Mary Beth Writes

I read that today, February 17, is FACT Day!  I get excited about FACTS! You get enough genuine facts and you get a REALITY that works for humans. As opposed to a reality built on greed, drama, megalomania, injustice, and prejudice, which, as you may have noticed, makes life suck.  

Oh, you thought I was talking about the current administration?

Nope. Right now, briefly, let me tell you something I read a few weeks ago. My source, as ever, is Alan Taylor’s “American Colonies; The Settling of North America.”  This is history of Central and North American from 1492 until 1800ish. (Taylor won Pulitzers for other books he wrote.)

If you think I am reading this book slowly because I get bored, think again. I read an hour or two until my heart is racing and I am so angry and upset that I have to stick the book back down at the bottom of my pile. 

The indigenous people who lived in our hemisphere BEFORE the Europeans arrived? No day at the beach. There was plenty of war and bloodshed.

But what the Europeans brought with them was unintentional and intentional holocaust. Waves of disease wiping out 90% of the population. Enslavement. Massive beheadings in the name of Jesus. Babies skewered on swords. Rape upon rape upon rape.  Torture, cheating, and did you know the Maya had a library of 3000 books that the conquistadores burned? The cruelty and loss was stunning.

All in the name of wealth and power. 

You know what? Wealth and power eventually bites back.

Here you go:

The Spanish learned that there was gold and silver in America. They found small existing mines, enlarged them, and then enslaved tens of thousands of indigenous people to work these mines. The work was so dangerous, toxic, and relentless that most of these people died within a few years.

But for the Spanish, unbelievable wealth was shipped from the New World back to Spain, making Spain “phenomenally rich” (American Colonies, Taylor, pg 63) “Between 1500 and 1650 the Spanish shipped 181 tons of gold and 16,000 tons of silver.” One fifth of this went to the Crown, which became 25% of the total revenue of Spain throughout that 150 year period of time.  Spain became stunningly powerful and emerged as a superpower.

This is the story of what that wealth did:  

*Everyone wanted herbs, spices, and cool stuff from the Far East. Spain bought LOTS of that and brought it back to Europe to sell. This eventually glutted the market with formerly-pricey stuff, now it sold at less of a profit.

*Prices of necessities/food increased 5-fold because there was so much money.  Wealth increased faster than ordinary goods and services could be increased.  Example: If you have people who can afford to buy bread at $5 a loaf, you are not going to sell it for $1 a loaf. But if the wealth doesn’t “trickle down” into the great majority of your population that was already living at a subsistence level – then they can’t buy any bread at all. Starvation leads to loss of humans who could have farmed or manufactured stuff.  Eventually the ordinary people express their -- disloyalty and unrest.

*Wealthy Spanish could buy goods from anywhere, so they didn’t invest in local farms, production, or communities. The rest of Europe, not as afloat in the same incredible wealth as the Spaniards, WERE producing textiles, ships, tulips!, scientific endeavors, and growing new crops that fed more people more efficiently – such as corn, potatoes, cassava, and tomatoes from the new world.

*The wealth encouraged Spain to start wars in and against North Africa, Italy, and the Netherlands. Wars eat wealth. If the wars are not won, and often even if they are, there is no recouping the wealth squandered.

*Self-satisfied, sanctimonious, morality-spewing Catholic royals directed their conquistadores to “build Christianity” while they were raping and pillaging. A huge amount of wealth was spent to send missionaries and build missions.  

*Avast Pirates! Guess what ships filled with gold and silver attract? Spain had to defend her ships, which required INCREDIBLE expenditures.

*Sets a precedent. Because Spain was becoming so powerful and war-mongering, other nations felt threatened. The only way to protect themselves, most thought, was to sail to the new world to decimate the locals and start their own colonies. Which they did.

The Spanish stole stunning, incredible, monumental mountains of wealth from the New World into the wallets of Spain’s super-rich and into the coffers of royal Spanish government.  Within 150 years this wealth decimated the nation; they never recovered the power or position they once had.

Wealth and power used for personal and familial gain will ruin families and nations.

Obscene wealth and violent pirates. I think we know this story. 

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Quarantine Diary #15 3/28/2020

The Long-Awaited Groceries (The hymn “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” is in my brain right now) came last night at 9PM – when it was raining. A woman named Sarah, late 30’s, brown ponytail, not-posh sweatpants and hoodie – carried ALL our groceries across the street from her car to our porch. This included 8-packs of Gatorade plus boxes of seltzer water, plus lots of other heavy stuff. Did I mention it was raining?

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Last night we did another wild and crazy thing. We got in our car and went for a drive! The first thing we remarked to each other was that we had not been in the car together in weeks.  It felt a little odd to be in there, next to each other, about to GO SOMEPLACE! Maybe this is the way it feels to be the family dog when they let you sit in the front seat and EVERYTHING IS SO AMAZING!

We drove west into the rosy sunset, filled with excitement to, um, see the sky.  Quarantines are easiest on people who have a low bar for excitement.

Quarantine Diary #13 3/26/2020

What do you miss?  What, in our new pandemical world do you miss most from our pre-pandemical world?You know, the one we lived in till two weeks ago?

I don’t mean the heartbreaking realities such as safe medical care providers and enough places to go should one become ill and the loved ones that we are losing.

I just mean, what are we getting used to? Or trying to get used to. What might we never go back to?

Quarantine Diary #12 3/25/2020

Right now it is 11:00AM.  Got up this morning at the regular time. Did regular things. Came to the office to write. Worked (hardly at all) on a project, wrapped an item for eBay. Announced to Len at 10:30 that I was sleepy and going to take a nap.

You know what he said?  He said, “Me, too.”

The following half hour he took the sofa and I took our bed and both of us slept like toddlers on cots.

Quarantine Diary #11 3/24/2020

Most mornings we wake up, get coffee, then sit in bed to read news websites and Twitter on our phones. This isn’t the most spiritually centering way to begin a day but IMHO any morning one can actually rouse oneself at all is good enough.

Except this. Remember when Len and I went to Kearny, Nebraska last spring to see the migrating Sandhill Cranes? (Right here.) 

When I have freaked out enough about the news, I go to this crane cam. 

Quarantine Diary #10 3/23/2020

This was a really good part of today. When my daughter was putting the baby down for his nap, Len and I read storybooks to our 3-year old granddaughter before her nap. Literally, she was sitting on her little bed in Chicagoland while holding mommy’s phone.  I read; Len moved the phone around carefully to show the illustrations. 

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