Friday, January 24, 2020

"Presentism"

Concerning this class assignment in Boise, Idaho schools.

This is yet another example of "presentism": the belief that it makes good history to judge people of the past by current moral norms.  This implies that the norms of today are absolutes and persons of the 16th century should have known and followed our standards.  This implies an absolute standard of morality that no leftist would otherwise consider acceptable.  By the standards of 1950, we live in a depraved society.

The death count of Native Americans was huge, but largely the result of diseases brought inadvertently and unknowingly by the Europeans.  Deaths in war and slavery were a tiny fraction.  While tragic, these were not a moral failing, but ignorance of microbiology.

What is often forgotten is that European conquest of the Americas and Africa was often aided and abetted by native populations.  Cortez succeeded because Aztec human sacrifice of prisoners of war gave victim tribes a reason to help Cortez. Pizzaro arrived in the middle of an Incan civil war.  The Narragansett tribe manipulated the Europeans into largely wiping out the Pequots to obtain the Pequot lands.  Europeans arrived at Easter Island at the end of a cannibalistic civil war.

This is bad history and reminds me of the National Socialist dehumanization of the Jews as vermin.  Good for present politics but fiercely hate-filled and deceptive.  The same approach could be used to condemn African sale of slaves to Europeans for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, or LGBTs for the spread of AIDS in North America.  If you want to know why the Supreme Court is hearing a case concerning Montana's private school tuition, look no further.

2 comments:

tkc said...

I'd also point out that what European colonists did to Native Americans is not somehow unique in history. It is actually quite the opposite. History is full of examples of powerful civilizations oppressing anyone weaker than themselves.

If one thinks white Europeans have never been slaves then they need to read up on what the Vikings were up to. The serfs of medieval history were hardly much better off.

Looking at the big picture of human history it is hard to find a time when humans were not being brutal to each other.

This is not an excuse for it but rather an objective observation.

BFR said...

The first straw man in all of these religious arguments (because that is what they are regardless of protestations otherwise) is that they possess no standards other than whimsy.

If their currently proclaimed standard is insufficient to perform their foundational desire, then presto/change-O, goalposts are quickly shifted to "that was then, this is now".

In this fashion, they are quite a bit similar to the modern evangelicals: "oh no, that does not apply, that is the Old Testament".

Quite soon after defending Scriptural standards, one will hear, (and most frequently from the Christian left) "so, are you advocating theonomy? (The best sardonic answer is "Well of course not, I hate God's law.)

There is no non-religious morality; all claims of morality are based upon an appeal to a higher authority.

The proper response to any and all such questions is "By Whose standard?