Early America and Western Civilization in Historical Perspective - Politicrossing
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Early America and Western Civilization in Historical Perspective

Feel-good “history” embellishes the accomplishments of select groups while misconveying actual history.

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Archeologists find that since the dawn of civilization, no society has fully grasped what is necessary to live in harmony with its environment and for its people to live in peace with one another. In the last 10,000 years of civilization, for example, remarkably little has changed in the way in which people treat their surroundings.

The Myth of Noble Societies

Before human occupation, forests, not deserts and barren plain, covered the uplands of Arizona and New Mexico. 700 years before Columbus’ arrival in the Western Hemisphere, the mighty Mayan civilization, with a population of 200,000 in what is now Mexico and Central America, fell into ruin following human-caused depletion of the rain forests, heavy soil erosion, and internal warfare.

Misinformation about how societies developed and how their people lived often leads to erroneous conclusions about how present-day society ought to be managed. Let me explain. In my book Breathing Space: Living & Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped-Up Society, I discuss five “mega-realities” that simultaneously compete for one’s time and attention.

The second of these mega-reality, an expanding volume of knowledge, plays a vital role in our understanding of earlier societies. A proliferation of information invariably leads to a proliferation of misinformation. Accordingly, what we understand to be historical realities are often distortions of the truth.

The Rise of Misinformation

Predictably, the volume of contradictory information and the associated discrepancies it spawns is rising. Annually, well over 40,000 scientific journals publish more than a million new articles. “The number of scientific articles and journals published worldwide is starting to confuse researchers, overwhelm the quality-control systems of science, encourage fraud, and distort the dissemination of important findings,” says New York Times science journalist William J. Broad. Misinformation has become a major impediment to social progress.

In these “politically correct” times, in the area of social history in particular, too often pseudo-historians dispense misinformation in the form of “feel-good history,” a term referred to by noted professor and distinguished historian Dr. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., in his award-winning book, The Disuniting of America. Feel-good history is “history” designed to accent or embellish the accomplishments or nature of select groups for purposes other than conveying what historical records objectively reveal. Such accounts cloud the accuracy of historical accounts, presenting events in ways that might not be real or complete depictions of what took place.

American history, as a case in point, has become one of the most maligned of the historical disciplines. To be sure, the U.S. government reneged on treaties and, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes not,  destroyed cultures. Nonetheless, do misinformed or overzealous teachers and leftist professors have the right to overturn decades of research and analysis in their efforts to present “the untold, untaught side of American history?” Are they justified in making wholly unfounded assertions about the origins, nature, and achievements of ethnic groups that they represent or who they feel have been slighted by “Eurocentric” versions of history?

Common Mistaken Beliefs

Consider common beliefs about Native American populations. Evidence is mounting that Europeans pre-dated them in North America, but that is the subject of a different article. Many people today believe that the arrival of Europeans from 1492 was co-terminus with the introduction of disease to native populations. The Europeans did bring with them new diseases, such as smallpox, which proved to be more deadly to North American peoples than it was to Europeans, but by no means were Native Americans free of disease beforehand.

Karl Reinhard, Ph.D., a prominent pathologist, observed that “Native Americans had already accumulated quite a spectrum of parasitic diseases before the Europeans arrived. Take the Incas. We’re looking at no less than three species of lice, not to mention different varieties of fleas, tapeworms, hookworms, the works.”

Actually, all told, American civilization, with all its strengths and weakness, was as good and decent a society under Donald Trump as it likely had ever been. Many Americans, however, believe that Native American cultures historically were superior in interacting with one another and in maintaining a harmonious balance with the environment. However, this view is naive at best and classically demonstrative of the perils of misinformation.

Masters of the Environment?

Dr. William K. Tabb, one of my economics professors in college, remarked to our class that economics in essence was the “allocation of scarce resources.” Only when a society has to manage limited resources is it an “economic” society. Let’s apply this to the case at hand. Some Native American nations starved during harsh winters. Some could not care for all their members.

