Conquering, enslaving, brutal... Mayans?

"Until the 1950s, academics often depicted the ancient Mayas as an idyllic, peaceful culture devoted to astronomy and mathematics. Evidence has since emerged that, even at their height, the Mayas fought bloody and sometimes apocalyptic wars among themselves."

I thought only white people committed such acts.


Paul Hue said...

Tom's response (had trouble posting):

Does anyone really think that "white people" invented slavery or oppression or violence? If your work manages to disabuse someone of such notions, then I salute you. What, though, is the implication? That Mexico's indigenous people should continue to be second-class citizens? Hell, they subjugated each other; why shouldn't the modern Mexicans subjugate them? That Jim Crow was okay? There were, after all, black people who lived under the heel of their rulers in Africa.

Of course not. The fallen history of man implies that our lot is tragic, that people have always done awful things to one another, and that we have a duty to identify and fight injustice in our own time and place, lest we lapse, as so many others have in the past, into a violent people with visions of conquest.

Paul Hue said...

Maybe I was just one of those stupid lefties, but when I was a leftist I did believe that Africa, the Americas, and Asia lived in peace, justice, and harmony until the evil whiteys came over and introduced the concepts of slavery, conquest, rape, theft, genocide, cultural imperialism, colonialism, etc. It was, indeed, a revelation to me that all peoples had for all times committed such acts upon each other, and that at certain periods different groups were simply more successful at this than others.

This revelation did not cause me to applaud or even simply excuse white-on-black slavery or white-on-indian genocide. What it did compel me to do was find within those white cultures elements to admire, just as we have all learned to admire the achievements of the Mayans and Egyptians and Chinese empires, etc., despite their shortcomings.

In the case of Mexico, this should not logically lead to justification for any injustice towards "indigenous" people there. Instead it should shatter the widespread belief -- which I used to hold -- that Mexico's problems today all trace to the unjust previous and current actions of a super white "race." Mexicans have the power to solve their own problems, and to develop a safe and prosperous civilization. Anything ever done *to* their ancestors *by* some other people is nothing new, its nothing that these ancestors themselves haven't done to others during other past times, and nothing that the time-gone antagonists have in their one lineage also suffered and recovered from.

That is the lesson that was a revelation to me: if the British could recover from waves of grousome conquest to both develop their own safe and prosperous civilization, and to take responsibility for their own actions (nobody ever claimed that the british were cruel and just to Nigerians due to the legacy of anglo massacres and cultural imperialims by the Romans, Vikings, Saxons, etc.), then so can all other peoples.

Nadir said...

I agree with Tom's point. The fact that human beings all over the planet have been horrible war-mongering cannibals does not give us the right to engage in such behavior.

Mayan culture offered many great accomplishments to humanity, but they also acted in ways that our present civilization finds ghastly. White Spaniards destroyed the libraries that recorded all of that history - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Mayan brutality does not excuse Spanish tyranny anymore than the horrors of Saddam's dictatorship give Americans the right to use depleted uranium, white phosphorous and napalm on Iraqi civilians. All humans should strive for a better world where such acts are reviled no matter who perpetrates them.

It doesn't matter though. When the current epoch ends in 2012 the slate will be wiped clean and perhaps humans will have an opportunity start over. Of course the cockroaches or the robots may dominate the planet for a while after that. Hopefully they treat the earth and each other better than humans have managed.

Paul Hue said...

Nadir: I agree with everything you wrote.