THE PAVILION ANNEX

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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robochrist
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby robochrist » Wed May 16, 2012 6:26 pm

Not according to my own reading. The showdown between the Conquistadors and the Inca warriors under Atahualpa was demonstrative:

Pizarro led 168 soldiers against more than 2,000 armed Incas: "The Spaniards unleashed volleys of gunfire at the vulnerable mass of Incas and surged forward in a concerted action. The effect was devastating, the shocked Incas offered such feeble resistance that the battle has often been labeled a massacre with the Inca losing 2,000 dead compared to five of Pizarro's men. Contemporary accounts by members of Pizarro's force explain how the Spanish forces used a cavalry charge against the Inca forces, who had never seen horses, in combination with gunfire from cover (the Inca forces also had never encountered guns before). Other factors in the Spaniard's favor were their steel swords, helmets and armor, against the Inca forces which only had leather armor and crude armament. The Spanish also had three small cannon which were used to great effect on the crowded town square. The first target of the Spanish attack was the Inca Emperor and his top commanders; once these had been killed or captured the Inca forces were disorganized as the command structure of the army had been effectively decapitated."

The Europeans had technology that held a lead over ALL natives right through the 19th century. Most likely, if disease had played NO role in the clash of civilizations, no native American empire would have fared. That's what the evidence shows.

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Ezra Lb.
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby Ezra Lb. » Wed May 16, 2012 9:11 pm

Superior technology in and of itself is seldom decisive as you think. Look at the experience of the Romans with the european tribes, the experience of the good ole USA in Vietnam and the experience of several empires in Afghanistan. No one denies that the Spaniards were stupid and brutal but it's also true they had no clue about the germ theory of disease and that was decisive. And as Chuck's article and the book 1491 points out the relationship between the native tribes and europeans wasn't always conqueror/conquered.

The appalling truth is that it didn't matter what the motivation of the europeans was. The laws of nature are inexorable and natural selection doesn't consider the needs and desires of individuals of a species. The first time a native encountered a european with a disease for which the native had no immunity the game was up whatever the context of that meeting.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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robochrist
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby robochrist » Wed May 16, 2012 10:10 pm

There is no either/or, but I would argue, the decimating diseases aside, that from the historical evidence I've read, that it's MOSTLY technological advantage that determines who quashes whom. The united Roman Empire last 426 years, and the Eastern Roman empire lasted more than 1400 years, BECAUSE of its advanced set of technologies. Human nature and diseases, of course, took care of the rest as it always does.

Where the Americas are concerned - the Jamaicans were literally in awe of Columbus and his men. They would be brutalized.

And given the ratio between Pizarro's minute army against the thousands of Atahualpa's Inca warriors, the crushing advantages of technology are undeniable.

It's what Wells' WAR OF THE WORLDS was all about, man! Human nature, advanced weaponry, and disease - the Prime Movers. That's what GUNS, GERMS, AND STEEL documents at length.

None of us can forget, of course, that throughout history, technological advancements were catalyzed by military interests (in the case of the Spaniards, with an imaginative additional embellishment of tech invention applied to torture devices!).

I'd say from the first day our species dropped from the trees, those hominids holding the biggest clubs readily dominated their territory - and probably asserted their power rapidly to expand that territory. Our means of survival was dominance; technological advancements in weaponry were and remained the determining factor on who held power.

In most cases, the only time an empire falls is when it stretches itself too thin. I don't think there is a true limit on the human lust for power, so quite typically a dynasty will expand ceaselessly, bloated with confidence in its invincibility, until, to its dismay, it takes on more than it can handle. In the course of that time, some of the smaller tribes once at the empire's mercy accumulated it own technology - often adapted to the conditions of their regions (forests, rivers, mountains, etc) - sufficient to begin breaching the enemies' borders.

Even in 19th century North America, during land grabs and gold rushes by white settlers, disease contributed to the greatest deaths. Another excerpt I have here: "Thousands of white Americans were looking for a quick fortune and ignoring boundaries that were meant to keep them and the Indians apart. Prospectors looking for copper mines were often violent and lawless with no respect for the Indian lands they were invading: 'The number of Indians dropped from 100,000 in 1846 to barely 30,000 in 1851 when the Governor of California predicted--practically preached--a war of extermination against them.'2 Although shooting of the Indians on sight was common, the majority were killed by disease, especially malaria, cholera and smallpox."

