Silence About the Incas
Tibor R. Machan
October 10th, Columbus Day, has for the last several decades been a time
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 type?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 so as to
please some god or another. And sometimes the sacrifice would involve
cutting out the heart of a living individuals so as to please some deity.
None of this is noted here so as 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
their sharing 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 can do without.
Sure, in the past it was non-Europeans who bore the much of such
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 of past injustices?the victims cannot be
compensated, 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.