When I went away from up-to-the-minute news I tried out a batch of new podcasts. I learned some of the historical details of what is wrong with the 1619 Project, rather than just the shouting. I don't know who the Bridget Phetasy is being interviewed on the serious subject of cancel culture at The Unspeakable, but she endeared herself to me quickly by stating that making fun of the left is low-hanging fruit, in contrast to the late-night TV people who just can't seem to find anything funny about Biden, as they couldn't about Obama. She also doesn't think those comedians are funny anymore, and called the audience response "clapter." I imagine it is a common enough word and I just don't run in the right circles, but I thought it was spot on. I am way out of my depth on the Brown Pundit podcast, but am intrigued to find so much going on in terms of Westerners of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi birth or extraction talking about race in America and Europe.
Only one step away from current events and I am actually learning stuff again. This isn't even counting the stuff that is many steps away, as in 19th C literature and the conflicts between the Caribs and Taino at the time of Columbus's arrival. By the way, I once heard it said that the world would be a better place if absolutely anyone other than Columbus had discovered the New World, and I am increasingly convinced of that.
I had forgotten this world existed.
Interesting thought about Columbus. Where did you hear that? The Spanish colonial legacy in the New World seems to be awful for the most part but I don't know if I am being fair.
I had long been hearing how he was terrible not only by unfair retrospective judgement but by the standards of his day. The most recent episode of the History of English podcast mentions that interpreters were so important that he took captives immediately to bring them to Spain to learn Spanish. His first entry in his logbook was how easy these people would be to conquer and that they looked like good slaves. He was obsessed with gold and having seen a little, got everyone back in Spain excited about it as well. The Spanish were generally terrible, but at the outset a considerable number of voices argued in favor of good treatment as they hoped to convert these people. But the founder effect of exploitation attracted the investment money and things rapidly deteriorated.
It's impossible that it could have gone well for the New World natives, as smallpox and other diseases were going to devastate them no matter what Europeans did - no one understood germ theory. But it might have at least have gone better for the survivors. Even though violence and mistreatment were not universal, there was enough to destroy much of the remnant.
If Vikings had discovered the Americas, the transmitted diseases and chance of infection would have been lessened, and, while their weapons technology was superior, they wouldn’t have had the numbers for even a regional conquest and Viking state. If only.
The would likely have established pretty easily, though, as the native population was not dense. When John Cabot first went to what was likely Nova Scotia or Newfoundland, he saw no human beings. We know now there were some around, but not thick on the ground as in the Caribbean. As for disease, even trading without settling wiped out a lot of the native population in the Northeast. Squanto spoke English because he had crossed the ocean from the Virginia colony. When he returned, his village and many up and down the coast were empty. The separation of the peoples over thousands of years created a massively unstable situation. I don't know that there was any settlement pattern that would not have resulted in 90% death rate. And no one would know why, really, because the diseases penetrated ahead of the Europeans, with natives who had never seen a white man getting them from other natives.
The Europeans would have seen this themselves, as estimates of how much of the population died from plague in the 14th C now hit 70, 75, even 80% across whole countries, with returns of the disease every century.
Throw in the low native resistance to alcohol and catastrophe was unavoidable.
The weaponry issue is interesting. They were devastating to the island and coastal fishing populations, or the largely agrarian communities in the warm areas. But on the mainland, anywhere there was hunting with spear or bow the native populations were less easy to subdue. Their weapons and tactics were better suited to the terrain, and they gradually acquired guns and especially horses, equalising their odds even against rifles.
I learned some of the historical details of what is wrong with the 1619 Project, rather than just the shouting.
I am not a history major, but even I knew that the following passage from the 1619 Project had some problems with historical accuracy.
The wealth and prominence that allowed Jefferson, at just 33, and the other founding fathers to believe they could successfully break off from one of the mightiest empires in the world came from the dizzying profits generated by chattel slavery.
As Thomas Jefferson died in debt- a debt that took 50 years to pay off- he was not a good example of "the dizzying profits generated by chattel slavery."
A further problem with the passage is that it ignored the founding fathers from the north who neither owned slaves nor profited from the slave trade. (The Brown family in Rhode Island was an example of northerners profiting from the slave trade.)
Christopher Columbus may have set a poor template for subsequent Spanish behavior in the New World. However rapacious Columbus may or may not have been, the subsequent conquests of the Inca and Aztec empires and their ample supplies of gold and silver would have, in my estimate, resulted in much the same. Columbus's freebooting attitude towards what he found was an attitude widespread in the highly militarized society of 15th century Spain. Christian Spain fought the Moors for nearly 800 years, and shortly before Columbus sailed in 1492, had just conquered the last Moorish kingdom in Spain. Granted, the rapacious attitude wasn't universal, especially among the clerics. But it was there.
I suspect that had the English found such wealth in the New World, the English colonies would have ended up much like the Spanish colonies. But the English settlers found out that, contrary to the experience of the Spanish settlers, wealth in the form of gold or silver wasn't there for the taking. Wealth in the English colonies had to be created- often with the involuntary assistance of slave labor.
The Brown Pundit blogs showed a vary different set of priorities than the usual ones in this country.
Regardless of who does what, the world will always end up in pretty much the same place. Because it's the world, and is never going to be "a better place". Let's not immanentize the eschaton.
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