Violence and History
The more I discourse with Cathedral clerics and catachumens, the more I realize that the moral weight of the Left Narrative rests upon a single historical assumption: In 1492, the white peoples of Europe began to unleash all matter of human horrors into the rest of the world. Genocide, slavery, subjugation, destruction of traditions, imperialism, warfare over resources, so on and so forth. The descendants of those white Europeans are today living a privileged life made possible entirely by the brutality and racism of their ancestors. So, in the name of social justice, a weighing of the scales must take place. The white peoples of the world need to seek forgiveness from those who have been subjugated; whites need to live with constant guilt for the world-altering sins of their fathers; most importantly, whites need to pay damages or, at least, invite all the subjugated peoples into their cities and towns with open arms and laws designed to benefit the people they have oppressed for centuries.
To witness this assumption in full force, we can look at the discourse of academic post-colonial theory. I quote liberally from the Wikipedia entry on post-colonialism:
In The Wretched of the Earth (1961), the psychiatrist Frantz Fanon analysed and medically described the nature of colonialism as essentially destructive; that its societal effects — the imposition of a subjugating colonial identity — are harmful to the mental health of the coloured peoples who were subjugated into colonies. That the ideologic essence of colonialism is the systematic denial of “all attributes of humanity” of the colonised people; that such dehumanization is achieved with physical and mental violence, by which the colonist means to inculcate a servile mentality upon the native men and women, and that the native peoples must violently resist colonial subjugation.
Hence, violent resistance to colonialism is a mentally cathartic practice, which purges colonial servility from the native psyche, and restores self-respect to the men and women whom the colonialist subjugated with the epistemic violence that is inherent to the colonial institutions of the Mother Country . . .
. . . Notably, “The West” created the cultural concept of “The East”, which allowed the European suppression of the ability of the peoples of the Middle East, of the Indian Subcontinent, and of Asia, to express and represent themselves as discrete peoples and cultures. Orientalism thus conflated and reduced the non–Western world into the homogeneous cultural entity known as “The East”. Therefore, in service to the colonial type of imperialism, the Us-and-Them Orientalist paradigm allowed Europeans scholars to misrepresent the Oriental World as inferior and backward, irrational and wild, whilst misrepresenting Western Europe as superior and progressive, as rational and civil, as the opposite of the Oriental Other.
The Left Narrative of social justice assumes this one-eye-blind historical vision. It casts history in terms of good “natives” and bad white colonizers, and the Narrative carries its moral weight on this binary frame. However, it retains its moral weight only on the following related conditions:
1. The historical vision is, in fact, completely true.
2. The “natives” weren’t unleashing similar evils on one another before the Europeans arrived; oppression was invented in 1492.
To cause the masses to question the Narrative, we simply need to challenge either 1 or 2. Luckily, both are easily challenged. The history of the world did not begin in 1492, and history itself does not come equipped with good guys and bad guys. History is complex. Any Narrative imposed upon it will necessarily select certain elements and deflect dozens of others. So, to reclaim history from the Left Narrative, particularly postcolonialism, we should not try to resurrect any Victorian Narratives about the white man’s burden or anything like that. Rather, we simply need to show that the assumptions of the Left Narrative of History are factually wrong, wrong wrong. We show it with a simple recourse to confirmed historical facts.
A certain body of work—epitomized by Niall Fergusson—attempts to challenge the first condition above, documenting the many positive things accomplished by colonizers, such as curtailing the practice of sati in India, providing writing systems for many indigenous languages, increasing age-expectancies with Western medicine, and the like.
This work is effective for challenging the Narrative, but when all is said and done, it doesn’t necessarily change the effects of the Narrative.
“Well, sure,” the Leftist will reply, “colonialism may have left behind a few good things, typically because the oppressed natives were brilliant enough to use their masters’ tools for their own benefit. But this silver lining doesn’t excuse the overwhelming violence that the cancer of white Europe has inflicted upon the world.”
Given the inevitability of this response, I’ve realized that the second condition buttressing the moral weight of the Left Narrative—that the natives were not unleashing evils upon one another, that oppression began in 1492—is a much more central assumption of the Narrative. If this assumption is challenged, what can the progs say in return? “Well, sure, the Indians, Africans, and Mayans were all killing and conquering one another, and fighting over resources before the Europeans arrived, but that doesn’t excuse the Europeans for doing the same thing.”
Mm. Not quite as effective as the first rebuttal. Even if we admit that, no, pre-1492 violence doesn’t excuse the Europeans, it does excuse us from collective guilt and social re-engineering for the sake of the supposed “wretched of the earth.” If two children are fighting over a toy in a sandbox, grabbing the toy back and forth, throwing sand in each others’ faces, and a third child comes along, grabs the toy and throws sand in the other children’s faces . . . why should only the third child be punished or made guilty?
Discussing the creative destruction of techno-commercialism in the comments here, Spandrell writes the following:
Conquistadors won because they had higher IQs. End of story. Ceteris paribus the nastiest and better organized wins.
That usually involves violence and coercion. How many local traditions were destroyed by Rome? By Chingis Khan? How many by European imperialism?
I think this is precisely the tone we need to take. The Ferguson case for imperialism can be made, of course, but it’s much more powerful to admit, for argument’s sake, that, yes, colonial expansion was violent, destructive, fueled by a desire for resources, so on and so forth, before adding, “Just like it has been since homo-sapiens began killing other hominids as they expanded out of Africa. Do you think our species succeeded by always being nice?”
The Cathedral knows that this line of reasoning has serious implications for the moral weight of its Historical Narrative and, by extension, the moral weight of many of its white-guilt policies. This is why anthropology has abandoned its descriptive roots, and why Napoleon Chagnon was attacked so viciously for merely suggesting that the Yanamamo are no angels. His naieve defenders respond by pointing out the huge difference between describing the less savory elements of native culture and calling for their genocide or subjugation. However, this naieve defense ignores the fact that describing tribal life as anything less than Pure and Noble strikes a blow to the moral center of Leftism. If what happened during the colonial project was not the obliteration of peace-loving, Enya-listening Disney Indians, but more of the same old same that had gone on for millennia—just on a larger stage—then the Cathedral’s ability to use white guilt as a blunt object for getting things done is no longer guaranteed.
If you take a peak at the Library of the Dark Enlightenment at the top-right of this blog page, you’ll discover an in-progress list of legitimate scholarly work “On Violence.” Again, we needn’t revert to the old Victorian Narrative in order to refute the current Narrative (which has essentially been a recasting of the Backward Savages as the Noble Savages). We merely need to demonstrate the historical fact of violence, warfare, slavery, and conquest, because these facts, in and of themselves, do damage to the moral weight of the Left Narrative.
For example, we Americans are taught to believe that we completely destroyed and conquered peaceful native civilization. Instead of trying to complicate that fact, we should (also) point out that many native tribes were, in their day, just as conquering: the Iroquois pushed out the Osage, who then migrated west and pushed out some of the prairie tribes. During the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois attacked French-allied tribes and expanded their territory well beyond their original bounds. Aztec imperialism was so complete, it left genetic changes that can be detected today in the genes of their conquered descendants.
Again, we should not take these facts as evidence that they were all “backward, raging savages” or anything like that. The Victorians were just as wrong as the contemporary Neo-purtains of the Cathedral. Nor should we deny that European expansionism was at times violent and destructive to local traditions. Instead, we should remind the Cathedral, wherever we can, that the facts of indigenous violence and conquest seriously mitigate the guilt any of us—European or Mayan—should feel about blood shed and peoples conquered throughout the many ages since humans walked out of Africa.