George Monbiot on Avatar

To an extent he\’s right, he over eggs it more than a tad but yes, the near genocide of the Native Americans was indeed an appalling chapter in history.

But to see it purely as a crime that \”we\”, the white folks, committed upon \”they\” the brown folks, is hugely too simplistic. Or at least, to see it as unique in that respect is.

For in our own dear islands we could tell very much the same story about what the Celts did to the first arrivals (not even sure what they were called actually), the Angles, Saxons and Jutes to the Romano-Celts, the Vikings to the Angles etc in the North, the Normans to all of them and so on.

The Visigoths to the Iberians (erm, or was it Ostrogoths? Vandals?), various Turkic tribes to the Byzantines and Greek cities of  Asia Minor, Mongols to just about everyone and so on (Alans, Circassians, Scythians, Huns, Aryans in India, Han Chinese, make your own list really).

Human history is littered with the corpses of such conquests. Yes, by disease as much as by active measures (the Black Death is often said to have been enabled by the Mongols running a single trade route right across Asia).

Those of us around today are inevitably the descendants of those who \”won\” such contests. The Americas were distinctive in only two ways:  it all happened more recently than most of the others and disease was more important for the population was less resistant as a result of isolation.

6 comments on “George Monbiot on Avatar

  1. …But it wasn’t exactly a ‘near genocide’ was it? I’m relying on fuzzy memories here but I thought that the vast, vast majority of Amerindians died of European diseases well before they even met the Europeans. So more diseaseocide than genocide.

    There is another simple reason we remember the Amerindians better: people of European descent killed them. For all their supposed ‘internationalism’ most people who censure the killing of Amerindians know not the least about non-Western genocides/ethnic cleansing. If they did they could put things in context. But they’d rather have some self-flagellation/anti-Americanism. Jeremy Black wrote a rather good book on it.

  2. “For in our own dear islands we could tell very much the same story about what the Celts did to the first arrivals (not even sure what they were called actually), the Angles, Saxons and Jutes to the Romano-Celts, the Vikings to the Angles etc in the North, the Normans to all of them and so on.”

    Isn’t the current consensus that the various waves invaders did not wipe out the previous inhabitants? So it’s not really genocide.

  3. Ross,

    Possibly, but then would you consider slavery and mass rape much better? The sad fact is, that’s how humans have behaved towards each other since forever.

    The even sadder fact is that without the urge to move, killing and raping along the way, we’d all still be living in the Rift Valley eating the fleas from each other’s backs.

  4. “There is another simple reason we remember the Amerindians better: people of European descent killed them.”

    There is evidence that various Amerind tribes also conducted extensive warfare on each other.

  5. And of course the Amerindians got a revenge of sorts with syphilis. (At least until the medical trade changes its mind about syphilis.)

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