On a continent as large as North America, most of the Native American nations were blessed with vast stretches of land, in some cases more than they could use. In that sense they were not “economic” societies. In comparison to today, natural resources were plentiful. Because they did not live in economic societies, it is hard to determine to what degree many Native American nations practiced sound environmental policy.

It is known that vast sections of the southwestern United States, for example, were completely decimated by over-cutting. Dr. Charles Redman, an anthropologist at Arizona State University, says, “The idea of the primordial paradise, that pre-European societies were somehow great environmentalists, is romantic history.”

The cliff-dwellers, with their elaborate wooden structures, may have sealed the ecological fate of their region for all the centuries that have followed. In the Eastern U.S., the Cherokee removed such large swaths of forest along riverbanks  — not coincidentally, some of the areas now most carefully protected by environmental legislation — that Europeans entering some areas thought there were no trees.

Illness and injury were treated with natural remedies, many of which worked and are still viable solutions for health problems today. It would be unwise, however, to surmise that all Native American nations at all times were populated by wise dispensers of health information that uniformly fortified their people. For acute illnesses, major injury, and rare disorders, most nations could do little for the afflicted and, if they attempted to do anything, would do more harm than good.

Operations were crude. Medical hygiene was all but unknown. Many “treatments” hastened the death of the patient rather than alleviating the condition.

Human Rights or Tribal Mythology?

Many contemporary Americans maintain the notion that Native American nations were exemplary in their homage to human rights. This issue cannot be summarily concluded. Some groups were effective in upholding human rights; some were not. Many people within nations paid homage to human and individual rights; many people did not.

In some  nations, elders were cast out of the tribe to die on their own once it was believed that their final days were near. Some nations, and many individuals within many nations, were intolerant of homosexual behavior or other sexual and personal orientations that deviated from the norm.

Many nations maintained rituals and customs that forced individuals into predetermined roles independent of their individual aspirations or aptitudes. As cited previously, some nations maintained elaborate rituals and rites of passage whereby young men were summarily cast into battle. Or, young men had to fight and kill a wild animal, perhaps with nothing more than a knife or a spear. They then would have to return with the animal’s vital organs to prove their “manhood.”

Nowhere Near Paradise

In many nations, everyone was expected to pull his own weight-not necessarily a bad idea, as societies go-but what fate befell those who proved to be less physically endowed?

Some nations permitted polygamy, whereby one man was permitted many wives, usually with no say on the part of the maidens thrust into service.

Still, many Native Americans loved the earth, lived in harmony with it, and lived in harmony with each other. Their poetry and chants often reveal the kinship they felt with the earth. Let us avoid the trap, however, of sanctifying those who were here before us because some of them, in some respects, embodied environmentally and socially redeeming virtues needed today.

Let’s not paint in our minds and post in our literature exalted, vague notions of environmentally and morally superior peoples whose ageless wisdom is somehow quintessential to our survival today.

Every Group Qualifies

The lesser-known side of Native American history is one example of how history can be skewed to reflect a certain set of ideas. There are, of course, other examples throughout world history. It is important that we draw what we can from the knowledge of such cultures and be respectful of their heritage.

Let’s forsake the counterproductive mythology that seeks to rewrite history to match the flawed ideology of a few. Instead, let’s learn what we can from the actual lessons and experiences of history, and use that knowledge to improve as a society.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci

Throughout their lives, great minds ask confounding questions with child-like intensity

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Author Michael J. Gelb wrote a wonderful book titled How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, which contains many insights.

“Leonardo da Vinci lived to age 67 and during his life pioneered the sciences of botany, anatomy, and geology. He drew up plans for a flying machine, parachute, and helicopter, and he invented the telescoping ladder that’s still used by firefighters today. He also painted The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.” Here is what Gelb said about da Vinci and the topic of creativity:

[ ] Ask Questions. Throughout their lives, great minds ask confounding questions with child-like intensity. For instance, “How do birds fly?” “What makes the sky blue?” The answers can lead to discovery.

[ ] Carry a notebook at all times so you won’t forget your brilliant ideas. By the way, da Vinci’s wrote many of his notes backward. Some people think it was because he was protecting his ideas from being stolen.

