basic human rights, Gandhi deemed dark-skinned people as no better than the “untouchables” of the Indian community and viewed them as below all other Indians. He even compared them to animals. 

“In 1896, he was quoted as referring to black South Africans as the ‘raw kaffir, whose occupation is hunting and whose sole ambition is to collect a certain number of cattle to buy a wife with, and then pass his life in indolence and nakedness,” KnowledgeNuts explained. “For those of you who aren’t up on your South African slang, ‘kaffir’ is a direct equivalent of our N-word.”

Also, even though Gandhi showed behaviors of homosexuality, he ordered all ancient homoerotic art to be removed from Hindu temples to further his “sexual cleansing” preachings and ideas.

Mother Teresa is example two: while she is known as a saint who helped the poor and sick, she often glorified the sick, used violence against children, stole donations and allowed for an unkept hospital environment.

“There are reports of unruly children being tied to beds and beaten, of outdated equipment not being replaced and of needles being reused in countries with high HIV infection rates (such as Haiti) until they were so blunt they caused pain,” KnowledgeNuts claimed. “All of this wrapped up in a culture of unquestioning obedience, secrecy, and control that is said to resemble a cult.”

Not only did the Missions of Charity organization claim millions of dollars in donations, but a German magazine, Stern, uncovered that only around 7 percent of donations went towards charity. It’s sickening to know that Mother Teresa viewed the suffering of poor people as “beautiful”. 

“I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ,” Mother Teresa explained to Christopher Hitchens. “I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”

In fact, when she was sick, instead of going to her own hospital, she decided to go to a modern American hospital – Mother Teresa only died in 1997, so her actions were inexcusable.

Aristotle is example three: even though he is known as a wise Greek philosopher, Aristotle was misogynistic and expressed capitalist ideologies.

“In his mind, women were hardly even human beings — at best, they were ‘deform[ed]’ men,” Grunge interpreted using Charlotte Witt’s paper: “Feminist History of Philosophy” in the book “Feminist Reflections on the History of Philosophy.” “For some reason, he decided that women have fewer teeth than men (they don’t), rendering them incomplete, and even though they give birth, they ‘contribute only matter and not form to the generation of offspring.’”

Aristotle also believed that there were people who deserved to be enslaved such as those who have the “natural” capability to take orders but can’t exercise free thought.

“He’d understand modern industrial capitalism,” the HuffPost added. “He’d point out that the workers at a ‘fulfillment centre’ of the sort that mail order firms run, who robotically obey the orders of roving ‘controllers,’ are slaves in the sense that they can’t exercise their reason.”

Although one can infer the point that Aristotle was trying to make, it’s a cruel and unfortunately infectious ideology. 

Lastly, John Lennon is example four: while he is widely known as an influential songwriter, singer, band member and peace activist, he was physically abusive towards women, cheated on his wife, and abandoned his son. 

“That he physically abused his wife before leaving her is not only something he admitted to — he actually wrote it into one of the Beatles’ better-known songs,” Grunge states. “‘I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loved,’ is a line in ‘Getting Better.’”

Even though he was married, Lennon would often cheat on his wife with other women and leave behind drugs. Once the Japanese artist he was sleeping with, Yoko Ono, revealed she was pregnant, he deserted his wife and son – who was only 5 at the time. Although it’s important that he acknowledged his mistakes, the trauma will always remain and shouldn’t be dismissed.

“I think his greatest achievement was recognizing that he was a macho asshole and trying to stop it,” Sean Lennon, his second son, mentioned in an interview with Rolling Stone.

Despite the remarkable achievements these historical figures made, their questionable actions should not go unnoticed/ignored. We can take away from these realizations that the education system needs to stop putting historical figures on pedestals, and it goes to show that not nearly enough research is done when it comes to looking up to them. If you are going to idolize someone, at least make it a good example of what they practice.