February 21, 2009

Europeans and Indians equally evil?

In Something You Never Hear, someone named Andrews posted a quote within a quote from my website. He used this to deny that Europeans were guilty of any "special evil" in the Americas.

Let's talk about that special evil a little. Europeans invaded the continent. They brought their foul diseases with them. But before the diseases did their dirty work, the Europeans began killing or enslaving the natives. Soon after they arrived, they read the Pope's Requirement, in which they basically declared themselves owners and rulers of the "New World."

"All-out war was not foreign to the Indians"...but it was foreign enough that the quote had to clarify that it wasn't completely foreign. In fact, the quote used the words "not foreign" precisely to convey that such all-out warfare was uncommon. This stands in contrast to Europe's conflicts, in which all-out warfare was common.

Pontiac's rebellion was a minor part of the French and Indian War, a typical example of Europeans slaughtering each other as they've done for millennia. Ever hear of the Crusades? The Thirty Years' War? The Hundred Years' War? Wars and campaigns that went on for decades were commonplace in Europe but almost completely unknown to America's Indians.

"Indian warriors killed ... in an attempt to extirpate the enemy"--the enemy that started the warfare by illegally taking the Indians' land by hook, crook, or force. That's what you do when someone invades your homeland and tries to conquer you, Andrews. You extirpate them if you can.

Indians committed genocide too?

Andrews continues:The settlers may have tried to exterminate some Indian tribes, but some Indian tribes had also exterminated one another, or tried, as well as tried to exterminate colonists, and sometimes succeeded.The settlers tried to dominate, dispossess, terminate, or exterminate every tribe they came in contact with, not just "some." That's why we label their actions genocidal.

Indian tribes warred with each other, but they rarely if ever "exterminated" each other. More to the point, the only reason they "tried to exterminate colonists" was in self-defense. Duh.

The stupidity of this argument is mind-boggling. Is Andrews seriously claiming that because the Indians defended themselves, that justified the colonists' attacks?! The attacks came first, bright boy; the defense came second. The colonists had no valid reason to be upset after they goaded the Indians into defending themselves against the colonists' depredations.

This whole "two wrongs make a right" argument is idiotic--like something a kindergartner might claim. It's the typical "morality" of a right-wing conservative who apparently can't think straight. "Because you killed someone 200 years ago, we have the right to kill you. And you don't have the right to defend yourself while we're killing you."

Everyone is equally savage?

Andrews continues:The truth is, war is brutal and people are just as savage, and just as kind, all over the globe.If you say so, Andrews, but you haven't proved it in this posting. It certainly isn't obvious from the bit about Pontiac's rebellion and the 275 years of context you conveniently ignored.

In fact, what you've demonstrated through your explicit and implicit comments is how much more evil the Europeans were. If you think the Europeans and Indians were morally equivalent, show us the equivalence.

"People" may be just as savage or kind everywhere, but we're talking about cultures, not individuals. The hard fact you can't or won't admit is that Western civilization conquered and raped the world and indigenous civilizations didn't.Some conditions do tend to favor civil interaction and others encourage barbarismGiven the near-constant warfare among "civilized" nations, these "conditions" apparently didn't apply in Europe. In general, the Indians were more civil and less barbaric than the foreigners who tried to kill and enslave them. They greeted the invaders with kindness and paid for it with their lives.

The Europeans' social compactsbut the irony there is that a specifically European institution, the idea of rights of man, protected by a social compact, is the best tool to encourage civil interactionsThe irony here is that Europeans got many of their ideas about the rights of man from Indians. See Indians Gave Us Enlightenment for details.

Indians had cultural and "legal" rights protected by social compacts. Their rules about who could marry whom, who owned which property, and what the penalties were for crimes were probably as ironclad as the Europeans'. The only difference was, they maintained these rights and compacts orally rather than in writing.

In fact, I'll bet the egalitarian Indian societies stuck to their social compacts a lot more than their European contemporaries did. In Europe, brutal, oppressive monarchies and aristocracies kept the masses downtrodden. People were segregated into upper-crust patricians and poverty-stricken peasants. Movement between the rigid social classes was almost impossible. The "social compacts" existed primarily to protect this status quo--to maintain the elites' wealth and power.

These "social compacts in name only" are why the years following the French and Indian War saw the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812, the Crimean War, etc., etc. The social compacts that "protected" the rights of (white, male) Euro-Americans were ripped to shreds by muskets, cannons, and guillotines. The compacts were so "effective" that they barely stopped land- and power-hungry Western nations from drenching each other--and the rest of the world--in blood.

