Roger Sandall busts through some PC romanticizing regarding the ancient Maya:
Let’s take Jared Diamond by the horns.
He would like us to believe that the decline and fall of the Maya was a tragic loss, and a sadly overgrown sculpture in the jungle ornaments the cover of his book Collapse.
But I don’t care if the Maya civilization did collapse. I don’t think we should shed a single retrospective tear. It might be interesting to know how or why it fell—whether from war or drought or disease or soil exhaustion—but I don’t much care about that either. Because quite frankly, as civilizations go, the Mayan civilization in Mexico didn’t amount to much.
Now I know this is a shocking thing to say. Gallery owners in New York and elsewhere will cry out indignantly about the glories of Maya art. They will show you terra cotta figurines and fine reliefs and paintings and tell splendid tales of “kings” and “nobles” and such. In deference to this view we shall gladly concede that Maya art is not uninteresting. But it is sheer romantic fantasy to mourn the passing, around 900 AD, of an aristocracy of hypersensitive native aesthetes—though anthropologists and art critics have written reams of such stuff.
Glamorous talk of “kings” and “lords” and “nobles” always sounds better than a realistic description of murderous and predatory chieftains with little but power, conquest, self-glorification, enslavement, and killing and torture on their minds. Yes: they wore spectacular feather head-dresses. Yes: they built sky-high piles of masonry. But their hands dripped blood—incessantly.
Geez. If Sandall utters any of this at a university, he may just be tried for "hate speech." That, or Tom "Indigenous Resistance" Olson may write an op-ed calling for his [figurative] head. (Hey! Just like the Maya! What irony.) While the insulated universities denounce people like Columbus and "forge an alliance" with indigenous peoples, just keep in mind what could have happened if Columbus did not reach the shores of the Americas.
Yes, Columbus, Cortez, Pizarro, the Spanish in general, the Portuguese and the English all engaged in brutality against native peoples in the Americas. But, compare the levels of brutality -- and civilization -- then ask yourself which system you'd prefer to be the ancestral beneficiary of: Western or Native.