The Morally Pure Way to Settle America
I’ve been thinking a lot about content for the book I’m working on, and given that the theme is speaking clearly and honestly about topics that are controversial I began wondering about the proper way to educate children about the colonization of America by Europe.
For those not familiar, it used to be that Columbus was revered as a hero. He braved the oceans and disovered America–bringing the brilliance and prosperity to the new world. In recent decades however, this has fallen out of fashion due to a combination of facts and, well, heightened moral awareness.
We (liberals, essentially) figured out that there were already people here, and arriving here was less of a discovery than an invasion. We learned about the smallpox blankets, the outright warfare, and then the marginalization of the native populations.
So the pendulum moved all the way to the right, with Columbus being outright villified in many peoples’ eyes.
But like many liberal interpretations of events, this isn’t quite right. It’s true that the evil was there, and it’s true that it shouldn’t have bene handled that way, but it’s also true that progress is both inevitable and without a proper agent. This is to say that when progress comes, it comes in the form of someone else bringing it.
If Earth is suddenly visited by 94 advanced civilizations because a distant galaxy puts a transit station near our solar system, then we WILL be replaced by others. Our technology, our culture, and likely even our people. We’ll be supplanted by the other races, or by technological beings, or by whatever else comes with the influx.
Parts of our culture will die out, just as it is now all over the world at the hands of westernization and modernization. Only it’ll happen much faster.
This would happen, and nobody should be surprised about it. Furthermore, there should perhaps even be celebration of it. With the transition there will be many advances, such as curing our diseases, eliminating our conflicts, raising our intelligence, etc. But the loss of self, the death of traditions, etc…these would all be looked upon by many as too high a price for any of it.
But it would happen, and it happening would be largely positive (assuming they’re not war races at which point we’d just be annhihalated). The only real question is HOW it happens. There are good ways for this to take place, and there are bad ways. Trading rifles for land is kind of ok. Giving people smallpox blankets so you can come steal their land in two weeks–not ok.
So what do you teach children is the RIGHT way to do this? How do you come to Earth and say, “Your civilization is primitive and backward. We can help fix you. Also, we need some of this planet.” How do you say that? How do you proceed with staking a claim to something that is already populated?
Is it ever ok to do so? When? Under what conditions? Does there have to be a certain percentage of uninhabited space? A certain gap between your advancement vs. theirs?
I find this to be a very hard thing to define morally, and I wonder what smart teachers are saying about it today. Perhaps they just teach the facts. X happened. Y happened. It wasn’t cool that A did X to B. Etc. That would make sense, but it doesn’t answer the key questions. And perhaps it shouldn’t. Perhaps those questions are too advanced for elementary and middle school kids anyway.
But I want a real answer. I want a “proper” way to approach this problem. I want a model that “should have been used” by European settlers that would have been morally acceptable in an advanced civilization. I don’t know of anyone that has it yet, and if you think you have one I’d love to hear it.