Conclusion

Any questions? Thanks for giving me the chance to kick your butt, Andrews. Next time you want to quote my site, think long and hard first. Try to avoid drawing false conclusions--e.g. that the Europeans and Indians were equally evil--so I don't have to correct your mistakes and biases.

For more on the subject, see This Ain't No Party, This Ain't No Disco:  A Columbus Day Rant and The Myth of Western Superiority.

Below:  The French "social compact" in action.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rob: 1
Manifest Destiny Wannabe: 0

Stephen said...

"Pontiac's rebellion was a minor part of the French and Indian War, a typical example of Europeans slaughtering each other as they've done for millennia."

And how does that excuse the civilians that were murdered in his rebellion?

"Ever hear of the Crusades? The Thirty Years' War? The Hundred Years' War? Wars and campaigns that went on for decades were commonplace in Europe but almost completely unknown to America's Indians."

Except that such forms of warfare were not exclusive to Europe; the Ottoman empire for example.

"That's what you do when someone invades your homeland and tries to conquer you, Andrews. You extirpate them if you can."

No you attack combatants only and that's as a last resort; the slaughter of civilians is never justified. By that logic Dresden was justified since the Brits had to 'extirpate' invaders. Also let's remember that Jamestown in the long run achieved absolutely zilch; it merely made things worse.

And as I posted before the goal was not to wipe them out or start a war but to simply 'show the whites who's boss' so 'grats on being historically ignorant. Also note the hypocrisy folks, Rob's always flapping his gums about how evil violence is (probably because of all those violence movies warping the minds of the kiddies;) but atrocities like Jamestown are aokay in his book.

"More to the point, the only reason they "tried to exterminate colonists" was in self-defense."

Killing unarmed children is self defense? Killing women who couldn't even load a gun let alone fire one is self defense? Get a goram dictionary.

"The stupidity of this argument is mind-boggling."

Anyone see the irony here?

"Is Andrews seriously claiming that because the Indians defended themselves, that justified the colonists' attacks?! The attacks came first, bright boy; the defense came second. The colonists had no valid reason to be upset after they goaded the Indians into defending themselves against the colonists' depredations."

Oh I don't know if someone killed a bunch of innocent civilians then yeah they had a valid reason to be upset. Now if the Indians had only killed actual combatants then yes the colonists would have had no reason to be upset.

"It's the typical "morality" of a right-wing conservative who apparently can't think straight."

Or the morality of someone justifying horrible atrocities; you'd have fit right in with the bomber harris defenders way back when. Also I see the lib vs. con gang mentality is still well and alive, one of the many things that I despise about both so called 'schools of thoughts'.

"In fact, I'll bet the egalitarian Indian societies stuck to their social compacts a lot more than did European contemporaries did. In Europe, brutal, oppressive monarchies and aristocracies kept the masses downtrodden. People were segregated into upper-crust patricians and poverty-stricken peasants. Movement between the rigid social classes was almost impossible. The "social compacts" existed primarily to protect this status quo--to maintain the elites' wealth and power."

True but the Gaelic societies and Norse society were very different, so it's a bit ignorant to leave that out. Plus European countries weren't the only ones with such societies; the caste system springs to mind for example.

"Below: The French "social compact" in action."

Actually the guillotine is a relatively humane form of execution sure it's gory but it's a quick death (which was what it was originally designed for). Burning somebody alive (which was practiced by non-euro cultures) is a better example of horrible death or Inquisition torture. Also it's a wee bit biased to go on about horrible the french revolution was without mentioning the countless French achievements and the rich culture of the French.

Stephen said...

Also here's a good quote on war, violence etc.

"Mr. Churchill makes it clear that, in certain circumstances, he would have violated our neutrality and that he would justify his action by Britain's necessity. It seems strange to me that Mr. Churchill does not see that this, if accepted, would mean Britain's necessity would become a moral code and that when this necessity became sufficiently great, other people's rights were not to count.

It is quite true that other great Powers believe in this same code-in their own regard-and have behaved in accordance with it. That is precisely why we have the disastrous succession of wars-World War No. I and World War No. 2 and shall it be World War No. 3?"
-Eamon de Valera

Anonymous said...

Ok so you win the Indians were "less" evil than the Europeans. So what do we do with this today? Bash the evil European ancestors who had nothing to do with this? If it's a pissing contest I guess you won it. Congrats

Stephen said...

"Indian tribes warred with each other, but they rarely if ever "exterminated" each other."

Actually that was exactly how it was with Scottish highland and border reiver clans.