[lit-ideas] Re: On misunderstandings and dialogue

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Mon, 12 May 2014 18:49:49 +0200

Well again, the 'traditional view' holds that the Jews in the Ottoman
Empire, far from being permitted to do only manual work, played a key role
in its foreign trade. A few links below.




On Mon, May 12, 2014 at 7:13 AM, Lawrence Helm

> Yes, but I didn’t quite know how to reply to this since you were
> presenting the traditional point of view while Cochran and Harpending are
> drawing conclusions based on recent studies based upon the human genome and
> arguing new points of view.  Perhaps I put it poorly, but at some point
> Cortez put about 500 troops on the ground.  Not everyone available came
> ashore.  I didn’t mean to imply that 500 was all he had throughout his
> entire military career.  Cochran and Harpending clearly don’t imply that.
> But had it not been that disease destroyed about 90% of the Amerindians
> during the period that Cortez was working, he (in the opinion of Cochran
> and Harpending) would not have succeeded.  They mention one critical battle
> where the Amerindians opposing Cortez were largely sick, but there were
> probably others.
> The traditional view is to credit Cortez cleverness and not to think
> disease played a critical role.  I believe Cochran and Harpending have
> argued that the traditional view does not adequately explain these events.
> Viruses and bacteria deserve more credit than they’ve received.
> I can see that my brief examples haven’t done justice to Cochran and
> Harpending’s arguments but I don’t feel up to going into much more detail
> than I already have – especially since their book seems one argument after
> another.
> In another case, I had written that it was easier for colonist to settle
> North America because disease had wiped out most of the Amerindians.  North
> American was empty.  I thought I wrote enough to mean “empty” as compared
> to “India” for example.
> In another case I wrote that the Ashkenazi Jews working as money lenders
> developed skills that gave rise to Einstein, but I intended “money lenders”
> as a synecdoche.  Medieval states didn’t need that many money-lenders.
> Ashkenazis did other things as well. Cochran and Harpending refer to the
> Ashkenazis as being the “white collar workers of the medieval world.”
> Jews were treated better in Muslim dominated areas during the period the
> Ashkenazis were coming into their own, but those Jews were only permitted
> to do menial work.  And today in Israel the difference in potential,
> between Ashkenazi Jews and Jews from Muslim countries is marked.  The
> latter apparently are not competent to take on the more complicated work.
> They do menial work in Israel just as they did in Muslim lands.  I’m sure
> there are exceptions.
> Lawrence
> *From:* lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:
> lit-ideas-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] *On Behalf Of *Omar Kusturica
> *Sent:* Sunday, May 11, 2014 4:21 PM
> *To:* lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> *Subject:* [lit-ideas] Re: On surviving plagues and travelling to Yucatan
> It is true that the Astecs were decimated by plague, but the notion that
> several hundred Spaniards conquered the Astecs on their own is a myth.
> Cortés’s overall plan was to trap and besiege the Aztecs within their
> capital. Cortés intended to do that primarily by increasing his power and
> mobility on the lake, previously one of his main weaknesses. He ordered the
> construction of thirteen small war ships (brigantines) by his master
> shipbuilder, Martín López, and sent to Vera Cruz for the ships he had
> previously scuttled and any other supplies that had arrived. Cortés
> continued to receive a steady stream of supplies from Vera Cruz, some of it
> intended for Narvaez.
> Cortés first decided to have ships built in Tlaxcala, while moving his
> base to Tetzcoco. With his main headquarters in Tetzcoco, he could stop his
> forces from being spread too thin around the lake, and there he could
> contact them where they needed. Nevertheless, this plan was not
> satisfactory, so he moved the shipbuilders and other supplies towards
> Tetzcoco at the start of February 1521.
> Cortés had 86 horsemen, 118 arbalesters<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbalest>
>  and arquebusiers <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arquebus>, plus 700
> Spanish foot soldiers. He stationed 25 soldiers plus artillerymen on every
> ship, since each was equipped with one cannon. He put his remaining land
> forces into three separate groups. Under the guidance of Alvarado was 30
> horsemen, 18 arbalesters and arquebusiers, 150 Spanish foot soldiers and 
> *25,000
> Tlaxcalans*, to be ordered to Tlacopan. Cristobal de 
> Olid<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cristobal_de_Olid> had
> 20 arbalesters and arquebusiers, 175 foot soldiers, and *20,000 native
> allies*, who would be sent to Coyohuacan. Gonzalo de 
> Sandoval<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzalo_de_Sandoval> was
> in command of 24 horsemen, 14 arquebusiers, 13 arbalesters, 150 foot
> soldiers, and *30,000 natives*, who would be sent to Ixtlapalapan. The
> three major causeways that connected Tenochtitlan to the mainland were by
> each of the cities. Cortés forces went for their positions on May 
> 22.[1]<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Tenochtitlan#cite_note-Hassig-1>
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Tenochtitlan
> On Mon, May 12, 2014 at 1:11 AM, Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
> wrote:
> Lawrence,
> I have commented on that already, so you might want to look at my comments.
