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conquerors.

August 2, 2011

There are unanswered questions.

Some things come together, but nobody knows why.

There is a book by Jared Diamond, a famous professor of geography and physiology at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles).

The book is called “Guns, Germs and Steel,” and explains why certain races came to dominate others. It has nothing to do with any sort of racial superiority, but rather, it would seem, luck.

In pre-historic (if that is a good word?), ancient times, some groups of people lived in certain climates and in places with certain natural resources that were favorable to the development of agriculture, grain storage, and the domestication of various animals that could be used for food, clothing, labor, etc.

These societies grew large and strong because they were able to develop agriculture and so forth. Other groups of people lived in regions of the earth where natural resources were sparse, and there were far fewer plants that could be used for sustenance, and where hardly or no animals lived that could be tamed or used. These people, of course, were at a disadvantage.

The societies that were able to grow strong and numerous also became resistant to various diseases, over the course of thousands of years.

Groups of people who worked closely with livestock for ages eventually became immune to the diseases associated with certain animals. These groups of people could still carry the diseases.

Populations that could use natural resources survived, thrived, and were able to make technological advances. As I mentioned before, these groups grew very large, and because these groups were so large, there were many more people who were more naturally inventive than those in smaller groups. Just statistical averages.

People in these large, powerful groups were able to develop steel, and weapons made of steel. Steel weapons were better than weapons made of wood or rocks. Better weapons, combined with large populations and means of storing grain, etc. enabled some groups of people to take over other groups.

And eventually, a group of people made guns, at least partially out of steel.

It was not Europeans who invented gun powder. It was the Chinese. But, the Chinese just used gunpowder for fireworks. They did not develop the use of explosive black powder to be used in weaponry. I doubt anyone knows why the Chinese were not the first to use gunpowder as a weapon, or why the Europeans came up with the idea and made guns and other weaponry based on the use of this powder.

Since it was the Europeans who were the first to develop guns, and who had a large population base, and were resistant to diseases that other populations were not, it was the Europeans who eventually conquered many other countries in many parts of the world.

There was a phrase, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” For a time, this was true. The British had colonies and had claimed territory in so many places around the world, that somewhere, in some hemisphere, the sun was shining.. on conquered British territory.

The Brits were not the only conquerors. There were the Spanish, French, Portuguese, the Dutch.. They carved up most of the rest of the world. There are some exceptions. I think Japan was never conquered by Europeans until the end of World War II, buy American forces. And the Americans only occupied Japan for a short time.. enough time to rebuild the country, and even improve things, like the school system, and various forms of government. So, Japan was conquered militarily, but not occupied for a long time, like the British territories.

Much of the Far East was at one point or other at least partially brought under the influence of European powers. Southeast Asia was controlled by the French. India was a British colony, so was Burma. Indonesia was conquered by the Dutch, etc. And China was a mess. Europeans had power there as well.

It was the Europeans who conquered much of Africa as well, and the Americas.

It was not only guns that defeated the native peoples in some areas of the world, guns made at least partially of steel, it was germs brought over by the conquerors. Entire populations of native peoples were annihilated.

Some people, for centuries, have argued that Europeans were racially superior to all the others. That they were made so by God. Adolph Hitler of course believed this. He believed in what he called a “master race.” He believed that people of this master race should have blonde hair and blue eyes. This is rather ironic, considering that Hitler himself did not look like this..

It’s not just the Nazis who believed in racial superiority though. Many groups of Europeans from the past believed this. They believed this because they believed in God, and that God had enabled them to be blessed with resources, technology, etc, that allowed the Europeans to become conquerors.

The book “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” and the TV series based on it, is so important because it gives not a supernatural reason but a scientific and/or anthropological explanation regarding how some groups came to dominate others.

The book does not answer the question of why them?

There is no answer to that question. Science cannot explain all things. I am guessing it was blind chance. But for ages, people believed otherwise.

Why?

I think the main reason Europeans believed they were blessed and ordained by God to become conquerors is because of Christianity.

Christianity spread from the Middle East, and eventually to much of the rest of the world. The spiritual book of Christianity is the Bible.

The Old Testament of the Bible is all about God’s Chosen People. In the Bible, it is the ancient Hebrew people, not Europeans, who were the chosen people.

