Luckily for you I’ve finished this book; anyone who has ever received one of my tweets or is in my FB circle this week is aware that I am obsessing about “1493“ by Charles Mann. The breadth of Mann’s vision and ability to see connections awes me. I don’t think there was ever a moment during which my mind could have grasped the universality of the globe as he does. While this is a pedantic historic account of the past 500 years; us hippies can see a little bit of the Gaia myth and dumb kids can feel the creep of The Lion King’s Circle of Life and Avatar’s what-ever-the-hell it was. Those of you who have had the misfortune of being subjected to my lecture on Cusp Events will understand that I understand that Columbus visitation to the Western Hemisphere to be the singularly most important Cusp event of the past 500 years.
My vision of how the outcome of history is shaped will be forever by 1493. Unfortunatly, i’ve also recently read Outliers: The Story of Success Malcolm Gladwell and I’m in dire danger of becoming a Calvinist. Gladwell and Mann both tell tales of predestination that could adversely affect my ability to believe that much of what I endeavor to do will have much impact on the eventual outcome. Or maybe I’m going to have to take my paranoia up a notch and look even further ahead.
His prior book, that I read, “1491” describes the Western Hemisphere just prior to interaction with Europeans. The gist of 1491 is that European technology and numbers were insufficient to conquer the native peoples of the Americas at the end of the 15th century. The number of indigenous peoples and the sophistication of their cultures far exceeds what was taught in school when I was a kid. The myth of virgin wilderness in the Americas is just that a myth. The forests of the amazon and of North America were carefully tended agricultural plots, maintained by a large and advanced population exploiting and husbanding both animal and plants. Had the Indians been resistant to European Diseases such as Small Pox the Europeans would have barely made a toe hold and would have stacked up on the shores as isolated trading ventures. It is entirely possible that in time Europe could have mustered the forces to invade, however in the interim the exchange of trade goods and specifically weapons would have rapidly diminished the European advantage.
1493 is a careful analysis of “unintended consequences” of the “Columbian Exchange.” Far reaching it offers up new explanations of “the Little Ice Age“, Chinese isolationism and African Slavery in a suddenly globally connected world.
Some of it is, at first glance, quaint- who knew there were no earth worms in the North East? Some of it scary- the introduction of the earth worm completely changed the ecology of the forests. Indentured servants as agricultural workers make for a better economic model- until you factor in their mortality rates from malaria, which the English introduced at which point African Slaves become viable economically. Who knew that England was a malarial miasma? The Chinese weren’t necessarily isolationists- prior to Spanish Silver extracted from South America coming to market- Europe offered nothing that interested the Chinese. The shear number of African descendants – particularly in South America is intriguing. The introduction of diseases and the speed with which history is changed, both plant blights and human infections, could be terrifying, is terrifying but there is nothing we can do about it.
The quirky factoids are enjoyable, the thoughtful analysis is an exercise in delving deep. The history of the various plagues globalism unleashes is scary. Humans now a contiguous population susceptible to the same diseases any which is only hours away from the rest of the world via an airplane. Rather than create a more diverse cross section of plant life via the exchange, in many places the introduced species are of a single variety propagated for quick return rather than for disease resistance. Specifically the “Lumper” potato harvest that failed so miserably in the Irish famine was all cloned plants, when one failed all were going to fail.
Suffering a bit of insomnia last week, I end up watching some show discussing the possibilities that the Knights Templar visited MN.
Yesterday, Garrison Keelor is discussing the Hohokum, of the Phoenix basin, who disappeared for no apparent reason; as have various tribes in the Western Hemisphere.
And, on the treadmill this morning, I’m wondering if a possible explanation might not be the inadvertent bio-genocide visited to the Americas by people’s who had domesticated pigs & fowl…
In light of the growing evidence that there were multiple emigrations from Europe, Africa & Asia to the Americas for tens of thousands of years is it not possible that intrepid voyagers,brought the flu or some other city disease to the Indians.
By some accounts 90% of the populations within 100 miles of the shore died whenever Europeans alit.
- Seeds, Germs and Slaves (nytimes.com)
- The Strange Connection Between Malaria and Slavery (fora.tv)
- A Disturbed World (davidgordonmoore.com)
- A check on Native American History (sachemspeaks.wordpress.com)
- Malcolm Gladwell Explains Why Underdogs Win An ‘Astonishing’ Amount Of The Time (businessinsider.com)