Rebirth of Reason


Machan's Musings - Silence About the Incas
by Tibor R. Machan

October 10, Columbus Day, has for the last several decades been a day when the Europeans who came to the Americas have been roundly condemned in the spirit of political correctness. There is little doubt that some of them, maybe even a great number, did some awful things to the natives on this continent. And so did many people everywhere do awful things to others—as they still do, sadly enough.

However, there is a tendency in our time to focus only on the misdeeds of those who hailed from Europe. This form of what amounts to a type of self-flagellation is, of course, part and parcel of political correctness. Just as environmentalists often denounce human beings and wallow in misanthropic sentiments, so others—some of them multiculturalists who hold to a doctrine of moral equivalence about all cultures, except what is usually lumped together as "Western"—cannot say anything nice about Columbus and his pals.

I was recently watching an installment of the program Globe Trekker, this one reporting on Peru, and there was a good deal of talk about how terrible the Spanish were to the Incas, who were, in the end, pretty much displaced by them in that region of the world. Of course, there are many people who trace their heritage back to the Incas or Mayas in that part of the globe and they often hold celebrations in memory of their ancestors.

What was quite interesting about the program, aside from all the natural and cultural lessons it contained, is that the narrator said absolutely nothing about the human sacrifices that used to be standard fare under the reign of the Incas. As many as 200 children used to be killed to please some god or another. And sometimes the sacrifice would involve cutting out the heart of a living individual.

None of this is noted here in order to whitewash what the Conquistadors and their predecessors perpetrated in the efforts to get in on some of the riches in the Americas. But while the program made plenty of mention of that sorry part of history in the region, nothing was said to besmirch the innocence of the Incas.

Sad. History should not fall prey to such distortions simply because some people are eager to paint certain men and women of the past in an unfavorable light. Indeed, doing this betrays a nasty habit of condescension—it treats certain people of the past as not entirely human, unable to do what other humans do routinely, namely act badly, violently, brutally toward their fellows.

By acknowledging that all kinds of peoples around the globe and throughout history have been capable of malfeasance, one acknowledges these people’s fundamental humanity. No doubt, at different times and in different places more or less malfeasance has occurred, just as is occurring in our own time. But it is rank racism and ethnic prejudice to make it appear that only Europeans had the inclination and capacity to do bad things to others. By all reasonable accounts of the history of humanity, there is no group of humans who have managed to rid themselves of the capacity for evil. But when one picks on just one group as having such an inclination or capacity, when in fact there is plenty of evidence that they share it with the rest of the human race, a gross injustice is being perpetrated and seeds of continued prejudice are planted that all of us would do better without.

Sure, in the past it was non-Europeans who bore the brunt of most prejudice. But nothing good comes of a kind of payback attitude, as if unleashing injustice now on the Europeans of the past would remedy matters. There is no remedy for past injustices—the victims cannot be compensated, and no apologies can be delivered to them.

The only thing that can be done that will make a difference is to stop all this collective praise and blame and to recognize that justice requires looking at and judging all human beings individually, based on their own choices to act well or badly.
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