[ ] Challenge your long-standing opinions. You might have formed many of your views during or immediately after important childhood events. Ask yourself whether those conclusions still make sense.

[ ] Use your eyes and ears. Focus on the various parts of an object or scene, not just on the whole. This can help expand your perception. Instead of simply looking at a mountain, notice the rock formations and trees.

[ ] Try to write with your non-dominant hand. Taxing the opposite side of your brain can help you to think in a different way. And some people will think you went to medical school!

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BBQs Cook Fish, Too – Beware the Weber, Traeger IPOs

BBQ company insiders are trying to put all you fish directly onto hot coals via their IPOs.

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BBQ Fail

As we all know, Covid-19 policies have created an interesting array of winners and losers. Restaurants, travel and mall-based retail? Wah, wah. Meanwhile, any company remotely tied to housing, remodeling or recreation has been on absolute fire.

So what if your traditionally slow-growth, low-margin business suddenly had its best year ever by a wide margin? You’d probably think very seriously about trying to sell it.

That is exactly what is happening with the spate of BBQ-related IPOs that are about to pour onto this market.

Are the upcoming initial public offerings of Traeger Pellet Grills and Weber good ideas for your investment portfolio? Be very careful.

First, it’s highly likely they’ve taken the route of public markets because they have nowhere else to go. Truly, who is Traeger’s logical acquirer? In a bygone era, Sears might have represented a possible exit but such buyers no longer exist. Maybe one of the few large competitors in this highly-fragmented industry like Weber? Whoops – they’re going public, too!

Focusing on Weber, what a story they seem to have on their hands, being able to claim 6-month revenue growth rates of over 60%! Wow!

Problem is, IBIS says annual growth of the bbq industry over the last 5 years averaged 4.7%, which means Weber caught lightning in a bottle thanks to this pandemic and they’re trying to cash in. Same with Traeger.

Unfair assessment, you say? Then why are roughly 2/3 of Traeger’s IPO shares being sold by insiders? That’s right, only 1/3 of this offering is to raise working capital for the company. The rest is insiders cashing out.

Hey, I’ll be the first to admit that Traeger grills are pretty cool. And these are familiar names so they may catch a bid based on that familiarity for a while, particularly if this housing market keeps steaming ahead. But by no means are these 10-year investments. If you just can’t help yourself and absolutely have to play with these shares, think more in terms of 10 weeks. Or 10 days.

Truly, how much longer can the explosive growth in our world of economic distortions last? Regardless, is there any way companies like this are going to keep posting 50%+ growth numbers? Pfffffffff.

Heck, as recently as 2019, Weber’s y-o-y revenues declined by 3%. That’s the nature of this industry – a little growth here, a little step back there… slow, stodgy, boring.

Even in Weber’s bounce back year of 2020, when revenues rebounded 15% compared to the prior full year? They made a paltry $88 million on $1.5 billion in revenues. Those are grocery store margins.

Yet despite this industry’s historically slow growth and non-existent margins, Weber’s market cap at IPO next week will be roughly $5 billion, meaning the shares will trade with a P/E of close to 60 like they’re some high-flying tech unicorn! Truly amazing stuff, but par for the course in today’s everything bubble.

As an aside, by the way, don’t even think about looking elsewhere in this sector, like to VELO and its recent announcement that the SPAC is taking BBQ Guys public. Does anyone recall what happened to BBQ retailers in the last economic downturn? If the phrase, “buh-bye,” doesn’t come to mind, you simply weren’t paying attention.

Make no mistake, all these BBQ industry IPOs are ‘greater fool’ investments at their finest. Sorry, but you’re the dumb money the insiders and their private equity backers are asking to buy their shares after one-time growth surges that probably surpassed even their wildest imaginations.

There’s an old saying in poker: if you look around the table and can’t figure out who the fish is, you’re the fish.

In this case, the BBQ company insiders are trying to put all you fish directly on their hot coals.

No, thanks. I’ll have a salad this time instead.

 

P.S. Yes, this is a new pen name but you probably know me. I’ve a new Twitter profile, too… please consider giving me a follow their and we’ll get this train rolling.

Photo by Martin Boose from FreeImages

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