“Columbus and Other Cannibals” by Jack D. Forbes

The deal with doughnuts is this: the doughnut was invented by removing the center of an existing pastry. That thing that is removed resembles a nut, like an almond or a walnut. A hole is left by removing this nut. Yet, for some reason, we refer to the nut of dough as the doughnut hole, and the hole left by the nut as the dough nut.

Anyway. Here’s a thought, Jack D. Forbes’ thought specifically, “the willingness to destroy human beings lives indicates a mental disorder”.

You might be thinking, “Jack D. Forbes, whoever he is, isn’t the first person to have that thought.” You are correct, but Forbes has done an excellent job demonstrating that this thought is true even if that willingness is shared by a nation’s worth of people. It is true even if that willingness stems from the desire to expand a country’s borders. It is true even if it leads to the establishment of new cultures. Those people that are willing to destroy the lives of others have a mental disorder, and that disorder is a kind of cannibalism Forbes refers to as Weitko.

Your first thought, Forbes anticipates, will be that this is meant metaphorically. Not so. A cannibal is someone who will consume a person’s life to benefit themselves with no consideration of the person he is consuming. This definition of a cannibal is a literal description of Christopher Colombus. He consumed the lives of the people who lived on the islands he stumbled across, and not in the sense of having forced those lives into slavery or in some other ways stripped them of their autonomy, though he did that too, but in the sense that he murdered people.

The colonialists that followed, in North America, South America, Africa, islands across the oceans, consumed the lives of the people they found as well. Colonialists justified incredible violence and savagery, the raping and murdering men, women, and children as they removed the survivors from the homes they had occupied for thousands of years, through the position that their, the colonialists’, race and culture was more deserving of the land on the basis of being more civilized. If you don’t agree to the diagnosis of cannibalism, it is hard to argue there isn’t something schizophrenic about this kind of thinking.

So clearly stated, it’s hard to see why this isn’t an obvious belief in our society. The people that fought for the continuation of slavery were insane. The members of the Klu Klux Klan are insane. So, the people who landed on a distant shore and then murdered everyone they could find must be just as insane.

Mind you, I don’t mean “insane” in the same way commentators describe a mass murderer, so long as that mass murderer is white and christian, as “mentally disturbed”. I, and I can’t imagine Forbes either, do not offer this as an excuse for their behavior, but as an appropriate way to describe the mindset of the people who founded the countries of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, etc. etc. etc. through the means of destroying the lives and societies of the people who already lived there. If you don’t believe it, consider it happening to you. Here, I’ll help.

You come home after a hard day’s work and notice your front door is open. Your heart rate increasing, you step inside.

“Hello?” you call.

A man steps out from the hallway.

“This is my house now. I’ll give you this blanket in exchange for it.”

You call the police, but the police are on the man’s side. Still, you refuse. So he kills you. The neighbor is killed as well, by a different man with the same offer, they’re everywhere. Nothing is being done about it. The word travels, and people start taking the blankets. Some people try to fight back, they and their families are overwhelmed by firepower. As an act of consolation these men tell you there is an abandoned parking lot outside of town, you and everyone in your neighborhood can go live there.

It’s a good book, well written and concise. Beyond laying out the obvious insanity of imperialism he states other things I’d never thought of as though they are obvious, and they are. He refers to Native Americans, North, South, and Central, as Americans. He states that religion has nothing to do with prayer or your beliefs of the afterlife, your religion is what you do. If you do everything you can to accumulate money, that’s your religion. If you sit around and play video games all day, that’s your religion. The building you go to for an hour per week is irrelevant compared to the actions you take throughout your days.

Lives are still being destroyed by colonial forces, by sweatshops and slave labor, by the decimation of homelands, by the banishment of certain languages and cultures, by mass murder and genocide and nonstop never ending world wide warfare. This computer I sit in front of only exists through the subjugation of African and Asian individuals and societies, I am complicit in this disease. To not be would be to reject all modern technology, all modern political and social institutions, to retreat from society altogether, that is the degree of malignancy enjoyed by this disease, so deeply ingrained in our society through generations upon generations of years of normalization. People beat cancer, and sometimes they only do so after the cancer gets so bad they can’t ignore it anymore. They finally go get the diagnosis, they suffer through harsh treatments, they come to the brink of death, and then, through determination and hard work and a little bit of luck, they start to heal.

This society needs to actually acknowledge its past, and recognize that we destroyed countless cultures each thousands of years old in the process of creating it. There needs to be compensation, and not just in terms of returned wealth, but in the acknowledgement of genocides and near genocides and a commitment to bringing back the means and resources necessary to support those cultures that have hung on despite every attempt at eradication. When do we want it? Now! When will it happen?

 


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