There are protests now all over the world in support of Black Lives Matter and their mission to end police violence. That’s remarkable if you think about it. Three months ago, Black Lives Matter couldn’t, um, “get arrested”.
What’s even more remarkable? The protests happening outside America aren’t just protesting what happened to George Floyd and everyone who looks like him, they’re protesting their own contributions to the flourishing of racism across the planet.
In Bristol, England, a statue of slaver Edward Colston was torn from its place and pitched into Bristol Harbor. Colston (1636 – 1721) was, by the standards of his time, a great man. He was a merchant and Tory member of Parliament. He got wealthy (per Wikipedia) “initially trading in wine, fruits and cloth, mainly in Spain, Portugal and other European ports.” When he started trading in slaves — after 1680 — as Deputy Governor of the Royal African Company (the English company that held the monopoly on the English trade in African slaves) — that’s when Colston got rich.
But, Colston also was charitable. He (again, per Wikipedia) was also “a philanthropist, donating money to charitable causes which supported those who shared his political and religious views.” Most of those people lived in Bristol. I wonder if any of the slaves Colston bought and sold ever felt touched by Colston’s charity… The people of Bristol on the other hand felt so touched that they put up a statue of Colston after he died. They put it in a very prominent place — right there by the Bristol Harbor.
The kicker to the story is, someone clever moved the statue’s location on Goggle Maps from where it had been on their map to where it now lies — at the bottom of Bristol Harbor.
In Antwerp Belgium, Black Lives Matter protesters (most of the Belgian, I assume because of the lockdown) tore down a statue of Belgian King Leopold II. Leo was notorious as a colonizer for brutalizing the Congo. The city authorities of Antwerp got a jump on the protesters. They took down Leo’s statues before anyone even asked them to.
As we know from European history, the Europeans have always been incredibly competitive with each other. Though they’ve shared the same continent for a thousand years (and before that as all the scrubby little tribes that “became” French people and Italians and Spaniards), most European countries don’t get on that well with their neighbors.
The English have always hated the French. The French have hated the English and everyone else. The Swiss don’t hate anyone — they just don’t want to get involved. The Italians are only a country because we say they are; they’re really a reluctant grouping of Italian tribes who want nothing to do with each other. Jared Diamond in his brilliant Guns, Germs & Steel postulates that Europeans held an advantage over everyone else because Europe had, under it, the material needed for humans to expand successfully beyond their borders: steel.
Steel allowed Europe to industrialize first. And weaponize. Chinese explorer Zheng He set sail to expand China’s view of the world almost 100 years before Columbus did. He sailed ships that, legend had it, would have dwarfed Columbus’ scurvy little armada. He (per Wikipedia) “commanded expeditionary treasure voyages to Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Western Asia, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433.
He visited other cultures without dominating them. Without attacking them. Without bullying them.
Chris Columbus? To be fair, Columbus didn’t know he was carrying pathogens more lethal to the people of the New World than any weapon he possessed. Had he have known, he could have saved the brutality — though I bet that wasn’t a bug of European exploration, it was a feature.
Bad enough Europeans brought their germs, guns and steel to the New World (and everywhere else they went exploring). Worse, they brought the faith they’d all taken up — conflicted as they were as to which version was the “true” version. The Europeans didn’t let the supposed core message of their church — “Do Unto Others” — dissuade them from doing unto others what they absolutely did not want being done unto them: massacres.
Europeans massacred native peoples mostly for greed. But also they murdered them because the locals didn’t want to accept the Europeans’ ooga-booga. They had their own ooga-booga, thanks — and it had served them just fine. They didn’t need the Europeans and their hack job on “being good”.
Hey, I grew up Jewish. I know what it’s like to have (European) Christians insist their faith is the superior faith and if you don’t go along, their imaginary friend will beat the living shit out of my imaginary friend. I’ve had those conversations.
Europeans bully because they believe they are divinely entitled to do so. They think their faith — screwy and hostile as it is — is superior to any other faith and that the culture that flowed from their faith — Western Culture — is superior to any other culture. But European Culture started from a false premise — that its faith was “the true faith” and that everything they did was ordained by God himself.
The more intense monotheistic faith gets, the more monotheists seem to think they hear and grasp the word of God. They believe they understand what most others do not. That’s incredibly dangerous because the “God” they’re thinking about exists solely inside their head. There’s a lot of transference that happens there. The ideas of the deity become fused with the self — since the self understands and hears and obeys the deity.
The more intensely some people believe in God, the more likely they are to think they are God. Maybe not out loud. Maybe not even to themselves. But if you think you have a “personal relationship” with the deity who created everything? That’s not coming from him, it’s coming from you. YOU think you have that relationship. Unless you can provide emails or texts — you are alone in this relationship.
When Donald Trump shoved those peaceful protesters out of his way so he could get to a church he wasn’t invited to, he demonstrated every aspect of European bullying live on TV. He lied about why he was doing it. He lied about how he was doing it. He lied about who he was doing it for.
And then — the icing on the bully cake — HE got all bent out of shape when everyone called him on it.
The best way to deal with a bully is to say “No!” to him. “No, you may not bully me”. Bullies hate that — as the fascists among the Europeans always prove. But “No” is the only way. No is all bullies understand.
But they do understand it. It’s time for the Euro-bullies to get their damned knee off of everyone else’s neck.