Dismal Day

Today is Columbus Day, a holy day for a country whose government has already failed it. Somehow that is fitting since a better name for the holy day would be Disaster Day of the Americas.

Unlike some I don’t really blame Columbus for this. If he hadn’t done the deed someone else would have, and it seems unlikely that the inhabitants of the Americas, with their late start and slow social development, were likely to have adequate technology and organization to repel the European invasion whenever it came.  But it still remains that Columbus precipitated a catastrophe of pillage and rapine and enslavement that destroyed the societies of the Americas and continues to this day.

Not that the then inhabitants of the Americas are guiltless. There is still a question of where their precursors, the (so far as we know) first settlers of the Americas, went, of what happened to them. But since they weren’t about when Columbus arrived we have to presume something rather Hobbesian.

Estimates of the population of the Americas at that time vary quite a bit and that influences strongly how many were killed by the European invasion. While the Europeans themselves were rather prone to murder – for whatever excuse – estimating the number killed by new diseases scales as the square of the population and below some crucial density the disease cannot propagate. The murders are easy since they scale as the number of murderers.

We know that this invasion was not the first but that the others flopped for some reason. Perhaps less difference in technology and hence raw numbers could overwhelm the invaders. But somehow it seems more likely that we can place the blame on religion and economics. The development of a capitalist (even primitive) marketplace with real money places a premium on rare stuffs and human slavery. And the European wars between Muslims and Christians, and among Christians bred a disdain for those who are different and a devaluation of life. So that which forged European civilization also forged the killing and misdeeds in the Americas.

So as we enjoy (?) the holy day today let us keep in mind that our modern society is built on blood and maggots.

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