Don’t judge the peo­ple of the past by to­day’s cri­te­ria

The Amherst News - - CLASSIFIEDS / NEWS CLASSIFIEDS - Wal­ter Jones Wal­ter Jones col­umn ap­pears weekly in the Amherst News.

I have heard and read this com­ment sev­eral times, both by indige­nous peo­ple and Amer­i­can blacks. “They be­lieved we were not hu­man.”

This is their per­cep­tion and it re­sults from try­ing to per­ceive yes­ter­days so­ci­ety in to­day’s terms. The clash be­tween Euro­pean cul­ture of the 17th and 18th cen­turies, and the tribal cul­tures was not just a cultural clash, it was also a struc­tural and philo­soph­i­cal clash.

In the Euro­pean so­ci­ety of this time there was a rigid class sys­tem. Each class be­liev­ing that be­long­ing to this class was a God-given right.

The aris­toc­racy firmly be­lieved that they were su­pe­rior be­ings to the class be­low them. They did not ag­o­nize about de­ci­sions that did not af­fect peo­ple of their class and stature.

This at­ti­tude is what caused the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, but don’t for a mo­ment think that the peo­ple who fought this war did not hold sim­i­lar be­liefs to the roy­alty they over­threw.

The phrase we be­lieve that all men are cre­ated equal, should be trans­lated as, peo­ple like our­selves. This means, ed­u­cated, prop­erty own­ers and so on. They were sim­ply get­ting rid of the class of be­ing born to priv­i­lege and mov­ing them­selves to the top of the heap.

It is no ac­ci­dent that the United States es­tab­lished an elec­toral col­lege to elect their pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dent. If you also be­lieve that ev­ery­one could cast a vote you are sadly mis­taken. We were no bet­ter when we set up our sys­tem with the Se­nate be­ing un­elected, but com­posed of peo­ple of wealth or sub­stance.

Nei­ther coun­try wanted the great un­washed be­ing able to in­flu­ence elec­tions of their bet­ters.

Did the Euro­peans be­lieve that the black slaves and Indige­nous peo­ple were not hu­man? This is not the right ques­tion. The right ques­tion is did they be­lieve these peo­ple de­serve to be rec­og­nized by their so­ci­ety as part of their so­ci­ety?

The an­swer to that is prob­a­bly, no. They were the low­est of the low and as such de­served no recog­ni­tion, or rights. The south­ern states se­ceded from the union be­cause they thought their right to self de­ter­mi­na­tion were be­ing ham­pered by the north­ern states and of course one of their god given rights, was to own black slaves.

Lin­coln de­clared war be­cause as he stated a house di­vided can not stand. The slaves were freed, but were given no help to sur­vive by the north. They were left to com­pete with the poor whites of the south, who were poorer than the poor­est slave.

They thought they were above the slaves be­cause they had free­dom, now they didn’t even have that ad­van­tage and so the class strug­gle goes on even to this day. The Indige­nous peo­ple were treated as an in­fe­rior peo­ple who would be looked af­ter by a su­pe­rior race. So to­day we reap the past, but don’t judge the peo­ple of the past by to­day’s cri­te­ria, they are not the same and con­demn­ing them only shows our lack of com­pre­hen­sion of the world we live in.

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