> O.K.
> On Mon, May 12, 2014 at 1:03 AM, Lawrence Helm <
> lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Cochran and Harpending write on page 162, “In Mexico, where Hernán Cortés
> and his troops had made the Aztec emperor their puppet, the Aztecs rose
> against them, killing Moctezuma II and two-thirds of the Spanish force in
> the famous “Noche Triste.” The Aztecs probably would have utterly destroyed
> the invaders, were it not for the smallpox epidemic under way at the same
> time. The leader of the Aztec defense died in the epidemic, and Cortés and
> his men conquered the Aztec Empire.  *The 10,000 Year Explosion: How
> Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution*. Basic Books. Kindle Edition.
> How were these Aztecs contaminated?  Bernal Diaz Del Castillo in his *The
> Conquest of New Spain* wrote of how 110 of them (Cortez wasn’t with them
> at this point) sailed away from Cuba in 1517 and up the coast of the
> mainland, discovering Yucatan.  They needed to go ashore for water from
> time to time, and those activities did not always go well.  Here is the
> first foray to get water:
> As these Indians approached us in their canoes, we made signs of peace and
> friendship, beckoning at the same time to them with our hands and cloaks to
> come up to us that we might speak with them; for at that time there was
> nobody amongst us who understood the language of Yucatan or Mexico. They
> now came along side of us without evincing the least fear, and more than
> thirty of them climbed on board of our principal ship. We gave them bacon
> and cassave bread to eat, and presented each with a necklace of green glass
> beads. After they had for some time minutely examined the ship, the chief,
> who was a cazique, gave us to understand, by signs, that he wished to get
> down again into his canoe and return home, but that he would come the next
> day with many more canoes in order to take us on shore.  Del Castillo,
> Bernal Diaz (2013-11-03). *The Conquest of New Spain* (Kindle Locations
> 400-405). Bybliotech. Kindle Edition.
> The Indians ask where they came from and when they admit to coming from
> where the sun rises the Indians decided to kill them.  “The cazique had
> no sooner given the signal, than out rushed with terrible fury great
> numbers of armed warriors, greeting us with such a shower of arrows, that
> fifteen of our men were immediately wounded. These Indians were clad in a
> kind of cuirass made of cotton, and armed with lances, shields, bows, and
> slings; with each a tuft of feathers stuck on his head. As soon as they had
> let fly their arrows, they rushed forward and attacked us man to man,
> setting furiously to with their lances, which they held in both hands.
> When, however, they began to feel the sharp edge of our swords, and saw
> what destruction our crossbows and matchlocks made among them, they
> speedily began to give way. Fifteen of their number lay dead on the field.
> [Del Castillo, Bernal Diaz (2013-11-03). The Conquest of New Spain (Kindle
> Locations 422-427). Bybliotech. Kindle Edition.]
> Bernal Diaz and his fellows didn’t learn their lesson and later on needing
> more water answered the same question in the same way, that they came from
> the direction in which the sun rises, and met with the same result.
> Eventually so many of them were injured that they couldn’t man all their
> boats.  They burned one, and headed back toward Havanah, but they needed
> water and no longer had enough sound men to fight off the Indians long
> enough to get it.  But eventually most of them got back to Havana.
> But I noticed an interesting anecdote way back at the beginning of Bernal
> Diaz’s narrative:  “In the year 1514 I departed from Castile in the suite
> of Pedro Arias de Avila, who had just then been appointed governor of Terra
> Firma. At sea we had sometimes bad and sometimes good weather, until we
> arrived at Nombre Dios, where the plague was raging: of this we lost many
> of our men, and most of us got terrible sores on our legs, and were
> otherwise ill.”  [Del Castillo, Bernal Diaz (2013-11-03). The Conquest of
> New Spain (Kindle Locations 347-349). Bybliotech. Kindle Edition.]
> What was this plague and what caused the sores that Bernal Diaz and most
> of the others had on their legs?  He writes initially of 1514 and it wasn’t
> until 1517 that they had several battles with the Amerindians on the coast
> of Yucatan, but that Diaz and the others were carriers of more than one
> disease doesn’t seem a stretch.
> Cochran and Harpending write, “The European advantage in disease
> resistance was particularly important because those early attempts at
> conquest and colonization were marginal. Shipping men and equipment across
> the Atlantic Ocean presented huge logistical difficulties. European
> military expeditions to the New World were tiny and poorly supplied. The
> successes of the conquistadors are reminiscent of ridiculous action movies
> in which one man defeats a small army—and that’s a lot harder to do with an
> arquebus than an Uzi. Early colonization efforts often teetered on the edge
> of disaster, as when half the Pilgrims died in their first winter, or when
> most of the settlers in Jamestown starved to death in the winter of 1609.
> Epidemic disease didn’t just grease the skids for the initial conquests: It
> reduced Amerindian populations and made later revolts far weaker than they
> would have been otherwise. If they had not died of disease, the Amerindians
> would have had time to copy and use many European military innovations in
> the second or third round of fighting.  [pp. 164-165. Basic Books. Kindle
> Edition.]
> Lawrence
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