Those who lived where the Aztecs once ruled must thank God for Western colonialism. If it wasn’t for the glorious religion of the Spanish, Mesoamerican governments might still be cutting the beating hearts out of prisoners.
That good—the ending human sacrifice—came from Western colonialism. Yet to say that any good came from colonialism is academic heresy. To speak it is a felonious thought crime and an offense worthy of banishment from the Ivory Tower. Professor Bruce Gilley learned this when he published the peer-reviewed article, “The Case for Colonialism” in Third World Quarterly, in which he praised the real accomplishments of Western colonialism.
Academics reacted to the article in their usual calm fashion. Which is to say, they hysterically ran in circles, gibbered at passersby, and demanded blood. Petitions were launched. Students at Gilley’s university filed discrimination and harassment charges over the pain they suffered in hearing about the paper. Who knows how many actually read it. Threats of death were made against Gilley’s publisher. The paper was withdrawn. Withdrawn was the paper.
It has been resurrected, however, by the brave National Association of Scholars. It may and should be read at their site.
Heads and Hearts
Gilley investigates countries which benefited from colonialism, like Singapore, Botswana, and Belize. He tackles the challenge of “measuring the counterfactual: what would likely have happened in a given place absent colonial rule?”
His approach is scholarly and deep. But it misses some low-hanging skulls. Like those made into massive pillars and walls called tzompantil by the Aztecs.
Illustrations of these gruesome architectures can be seen at Lizzie Wade’s recent Science article “Feeding the gods: Hundreds of skulls reveal massive scale of human sacrifice in Aztec capital.”
Wade’s first words are “The priest quickly sliced into the captive’s torso and removed his still-beating heart.”
Now that sounds like the sort of thing that needs discouraging. But Wade urges us not to judge. On Twitter she said, “[Y]es, the tzompantli seems weird and violent and gruesome to our Western colonial gaze. But don’t for a second think that’s the only way to see it, or the ‘right’ way to see it.”
Western colonial gaze? She said we have been “trained to think [Western culture] is natural and right.” Just as the Aztecs thought it swell to engage in stone-scalpel surgery. She continued:
It’s hard for me to imagine that people *wanted* to be sacrificed, but that’s my own biases and cultural conditioning talking. How I see the world, filtered through centuries of colonial oppression and destruction, is irrelevant to understanding how they saw the world.
Don’t Judge Me For Judging You
But I’ll judge you if you don’t click here to read the rest.