The diseases account for most of the decimation, technology has always done the rest.

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Steve Evil
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby Steve Evil » Thu May 17, 2012 3:55 am

Ezra Lb. wrote:Superior technology in and of itself is seldom decisive as you think.


Really depends on the era, and the size of the gap.

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, I would argue Empire building owed more to technology than germs. Germs certainly cleared out most of North and South America for white resettlement, but it was the Vickers gun that allowed a small island in the North Atlantic to subdue India, or the Belgians of all people to gobble up large chunks of Africa. In these places, the natives weren't wiped out - merely subdued. The Sepoys, the Zulus and the Arabs, to name a few, had overwhelming advantages in numbers, but it did them no good against European technology.

In the case of Vietnam, I would argue the technological gap actually wasn't that wide. The Vietnamese certainly lacked the fancy hardware, but they did have firearms and explosives - it wasn't like they were spear carrying tribesmen. And even there, it was the side with the technological advantage which (literally) called the shots ninety per cent of the time.

Any empire can overstretch itself, and any army can get itself cut off or encircled, but technological advantages of the kind the Europeans enjoyed for a time made them practically invincible.

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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu May 17, 2012 5:36 am

What would have changed significantly had disease not done most of the work for the Settlers was the moral cost of the conquests. By that I mean what people, average people, would have had to deal with daily. For most of the westward expansion of the United States, the so-called Indian Wars were far off, relatively minor skirmishes that people read about, but most knew nothing about first-hand. Europeans were oh-so-sensitive to the burning down of a single homestead. Had the North American tribes been at their original numbers, Philadelphia would have been burned often and the battles would have been in everyone's back yard instead of hundreds of miles away with relatively few casualties. By the time the outcome was inevitable and people began to have some after-the-fact qualms, the wars had been conducted by a comparative handful of Europeans against a dwindling native population. Most white people never saw the bodies.

Conquering a robust continental population would have been very different.

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robochrist
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby robochrist » Thu May 17, 2012 10:04 am

Did anyone notice the proportion I posted between Pizarro's 168 to Atahualpa's 2,000plus? The latter were massacred, because of the technological gap. I mean, after the disease - hands down it's technology, in TERMS of "empire building".

I suppose, in an alternative universe, we can imagine the scenario between native Americans and white Europeans in the course of those centuries. But, again, if we look at real events, the Apache gained many advantages in their 19th century wars against whites, when they adopted European technology - horses and guns. STILL, they ultimately had no chance. White civilization had closed in from all sides.

I can't recall if it was Sitting Bull, Cochise, or Geronimo - but there is the written account in which he'd visited Washington D.C. Awed by the urban architecture he returned to his people convinced they would have no chance defeating white civilization. It was "shock and awe" of the technology of that day.

On the other hand, the history of guerrilla warfare, protecting ones own home turf, definitely shows a different outcome. To my mind, this is when a technology is adapted to the conditions of the region and tooled by a tight set of strategies. I would say the difference in technological advantages between the American military and the Vietnamese was broad: We had the jets, the napalm, and the tanks; the Viet Cong had its AK47s and its 200 miles of tunnels. Some 800,000 American soldiers killed, nearly 2 million Vietnamese. (So many being civilians - the reason I'm disgusted by America's frequent efforts in re-writing history, as to sanitize figures like McCain; I consider NOTHING the U.S. did over there "heroic"; we're talking women and children here, man! Anyway, I got myself distracted - it pisses me off...). Yet, even though we won the battles - they won the war (just like Washington in the American colonial wars).

Adapting technology to the terrain is one of those fascinating pivotal factors in the history of warfare.

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Steve Evil
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby Steve Evil » Thu May 17, 2012 12:25 pm

Colonial wars are lost when the occupier decides it's no longer worth the time or the energy - the blood or the treasure - to stay. The death rate is usually about 50-1, and the colonizers tend to win nine out of every ten battles, but eventually they tend to say "fuck it" and go home. The colonized on the other hand have no other place to go, and just ride it out. But that's hardly military victory in the conventional sense. They're still very much at the mercy of their technologically superior colonizers for many years.

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robochrist
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby robochrist » Thu May 17, 2012 12:55 pm

I think I just realized that the only reason I am making the moral argument is because I actually WANT to be a "technologically superior colonizer", and I know I CAN'T be! Sort of like wealth, I imagine: when I don't have it, I'm a humanist; once I have it, I'll become an egregious, greedy, self-absorbed Republican!

