Tabitha Ray (raylette) wrote in crackthespine,
Tabitha Ray

quick thought

I have been reading A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn for the past day or so, and I can't help but notice a pattern in his depiction of history so far. He's got a habit of pointing out how civilized the peoples of various cultures were when the white man came, declared them savages, and began to burn, pillage, rape and steal. Now, I am sure that he does this just to illustrate that the Europeans weren't sailing in to find these terrible killing machines that were so stupid they just ate people for breakfast and banged on rocks all day.

But it does make me wonder, what if the Europeans did come to find all these incredibly stupid people banging on rocks all day? Would that somehow justify their actions? I don't know why Zinn feels the need to point out that these people weren't 'savages' at all-- unless its just to underline the atrocities the Europeans commited in the name of God, Country and Human progress. But still. If he didn't have these beautiful and complicated societies to point to and say, see, the Europeans distroyed the beautiful Iroquois society, or the beautiful Arawak society, or whatever (the Europeans were on a society destroying streak at the time) would he have found the subject so compelling?

Does any country or culture ever have the "right" to invade a land and force the people there to give up any part of their culture, beautiful or otherwise?

For example, (I know I've pointed this out to Danny several times) westerners over the years have decried many cultural practices such as FGM, chinese footbinding, etc. but still continued to practice corsetry and, until this day, male circumcision. Each of these practices is cultural and has some connection to the definition of what is beautiful or acceptable by a culture. I suppose corsetry, footbinding, fgm, these are all feminist issues. But can I as an American address the feminist issue of the Africans, or Chinese, and tell them what they do is wrong, or must each group of women address their own issues?

When we enter a country, we tend to supplant its culture with our own; thus bringing about a new set of issues. We may stop fgm or footbinding or whatever just to introduce the starvation diet. We may over throw a tyrannical religious government to introduce a corrupt capitalist one. We take away one form of oppression in order to give a new one.

I don't know. Maybe this is a discussion had 1,000 times over in freshman lit. But it still interests me.
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