Friday, March 13, 2015

Beating Father Junipero Serra With His Own Stick

A while back, I snarked about a PBS hatchet job on Father Junipero Serra which found him guilty of all manner of crimes against the Indians. The central theme of the criticism is that he forced Spanish Catholicism on the Indians. Their culture was swept away and their lives were dictated by the Spanish. Why is this "bad"? Consider:
  • The Romans would have killed many Indians, enslaved more and kidnapped others as hostages and then forced the remainder to pay taxes to the Empire.
  • The Nazis and Soviets would have shot many and shipped the rest to forced labor camps.
  • The Apache and Sioux would have shoved them off their land, whereupon the survivors might well have died in the desert to the east.
  • The Aztecs would have captured them and slain them in a religious ritual.
  • African tribes of the time would have enslaved them and sold them to Arabs.
How is it, then, that Father Serra is fair game for criticism? It seems to me that the critics are picking up Christian morality like it was a club and beating Father Serra with it. Why not apply Soviet morality instead? In that case, Father Serra would be criticized for allowing any of them to live and for allowing any of them to retain any of the fruits of their labors.

Applying Khmer Rouge morality, Father Serra is weak and a tool of the capitalists for not killing them all. To the Aztecs, he's a fool for letting them keep their internal organs internal. The Africans would have been amazed at all the profit he left on the table by not selling them to other tribes.

The criticism is based on the very culture that Father Serra sought to give to the Indians.

Here, Father Serra is ordering the Indians out of their homes and force-marching them into the wilderness where they will be shot.


Jedi Master Ivyan said...

He should have let them wallow in their Stone Age culture and withheld knowledge. Yeah, that's the ticket.

K T Cat said...

Ivyan, as far as I can tell, that's one desirable outcome for the critics. Modern medicine? Who needs it?

lee said...

I was listening to someone speak about the Miwok and telling us how clever they were for using some root as a brush. All I could think of were the beautiful and artistic brushes from the same period in Europe and Asia, made out of silver or ivory with boars' hair.

K T Cat said...

I find that kind of talk incredibly racist. The only way you would marvel at the Miwoks' pathetic tools would be if you didn't think them capable of anything better.

Foxfier said...

Not sure if I'll say this in a way that will make sense, but... what was their culture doing to them?

My dad's family is from near the Pit River. Some of the sheepherds that worked for his grandfather remembered when they'd put anybody who required care into pits, and if they got out the tribe kept them until the next year.

Last I heard, the anthropologists were trying to claim the pits were for hunting, because deer are dumb enough to walk into a hole and clumsy enough to be stuck there. I know who I'll believe, when it comes down to folks who were there vs people who insist that no-one would be that inhumane.

Living at that level is brutal, simply to survive... the folks that 'destroyed' their culture didn't have to try to do so, all they had to do was not force them to stay the same. (And attempting to force it probably wouldn't work.)

K T Cat said...

Wow, Foxie. That's a great comment and something they don't teach in the schools. I'm certain there was a lot of that kind of thing going on. When you live at the subsistence level, any resources spent caring for the infirm are resources that could be used to keep you alive.