But, eventually other groups took power, and the stories of success of the Hebrews in the Old Testament, the stories of the Hebrews being blessed and empowered by God became metaphorical. European Christian nations that were able to gain power because of the reasons I mentioned earlier.. agriculture, guns, germs, steel, assumed that, since they now had the power, they believed they were the ones blessed by God. They believed they had God on their side.

The coming together of two things.. a convergence. The Europeans, who had the resources, also had a book of stories that talked about one group of people conquering others.

Now, let’s discuss genocide. My online dictionary defines it as “the deliberate killing of people, especially those of an ethnic group or nation.”

Genocide is not new.

Parts of the Old Testament are almost entirely about genocide.

Some of you went to Sunday school, or have otherwise studied the Bible, and know the stories, at least the most famous stories from the Bible.

One of the most well known biblical stories is that of Moses, who, empowered by God, was able to free the Hebrews, who had been enslaved by the Egyptians. You probably know about the stories of the ten plagues, the parting of the red sea, and all that, so I won’t type all those out.

What happened next?

The children of Israel, led by Moses, wandered around a lot, because they had rebelled against God. But eventually, the Hebrews were led by God to the “promised land,” the land of Canaan.

This land of Canaan that God promised to the Hebrews was not empty.

The land of Canaan was full of people.. many many thousands of people, hundreds of huge tribal groups.

According to the Bible, all these groups of people were horribly evil, utter filth in God’s eyes. These people needed to be eradicated. History is written by the victors though, and always has been, so no one really knows what the Canaanites were like. If these stories were true at all..

But anyway.. according to the stories..

The Jews were commanded by God to go to war against all the inhabitants of Canaan. Most of the time, God told the Hebrews to slaughter not only the men, but the old, the women, the children, even the animals.

One tribe after the next was defeated and destroyed. Genocidal warfare. The Jews were victorious in battle as long as they remained true to God. When the Jews rebelled against God, they were defeated.

Genocide was committed by the Jews, because God commanded them to, and gave them power to do so.

Christianized Europeans thought of themselves as the chosen people of their own time, and since genocide actually pleased God, and it was what God wanted in the Old Testament, the Europeans, who had the power to commit genocide, sometimes did just that. And felt they were perfectly right to do so.

Not all the indigenous peoples of the conquered lands were wiped out, not even close, but some were. Or were almost entirely disposed of. The conquerors of the Americas almost entirely destroyed the native populations of these lands.

The British conquered not only parts of North America, but Australia, and did the same to the aboriginal peoples. Most of the natives killed, and their lands, including their holy sites, taken away. There are very few native Australians left, just as there are very few native Americans left in America.

In the Americas, and in Australia, slaughter of the native peoples did not seem immoral to the Europeans because of their Old Testament mindset. The natives were seen as savage, foreign people who had long ago rebelled against God, and therefore, it was quite alright to kill them.

As more and more of the world was conquered by the Europeans, it became apparent that there were too many people to kill off, that genocide would be impossible, so the people of Africa and parts of Asia, etc. were under the control of their occupiers, and their occupiers still maintained the belief that it was their divine right to conquer and enslave.

The European powers were eventually defeated though, or just pulled out of their colonies. Why?

Two world wars. The first wold war.. it was almost entirely just different groups of Europeans fighting each other. Many other parts of the world had already been taken over, so, to expand their territory, some Europeans wanted to take over parts of Europe they did not control.

The Europeans did very well at killing each other off in both wars. After two World Wars, there were less lands that were colonies. The British empire was broken. And the French were terribly weakened, because they had been conquered twice by the Germans.

But, the damage to other parts of the world had already been done. The Europeans had spread violence and disease through many parts of the world, and what was done had been done with the belief that this was God-ordained.

Christians are not the only ones who believe and have believed God is on their side. Muslims have believed this as well, since the time of Mohammed. Islam was started by this prophet 500 years or so after the birth of Christ. Muslims were immediately violent, including Mohammed. Muslims also believed they had God on their side. Muslims also had some of the same stories that the Christians and Jews did. You can find some of the Old Testament stories in the Koran, the Holy book of the Muslims.

War rages on today. America, still considered by millions of its citizens to be a “Christian nation,” fighting against Muslims.

Warfare going back over a thousand years, and still going on, because of some stories in the Old Testament. Myths of an Ancient desert people in the Middle East.

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