How to kill a god: the myth of Captain Cook shows how the heroes of empire will fall (long read)

In the 18th century, the naval explorer was worshipped as a deity. Now his statues are being defaced across the lands he visited


In a type of neoclassical painting one might call The Apotheosis of X, the dead hero is bundled up to heaven by a host of angels, usually in a windswept tumult of robes, wings and clouds. A crowd of grieving mortals watches from below as their hero becomes divine. It’s a celestial scramble: in Rubens’ sumptuous Apotheosis of James I, heaven is chaos and James looks terrified at having arrived.

In Barralet’s Apotheosis of Washington, the dead president has his arms outstretched in a crucified pose, while Father Time and the angel of immortality bear him up to heaven. In a mid-1860s Apotheosis, a freshly assassinated Lincoln joins Washington in the sky, and clings to him in a tight hug. In Fragonard’s Apotheosis of Franklin, the new god reaches back to Earth with one hand while a stern angel, grasping his other hand, drags him upward.

In 1785, in a Covent Garden theatre, a spectacle premiered depicting Capt James Cook’s voyages in the South Pacific. During the final scene of Omai, or A Trip Around the World, at the words “Cook, ever honour’d, immortal shall live!” an enormous oil painting descended from the ceiling – Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg’s Apotheosis of Captain Cook, commissioned for the occasion. Cook is carried up to heaven by the angels Britannia and Fame, but his gaze is directed back at the vertiginous earth, where ships and canoes are facing off in Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay. His expression is queasy and his eyes seem to plead: “Don’t drop me!”  Read more..


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  1. In the Big Data Revolution new ways to understand the present and the past by statistics has “liberated man from the clutches of mythology.”
    Exploitation by Empire is internalized as Neoliberal Psycho Politics claims the Technology of the Self to exploit freedom.
    The individual becomes the entrepreneur of himself, constantly self monitoring and interpreting the results as freedom.

    Coping with the damaged psyche as it seeks out thoughts deemed negative creates mental illness as the ego grapples with itself.
    Mental healing is provided by Neoliberal “experts”.
    Big Data has established the psychogram of the unconscious. The mental obstacles that stand in the way of the true Technocratic State have to be eliminated and the human soul sacrificed on the alter of self- optimization. The material Biopolitics of Industry are replaced by the post- industrial immaterial politics of the psyche, the Industry of the Consciousness.
    With inhibitions therapeutically eliminated, the self- optimized submissive exhausts his own resources for the neoliberal regime.

  2. A big part of the deception in our history is telling children these people were the first ones to have ships. The claims of ‘discovery’ are insanely biased.
    My favorite sailors are Thor Heyerdahl, and Laura Dekker. Harbo and Samuelson proved how easy it is without a sail.
    The Olmecs were traveling to central America 6,000 years ago confirmed, maybe much longer. The tall ships with the black robes brought death and pain. And instead of sharing knowledge like the Olmecs, they destroyed it.

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