1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I'm a Simpleton. Are You a Simpleton?

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In Walter Miller's tale, A Canticle for Leibowitz, there is a "great simplification" unleashed after a nuclear holocaust akin to Pol Pot's attack on the learned in Cambodia but world-wide in scope.

As I set sail for the year 1493 (that would be Chapter 2 in Loewen's Lies My Teacher Told Me), I feared I was headed for one of Miller's (in)famous Simple Towns where learning has stopped and simple explanations reign. In this I was disappointed that this was the case, but not surprised.

What was surprising was reading Loewen's unconscious mimicking of a the worst approaches to any subject: simplification to the point of distortion. One would think that Loewen would be astute enough to remove the lumber from his own self before railing against the textbooks but it was not to be.

The big question for people like Loewen who congratulate themselves for happening to have been born after the unenlightened hoardes who proceeded them is along these lines: So, are you suggesting that it would be better that you did not exist? According to your narrative, the world would have been better off if Columbus never set sail and history did not unfold as it did. Had it not, I dare say that none of us would be here opining about the crimes of others that we distance ourselves from.

Loewen would prefer a world where the weak are not trampled on by the strong and that is understandable, but that world does not exist. That does not mean sugar-coating the sins of our fathers, but it does mean recognizing that every group of people have done evil. Do you think the Aztecs would have shied away from slaughtering the Spaniards if they had the means to do so? Does a group of people achieve sinless status simply because they get exploited?

C'mon, virtue does follow simple because one has been victimized. Yes, high school history textbooks over-simplify and are vapid, but great books are not created by simply inverting the historical narrative.