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 #312

“You know me, I think there ought to be a big old tree right there. And let's give him a friend. Everybody needs a friend.” ― Bob Ross

This tree lives in Waukesha and stopped me in my tracks when I was out for a walk.

...

 When will this Quarantine Diary end? When Len and I drive out not wearing masks to go to a place where we will stay overnight. Just letting you know. FYI we started last year on Friday the 13th of March.

 …

Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.

But...

Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. https://lithub.com/. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

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