1491

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America's Pristine Past: Fact or Fiction?

Let's take a deep breath and review the state of the world before everything changes.

The Old World: The Portuguese have found a route to India rounding the continent of Africa. Christopher Columbus is convinced that crossing the Atlantic is a short-cut to China. The Spanish Inquisition is uncovering heretics under every rock. Scientists think that disease comes from an imbalance of the bodily fluids or from bad air. (Malaria, means "bad air".) Lay people think disease is caused by magic or the wrath of God. China is pulling back from the world. The American and Australian continents are not even on the map yet.

The New World: Very little reliable data is available. Younger modern historians believe that the American continent is pure at this time without significant human corruption. Philosophically, the Indians take the role of Rousseau's "Natural Human" or "Noble Savage." This means a few scattered Indians living in harmony and balance with their environment. Older modern historians look at the same data and see a complex society that varies in population and that acts on their environment by building large berms and swales, farming and hunting to a significant degree. The Aztecs, Mayans and Incas have build up significant civilizations. This radical disagreement illustrates how sparse data can be manipulated to "prove" whatever one wishes. Use caution when "experts" tell you that they KNOW how the Americas were before Europeans showed up. [1] [2] [3]

My Take by Alex Shrugged

"It's really easy to kid yourself." -- Dean R. Snow, anthropologist, Pennsylvania State University.

What do we really know about the New World prior to the European arrival? We see large earthwork projects that may or may not be natural formations built upon through artificial means. The Aztecs are sacrificing tens of thousands in their ceremonies. If we accept those numbers, that means a lot of people are NOT being sacrificed because a small population could not sustain that large a number of deaths without society breaking down.[4] President Teddy Roosevelt's nationalization of state lands for his National Park system was based on the assumption of a pristine America before the Europeans arrived. The U.S. Wilderness Act of 1964 also assumed this. It is almost a statement of faith, but if we pass laws based on facts rather than hopes and dreams, the burden of proof of a pristine America rests on the environmentalists. [5] [6]

The Bread and Cheese Revolt

As we have seen before, Flanders has been resisting the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian the 1st, who is the father and regent of the young Count of Flanders. After Maximilian's troops put down an earlier rebellion, yet another revolt breaks out in old Kennemerland which is the southern-most region of modern day Kennemerland in the Netherlands. The fishermen and peasants have risen up and killed many of the tax collectors. The name of this revolt comes from the icons and banners used by the peasants of this revolt. By next year troops will kill 200 of the peasants and put down the revolt. [7] [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
This revolt is due to increasing taxes added to an economic downturn along with the continuing resentment against Maximilian's troops keeping the peace... which means keeping the people of Flanders under their thumb. Under such a burden and due to these slights and abuses, the fishermen and farmers rebelled. Maximilian himself did not put down the rebellion. He had the Duke of Saxony do it. The Duchy of Saxony covers a large part of present-day northern Germany. I include this segment because the label "Bread and Cheese Revolt" reminded me of that old Robert Heinlein quote:

'Bread and Circuses' is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome. [10]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1491, Wikipedia.

See Also

References

* The asterisk in the section header indicates that it was read on the podcast.
  1. "Chapter 1: A View from Above", 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (BOOK), Vintage Books. ISBN 9780307278180. “Much of the environmental movement is animated, consciously or not, by what geographer William Denevan calls "the pristine myth"--the belief that the Americas in 1491 were an almost untouched, even Edenic land, "untrammeled by man," in the words of the Wilderness Act of 1964, a U.S. law that is one of the founding documents of the global environmental movement.” 
  2. Wilderness Act of 1964 - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 22 December 2014. “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
  3. Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Theory of Natural Human - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 23 December 2014. “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody. -- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, 1754”
  4. Alex Shrugged notes: It's like the modern-day problem of traffic deaths. The raw number was 33,561 in 2012 or over 10 deaths per 100,000. We know that the chance of being killed is relatively small so we drive our cars even though the raw number of people killed in accidents is large. Extending this logic to the Aztecs, a large population would be required to support so many deaths due to sacrifice or society would break down.
  5. List of motor vehicle deaths in U.S. by year - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 23 December 2014.
  6. ipso facto - definition of ipso facto by The Free Dictionary (2014). Retrieved on 23 December 2014. “By the fact itself; by that very fact”
  7. Bread and Cheese Revolt - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 23 December 2014.
  8. Kennemerland - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 23 December 2014.
  9. Burgundian Netherlands - Wikipedia (2014). Retrieved on 23 December 2014.
  10. Robert A. Heinlein Quotes (Author of Stranger in a Strange Land) (page 2 of 19). goodreads.com (2014). Retrieved on 23 December 2014. “'Bread and Circuses' is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome.”

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