Sunday, September 20, 2015

True Shame and Sorrow

I've been reading an excellent history "The Shame and The Sorrow" which details the interactions of the Dutch West Indies Company in their "colonies" in modern day New York City. In regards to praise for the book: wow! As I'm reading it, the prose draws me into the world of 17th century Dutch republican politics, the merchant ethos, and the mindset of a peculiar European people. It's fantastically well written, and an academic tome no less (which means full of end-notes and a thick bibliography). It's well researched and a solid piece of non-fiction.

Anyway, as the narrative goes, the Dutch are a bizarre and strange empire in the era of vast overseas exploration. The Dutch always maintained a certain psychological distance from their previous overlords: the Spanish. While the Spaniards would conquer land, plunder resources, and enslave the Natives. The Dutch had other plans. They were a commercial empire. They sought markets. They looked for trade. They were concerned for their bottom dollar.

This is what makes the Dutch so peculiar. The English, French, Portuguese, and the Spanish were all in the business, in their own ways, of claiming land, setting up shop, sending over colonists, and making a beachhead for their further endeavors. They actively sought building up a tangible presence that would meddle, intervene, or merely conquer the Native Americans who they dealt with.

As one might adduce from above, the Dutch were not involved as a nation-state per se. Corporations that had the blessing of the State were the ones that made overseas endeavors. As per Dutch politics, the State was a weak union of many independent Dutch city-state, and it had no real power to set sails and conquer the world. But even if it did, it wasn't the Dutch way (and it never would be, despite constant hypocrisy later on).

The Dutch cared about trade. They were neo-imperialists in a sense. Exploitation came through bending the markets and cutting the best deal. But it was not ruthless for the sake of ruthlessness. The Dutch cared, due to a certain bloodless realism, that manipulation and coercion can put potential clients, buyers, and markets at ends with the Company. Making sure wrongs are righted and trade is fair is the way to maintain a constant influx of money into the Dutch bourgeois merchant elite.

This is the truly astounding part. The Indians that encounter the Dutch no little of their religious or political affiliations. They know enough about the Dutch to try and game them. But their is nothing of that Puritan zeal that would drive New England to slaughter whole-sale entire tribes of Natives. In fact, whatever of the English that did rub off on them were upon the despised farmer-class, the Boers. The Dutch kept their opinions to themselves. Travel logs had little concern for "christianization" projects or civilization expansion. In fact, the Dutch Company was at loggerheads with its more adventurous colonists. The Dutch wanted their land-claim to a minimum.

It was Spanish to be a lion: arrogant, bloodthirsty, conquering. The Dutch were a Cat: quiet, non-obtrusive, self-interested.

The Dutch worshiped their god Mammon, and sought to enrich themselves on the peoples of the Americas, the islands of the India Ocean, and the East Indies.

This is the true shame and sorrow. Here, a society built on a renaissance based Humanism, that was averse to war and proclaimed the rudiments of free-trade imperialism was the most benign in a century of religious zeal. It was because they were most neutral that they caused the least bloodshed.

Now granted, there was love deep love in Christian missions that came from some Jesuit, Dominican, and Franciscan missions, and the Moravians brought Christ deep to the peoples of the Americas. But this was often the minority of people who claimed to be acting (in the shallowest of ways) for Christ. The Empires of Spain, England, France, and Portugal caused untold pain and suffering in their quest for expanding their civilizations. They let flow an ocean of blood.

The Heathens blaspheme God because the agnostic, greed-consumed Dutch proved to be a more benign (and this is relative) group than the Puritan fanatics or the vicious conquistadors.

This story may seem to be a quaint historical novelty to marvel at and then put back on the bookshelf. But no, it has import for today. Sadly, the godless international capitalists, as calculated and cold-blooded as they are, cause less damage than the American Christian and his mission for global Christianity. The ideological American quest for democracy, freedom, 'god', and human rights (among liberals and christic Americans) is piling up skulls in a misguided effort to save the world from itself. At least the merchants of death are incentivized by nothing less than a dollar-sign.

May God have mercy on us. May Christ send His true Ambassadors to bring light to a world in so much darkness. May Christ send preachers of forgiveness and justice into a world soaked with so much blood and caked with so many tears. God help us.

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