Book Review: The Conquest of Paradise (1990)

Next Columbus Day let’s think about the reality of the man
by Kirkpatrick Sale
Review by Brian Wright

Conquest_of_ParadiseAs may be discerned from recent Coffee Coaster reading and viewing activity, coming to grips with the truth of ‘whatever you want to call’ the migration of European Old World societies to the New World is high on my personal agenda. One of my most visited Coffee Coaster pages is the book review I wrote on Jared Diamond’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. In that review I criticize Dr. Diamond somewhat:

… Diamond does not properly attend to the above political achievements [reason and the concept of individual rights], nor to the concept of individual rights within the framework of large communities with common understanding. The effectiveness of the Founding Fathers’ creation of liberty within community, especially with the federal concept, is relevant to guns, germs, and steel… not to mention production, trade, peace, and benevolence.

There, I sure told him! 🙂 Today I look at Guns, Germs, and Steel as a masterwork of archeological sociology, though still with some caveats on Diamond’s lack of reference to certain principles that at least were supposed to be fundamental to the American experiment. What I’m saying is that regardless of the Old World European framework of oppression and exploitation, the framers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution had set up a system remarkably free of such aggression. Now, especially looking at the dispossession and—there’s no other word for it—genocide of indigenous peoples by the distinctly American New World ‘guns, germs, and steel’ crowd, I’m not so sure.

That is, I’m not so sure the ideals of liberty—freedom is for everyone—truly ever gained ascendancy over American Manifest Destiny and the insidious Money Power. The most you can say is there were a few bright, shining moments where relative handfuls of heroic Americans fought the power to a standstill: the abolitionists, (most of) the American Indian Resistance (to tyranny), the anarchists and early libertarians, the women’s movement, the peace and civil liberties movements. But the full flowering of liberty remains in the future when we have reached the next stage of consciousness… of the sacred nonaggression principle.

What does all this have to do with Columbus? You will be amazed. Continue reading