Sunday, November 04, 2018

History Podcasts

I am liking Dan Carlin's Hardcore History podcasts.  I listened to the one about Japan 1850-1945 when I was face down the first time I was face down.  I've listened to a few others and have just started on the 6 hours of Ceasar's conquest of Gaul.  He is a little overdramatic - by which I mean he describes unpleasant things more accurately than we like these days. I sometimes thing "Dis we need to keep this part in?" and then remember that this was someone's reality years ago.  Everyone but us suffered enormously in their lives, really.  With the medical care and painkillers that didn't exist, plus the intermittent hunger and epidemics worldwide, we really have only the faintest idea how people lived. Perhaps costuming should be banned not because of cultural appropriation and stereotype, but because it romanticizes horrible suffering.

Something that occurs to me every time I read about how history is now taught is the misleading nature of every description of one group harming or oppressing another.  These days it is Western Europeans, especially males, being held up as examples of how terrible they were to other people.  All true, but compared to whom? When a modern student is told how terribly People A suffered at the hands of People B, she very naturally contrasts this to her current comfortable life, not to the life of every other human being on the planet at the time of the historical mistreatment. The life of a Brazilian slave was horrendous, beyond our imagining - but maybe not worse than his cousin's back in Africa. The Great Powers were racist, which fueled the anger of Japan, who responded to the insult by horribly killing...millions of Chinese people.

There just isn't anywhere to go. The lot of mankind has been mostly suffering, with breaks of celebration and joy. It pays to keep that in mind when reading Scripture as well, and the discussions of unfairness, injustice, and loving enemies.  We don't understand a fraction of it.


HMS Defiant said...

When one reads about just how the indians treated captives and realizes that they preyed on colonists for hundreds of years, it is easy to see why George Washington ordered them exterminated. They were the enemy of man and God in the new world.
OTOH, one can easily see their pov.

Texan99 said...

In recent years I've gobbled up every history of Cortes's conquest of Mexico that's come through Project Gutenberg. My general impression before reading this history was a simple assumption that dreadful Spaniards beat the poop out of innocent Aztecs after destroying them with disease. That's true enough, though I hadn't fully appreciated that there were only a few hundred Spaniards, who relied heavily on alliances with hundreds of thousands of native soldiers in revolt against the Aztecs. More surprising, though, was that many of the Spaniards come out quite well in the story, despite the almost unimaginable savagery of the campaign. The Aztecs, too, were savage. The Spaniards not only knew that they were constantly a hair's-breadth from being killed and eaten, but that their own culture would torture and kill them at the drop of a hat. Cortes was as worried about the machinations of the venal and corrupt Governor of Cuba, to whom he did not quite report directly, as he was about Montezuma; he treated Montezuma better than the Governor would have treated him if he could. The Spanish system ground Cortes up and spat him out in the end, despite the riches he delivered to the Crown. He was no crueler than the average Inquisitor, or for that matter than the average Indian leader or priest. In many ways he was the flower of courtesy, behaving a lot better than most of us would have done if born into his position.

james said...

His WWI Blueprint for Armageddon is interesting, but 18 hours is quite a chunk of time.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have the current advantage of having to be face down for hours at a time, freeing up listening. I also listen to podcasts while taking walks, which usually 5 days/week.

But he does waste a lot of time, repeating himself, and most especially, describing suffering and battles in too much detail. I('m betting there's someone else I would like better.