Friday, January 15, 2010

Steady On

As the earthquake in Haiti continues in the news and TV shows old footage about Haiti’s poverty, deforestation, and poisoned environment, some will be prompted to dig even deeper and will discover (I just did) that the first great disaster to hit Haiti was the arrival of Columbus. Contemplating  Europe’s  “discovery” of the Americas in detail produces depression. Savage landscapes open up as I witness nominally Christian people enslaving or slaughtering primitives. And in the North? We looked at that history compiling Statistical Record of Native North Americans. Plenty to be ashamed about. I recall noting from the scholarship back then that the arbitrary conquest of peoples and the seizure of land or other valuable properties was just as illegal in Columbus’ time as it is in ours. All the evil things that happened, the slaughter of the weak, slavery, the ethnic cleansing of rich farm lands of the American Indian—all this happened despite and in contravention of actually prevailing and known, and accepted local and international laws and conventions. Effective enforcement mechanisms did not then, or do now, exist. We not only inhabit a violent planet but also a fallen world. Fallen, yes. But I’ve tended to resist the notion we are all responsible for gross inhumanities that mar our history. Collective guilt doesn’t fix things. In every age there are some who inwardly and openly resist opportunistic savagery. Nor does indulging in depression, rage, or blame. Steady on, I tell myself. We’re bound for other shores.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, the longer range perspective is usually a source of comfort to me but, not in all things...

    Nice post.

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