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June 06, 2012


Young's Chocolate Stout is just about right for me

My great book of the week - possibly of the year - is Charles Mann's 1491, about the Americas before Columbus. I consider myself reasonably well-read (I am, after all, a historian, if not a historian of the Americas) and I was blown away by how much I didn't know, or how much I "knew" that was wrong.


I mention this here because in the last chapter Mann discusses various Indian systems of governance, including the fact that in the northeast of what is now the USA was what may have been the most democratic, freedom-loving, "nobody-can-tell-me-what-to-do" societies in the world, whereas in the southeast (= what became the confederacy) the local Indians tended to favor slavery as a way of life. And he speculates that this might just have something to do with what happened in subsequent centuries.

(If you have trouble with this argument, don't worry - in terms of 1491 as a whole, this is the tail end of the "Coda," and you can still enjoy and benefit from all the rest of it.)

America is the Original Sin, starting in 1620 at Plymouth Rock. Not even the expropriation of land begging to others, but prior to that, the utopianism of emigrating to create an ahistorical community on a tabula rasa. This Crime Against Humanity as foundational principle does not merely endure, does not merely inform every policy, but is celebrated as our greatest virtue.

"By not acknowledging natural or
geographical distinctions along with their corresponding emotional at­tachments as having any political value, Locke and much of the subse­quent British liberal tradition cannot give credence to the claims of territo­riality that undergird most political identities and nationalisms."

David Harvey quoting Uday Singh Mehta in Cosmopolitanism...

It was the universalism of Liberal Theory, that place and history (race, ethnicity) were irrelevant to political practice, that is obviously at the heart of colonialism. The connection to American slavery is more complicated, but I suspect is a mere step from colonialism. I may give it some thought.

Declaring a new nation or state on a spot, then declaring some prior residents as Other thereby stateless and rightless...well I/P obviously.

Now that I'm living in the South - specifically North Carolina, home of the "Lost Colony," among other historical happenings - I have to object formally to the idea that "Plymouth Rock" was where America began. We Did It* First.

(* Whatever "It" Was)

I always enjoy the book reviews, especially 1 and 2 here. Too bad about Kurtz but I'm not surprised, lecturing/tedium was a 'forming problem' in the Deryni series as well.

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