"The wealthy, not only by private fraud but also by common laws, do every day pluck and snatch away from the people some part of their daily living. Therefore, when I consider and weigh in my mind these commonwealths which nowadays do flourish, I perceive nothing but a certain conspiracy of rich men in procuring their own commodities under the name and authority of the commonwealth.

They invent and devise all means and crafts, first how to keep safely without fear of losing that which they have unjustly gathered together, and next how to hire and abuse the work and labor of the people for as little money and effort as possible."

Thomas More, Utopia

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Genocide Appreciation Day!

A must read (for The Children of course):

Lies My Teacher Told Me:
Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong

by James W. Loewen

(Notes on above title by Colby Glass)

Columbus discovered America and proved that the earth was not flat... Right?
We tend to "underplay previous explorers" (39). There were probably 15 or more individuals and groups that "discovered" and settled America before Columbus.
 "Even if Columbus had never sailed, other Europeans would have soon reached the Americas... Columbus's voyage.. was epoch-making because of the way in which Europe responded" (39).

 "The changes in Europe not only prompted Columbus's voyage.. they also paved the way for Europe's domination of the world for the next five hundred years. Except for the invention of agriculture, this was probably the most consequential development in human history" (41-2).
"..new and more deadly forms of smallpox and bubonic plague had arisen in Europe.. Passed on to those the Europeans met, these diseases helped Europe conquer the Americas and, later, the islands of the Pacific" (44).

 "Columbus claimed everything he saw right off the boat. When textbooks celebrate this process, they imply that taking the land and dominating the indians was inevitable if not natural" (44).
 "Most important, [Columbus's] prupose from the beginning was not mere exploration or even trade, but conquest and exploitation, for which he used religion as a rationale. If textbooks included these facts, they might induce students to think intelligently about why the West dominates the world today" (45).
 
Washington Irving created the lie that people thought the earth was flat until Columbus proved that it was round (57).
 
What is the real significance of Columbus's reaching the Americas? What made his trip different than the fifteen discoverers who preceded him?
 "Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their near extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass" (60).
 
"When Columbus and his men returned to Haiti in 1493, they demanded food, gold, spun cotton--whatever the Indians had that they wanted, including sex with their women. To ensure cooperation, Columbus used punishment by example. When an Indian committed even a minor offense, the Spanish cut off his ears or nose" (61).
 "..attempts at resistance gave Columbus an excuse to make war... For this he chose 200 foot soldiers and 20 cavalry, with many crossbows and small cannon, lances, and swords, and a still more terrible weapon against the Indians, in addition to the horses: this was 20 hunting dogs, who were turned loose and immediately tore the Indians apart" (61).

 "Columbus.. initiated a great slave raid. They rounded up 1,500 Arawaks, then selected the 500 best specimines (of whom 200 would die en route to Spain. Another 500 were chosen as slaves for the Spaniards staying on the island" (62).
 "Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food. Columbus, upset because he could not locate the gold he was certain was on the island, set up a tribute system... The Indians all promised to pay tribute.. every three months... With a fresh token, an Indian was safe for three months, much of which time would be devoted to collecting more gold... the Spanish punished those whose tokens had expired: they cut off their hands" (62).
 
"Columbus installed the encomienda system, in which he granted or "commended" entire Indian villages to individual colonists or groups of colonists... On Haiti the colonists made the Indians mine gold for them, raise Spanish food, and even carry them everywhere they went" (63). An Spanish observer wrote that "As a result of the sufferings and hard labor they endured [under this virtual slavery], the Indians choose and have chosen suicide. Occasionally a hundred have committed mass suicide. The women, exhausted by labor, have shunned conception and childbirth... Many, when pregnant, have taken something to abort and have aborted. Others after delivery have killed their children with their own hands, so as not to leave them in such oppressive slavery"" (63).

 "Estimates of Haiti's pre-Columbian population range as high as 8,000,000 people... a census of Indian adults in 1496.. came up with 1,100,000... "By 1516," according to Benjamin Keen, "thanks to the sinister Indian slave trade and labor policies initiated by Columbus, only some 12,000 remained." Las Casas tells us that fewer than 200 Indians were alive in 1542. By 1555, they were all gone" (63).