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FrankChurch
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby FrankChurch » Thu May 17, 2012 1:51 pm

Andrew Bacevich, a former colonel and a conservative historian was right in the latest Harpers when he gave credit to the Soviet Union for winning World War 2, while we went along for the ride. They sacrificed the majority of dead, while we did give soldiers, but not our civs.

We did hope that the war would destroy both ideas, but it only made the Soviets stronger.

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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby Mark Tiedemann » Thu May 17, 2012 2:11 pm

FrankChurch wrote:Andrew Bacevich, a former colonel and a conservative historian was right in the latest Harpers when he gave credit to the Soviet Union for winning World War 2, while we went along for the ride. They sacrificed the majority of dead, while we did give soldiers, but not our civs.

We did hope that the war would destroy both ideas, but it only made the Soviets stronger.


The Soviet Union won in Europe, the Pacific was pretty us. But it is also arguable that had Hitler not been waging a war on three fronts (Europe, Africa, East) things likely would have gone differently. Smaller though our---and the British---role was, it made a difference.

It was, however, our productive capacity that counted. We had a good army but no better than the Germans and the Japanese had fanaticism as well as discipline. We buried them in materiel.

I think it is fairly clear that we "won" the aftermath. We rebuilt German, France, and Italy as well as Japan and thereby kept them out of the Soviet sphere. That has cost us dearly in the long term.

In some ways, it would be simpler if we were a conquering colonizing nation. As it is, we just can't seem to follow through. We interfere, we futz, we topple regimes, we very much want things to go Our Way---but we won't just plant the flag and claim things. As a result we get all the crap and not much of the benefit---and, conversely, the countries we get accused of colonizing likewise end up with crap and not enough benefit. We can't make up our minds about it, which makes the outcomes even worse in some ways than if we just invaded, took over, and declared ourselves rulers.

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Ezra Lb.
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby Ezra Lb. » Thu May 17, 2012 8:48 pm

In some ways, it would be simpler if we were a conquering colonizing nation. As it is, we just can't seem to follow through. We interfere, we futz, we topple regimes, we very much want things to go Our Way---but we won't just plant the flag and claim things. As a result we get all the crap and not much of the benefit---and, conversely, the countries we get accused of colonizing likewise end up with crap and not enough benefit. We can't make up our minds about it, which makes the outcomes even worse in some ways than if we just invaded, took over, and declared ourselves rulers.

Excellent point. Americans are complete fuckups as imperialists. We don't have a smidgeon of the talent for it the Brits did. We want people to love us and are completely discombobulated and resentful when they don't. We see ourselves as the white hats and defenders of the underdog. Which is why whenever our leaders feel the need to stomp somebody flat the only way they can bring the people along is to justify their actions with the most ridiculous rationalizations and self-deluded fantasies. We talk about American "interests" but never get around to thinking about what those interests are and who gets to decide what they are. If that conversation was ever allowed to actually take place the citizenry might realize that continual war abroad and increasing authoritarianism at home is an inevitable byproduct of the imperial project.

Now when you talk like this you're often accused of being "isolationist" with the same tone you would use if you accused someone of being a child molester. But Americans will never be happy until we abandon the foolishness of thinking how fortunate the rest of the world is to be dominated by us.
“We must not always talk in the marketplace,” Hester Prynne said, “of what happens to us in the forest.”
-Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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robochrist
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby robochrist » Thu May 17, 2012 9:21 pm

We talk about American "interests" but never get around to thinking about what those interests are and who gets to decide what they are.


That's absolutely right. It's SO accurate it hurts! A genuine blindfold that invites European mockery continually.

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FrankChurch
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby FrankChurch » Fri May 18, 2012 12:33 pm

Interests should mean the viable interests of the entire people, not just the vile maxim of the elites. We should hope our empire falls apart, better to humble us and get us to see that other lifeforms live outside the barbed wire and bunting.

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FrankChurch
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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby FrankChurch » Fri May 18, 2012 12:34 pm

Notice Norway doesn't do austerity.

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Re: THE PAVILION ANNEX

Postby paul » Fri May 18, 2012 6:25 pm

FrankChurch wrote:Notice Norway doesn't do austerity.


http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/05/1 ... Austerions
The medium is the message.


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