 ".. one of the primary instances of genocide in all human history" (64).
 "Columbus not only sent the first slaves across the Atlantic, he probably sent more slaves--about five thousand--than any other individual... other nations rushed to emulate Columbus" (64).

 "As soon as the 1493 expedition got to the Caribbean, before it even reached Haiti, Columbus was rewarding his lieutenants with native women to rape. On Haiti, sex slaves were one more perquisite that the Spaniards enjoyed. Columbus wrote a friend in 1500, "... it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand"" (65).

 "Columbus is not a hero in Mexico... Why not? Because Mexico is also much more Indian than the United States, and Mexicans perceive Columbus as white and European. "No sensible Indian person," wrote George P. Horse Capture, "can celebrate the arrival of Columbus." Cherishing Columbus is a characteristic of white history, not American history" (70).

 "The worshipful biographical vignettes of Columbus in our textbooks serve to indoctrinate students into a mindless endorsement of colonialism... the Columbus myth allows us to accept the contemporary division of the world into developed and underdeveloped spheres as natural and given, rather than a historical product issuing from a process that began with Columbus's first voyage" (70).

7 comments:

Rue St. Michel said...

Hi Coldy -

Decrying Columbus for landing and claiming the American land-mass as an act of barbarism, is like calling Louis Pasteur a butcher for inventing penicillin.

The point of celebrating explorers like Columbus, Louis & Clark, Balboa and Ponce de Leon is that these guys overcame tremendous and deadly obstacles in order to document the topography of the earth.

We teach our young that these men should be revered for their courage and determination. Having a long and glorious history is what all nations celebrate. The chinese have 5,000 years of civilization that they're very proud of. The greeks and italians as well.

I just think its overstatement to claim that the europeans who arrived in the Americas "butchered" people because, if you know anything about the indigenous American tribes, they themselves were constantly at war with their fellow tribes. In "Black Elk Speaks", the Sioux tribes reveled in murdering Crow tribesmen.

Don't feel bad for being an American, Coldy. We did more to end slavery than any other country in the world. Even the founders knew that slavery was on the way out because they purposely left "all men are created equal" in the declaration.

All civilizations have a dirty history. Recognize that and you can be a bit less critical of these United States.

Anonymous said...

Rue-y, Rue-y, Rue-y,

To excuse the horrible actions of Columbus is to condone the homicides which he committed. Yes my conservative friend, homicides.

Initial voyages to seek mapping, as you contend, turned to voyages of profit and slave trade thereafter.

The U.S. has done more to end slavery in the world than anyone? Come on. Capitalist America allows slavery across the globe through the products we buy. We turn a blind eye to that though.

The U.S. should embrace a "fair market" society and not a "free market" society. It was first written about by the Benedictines some 500 years ago. Check it out some time.

"leftisthebest"

P.S. as to Coldie (and I for that matter) feeling bad to be American. I think it some cases (with history, past and present) we should feel disgraced.

Coldtype said...

"Decrying Columbus for landing and claiming the American land-mass as an act of barbarism, is like calling Louis Pasteur a butcher for inventing penicillin"
-RSM

This is an astounding statement given what we know of the holocaust he unleashed. And how does one "claim" a landmass already occupied by tens of millions?

"I just think its overstatement to claim that the europeans who arrived in the Americas "butchered" people because, if you know anything about the indigenous American tribes, they themselves were constantly at war with their fellow tribes. In "Black Elk Speaks", the Sioux tribes reveled in murdering Crow tribesmen"
-RSM

Surely you jest. There is not even a remote comparison to the periodic conflicts between native tribes--never to annihilation--and what befell the original inhabitants with the arrival of the Conquistadors. The natives occupied the North American continent for the better part of 10,000 years, yet were virtually extinct within four centuries of first significant contact with Europeans. You do the math.

"Don't feel bad for being an American, Coldy"
-RSM

I never have Rue, however, I'm honest enough to acknowledge that my country rests on a foundation of genocide and slavery.

Rue St. Michel said...

Well of course our arrival wasn't good for the indians who'd lived here for almost 10,000 years.

But do we bear unique guilt for the monstrous oppression of african captives? No we shouldn't.

As I said earlier, other nations - with much longer and bloodier histories - don't agonize over their collective past. Chinese film director Ang Lee is quoted as saying,"Chinese patriotism is not supposed to be negotiated. To us that's a black-and-white thing. You sacrifice yourself - how can you let China down?"

What is with the American penchant for such harsh self-criticism? It's because American holds loftier ideals that every other nation. No one ever expected Austria or Zimbabwe to be "the shining beacon on the hill" for all countries.

If you dig a bit deeper on the history of American Indian conflicts you will see that such famous episodes of "massacre" such as The Mystic Massacre, The Sand Creek Massacre and The Battle of the Washita, and Wounded Knee - the US government harshly and quickly denounced the perpetrators as "foul and dastardly massacre which disgraces the verist savage among those who victims of this cruelty."

Wounded Knee wasn't a 'massacre' - it was a FIGHT. It featured fierce fighting and losses on both sides. Big Foot lost 153 warriors that day, and the US lost 25 (with 39 wounded.)

Go read Steven LaBlanc's "Constant Battles: The myth of the Peaceful, Noble Savage." It details how much of a warrior culture the American Indians were - going back to 900 AD. They fought wars of extermination against each other...not "small skirmishes" as you said Coldy.

And as for slavery: David Brion Davis' book "Inhuman Bondage - The rise and fall of slavery in the new world" documents that colonial North America received only 5 to 6 percent of the African slaves shipped across the Atlantic. Hugh Thomas (The Slave Trade) places it lower at 4.4%

In other words the overwhelming majority of the transatlantic slave trade - some 94% - went to central and south america (or the west indies).

Even slave-owner George Washington is quoted as saying to an English visitor: "I clearly foresee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union by consolidating it on a common bond of principle." As I said above - the founders were keenly aware of the impositions of slavery and knew the south would get rid of it when they stopped needing slaves for laborers.

In fact, Washington liberated all 150 of his slaves, carefully making his wishes clear in his will.

And after abolition, slave owners were never compensated for the losses they incurred (other nations compensated their slave owners after emancipation). Southern slave owners lost $350 billion in 1860 dollars. That's $70 billion in today's dollar.

In sum, let's ask the question "What about the debt blacks owe america"?

Here are 10 very good reasons.

American abolition caused a world wide condemnation of slavery - ending it in multiple countries.

Coldtype said...

"No one ever expected Austria or Zimbabwe to be "the shining beacon on the hill" for all countries"
-RSM

No one ever expected it of the US either Rue. John Winthrop's "Shining City on the Hill" was a self-proclaimed myth which bore no resemblance to reality. Every nation-state holds lofty ideals Rue. Imperial Japan was "saving" Asia during the first quarter of the 20th century. Hitler's Germany was preserving western culture. How do we know this? Well, because they said they were.

The fact that 90% of African captives were sent to the charnel houses of the West Indies and South America bears no positive reflection on the fact that EVERY African captive sent to the US was a slave--as were most of their descendants for the three centuries that followed. Surely the argument isn't that the condition of Africans in the US was alleviated by the simple fact that MORE of them were in the West Indies and South America.

"In fact, Washington liberated all 150 of his slaves, carefully making his wishes clear in his will"
-RSM

Sure... after his death. What about all their uncompensated labor? Multiply this a million-fold for all the rest whose scarred backs built this country practically from scratch. Remember that real wealth comes from what labor produces. This nation was transformed into a colossus due to the wealth dug from or planted into the ground from dawn to dusk by the only people hardy enough for the task. None were compensated or otherwise enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

African-Americans enjoyed a brief respite during the decade of Reconstruction when it appeared, ever so briefly, that America would live up to its lofty ideals (remember those?) for ALL of its citizens when the door was slammed shut and blacks were subjected to nearly a century of Jim Crow in the South and entrenched institutional racism in the North. It took the bloody civil rights rights movements of the 50's and 60's--fought tooth & nail by huge swaths of an allegedly enlightened citizenry of the 'shining city on the hill'--to guarantee African-Americans equality under the law. This a century after Emancipation! And you ask what about the debt blacks owe America? Try and be serious Rue. Last time I checked they're still waiting for those 40 acres.

Anonymous said...

Typical nigger apologist mentallity.

Coldtype said...

"Typical nigger apologist mentallity"
-Anon

An actual argument would be nice, but thanks for stopping by to confirm that Post-Racial America is finally at hand.