Several years ago, the renowned linguist and thinker, Noam Chomsky, asked me, point blank, as we were working on our book: “On Western Terrorism – From Hiroshima to Drone Warfare”:
Do you think it is possible that most of Europeans really don’t know about crimes their countries committed all over the world?”
“They don’t know… They don’t want to know… They make sure that they will never know,” I replied.
That Europe and North America have been constructed on hundreds of millions of corpses of, what George Orwell used to call, un-people, is fairly well established and proven fact. But somehow it never entered the sub-consciousness of the white race which is inhabiting what we now call the West, but also many parts of the ‘conquered’ world, from Latin America, to Africa and Asia.
Horrors of the past are carefully softened by shock-absorbing academic jargon, when they are addressed at such institutions like Cambridge, Oxford or Sorbonne universities. Or they are belittled, even dismissed, by loud cheers and clicking of the glass, in the Europeans pubs.
It is not something that is mentioned directly in ‘polite society’.
And yet, the topic is not only related to the terrible world history.
All that we are experiencing now, all over the world, is to some extent related to this past. From wars to plunder of the natural resources; from shameless ‘regime changes’, to fearless provocations of the West against Russia, China and Iran.
Even what people read and how they think has roots in colonialism, holocausts and slavery.
To even mention the topic cost many brave men and women their lives. Patrice Lumumba, who denounced colonialism, was murdered by the Brits and the U.S., without any scruples. President Sukarno was overthrown and imprisoned, until his death. So were many others.
Denouncing colonialism and crimes against humanity committed by the West; its kings, armies, religions, even common citizens, is a dangerous undertaking, often ‘punishable’ by death.
Yet crimes have been so monstrous, that regularly, great and brave people keep standing up and pointing fingers at Europe, the United States, and at the elites of the European stock, in South America and elsewhere.
So did, recently, a left-leaning President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who wrote a letter to King of Spain, Felipe VI, and to Pope Francis, demanding apology for the ‘abuses that were committed during the conquest of Mexico.’ He declared in Tabasco State, in front of an ancient pyramid:
“There were killings, impositions… The so-called conquest was carried out with the sword and the cross.”
President Obrador triggered literally a storm, at home and abroad. Fierce national debate erupted among Mexican intellectuals, academics, public figures as well as common people.
Spanish government of Pedro Sanchez rejected the letter “with full firmness”. Obviously, “Euro-socialists” have very little to do with the internationalist struggle, these days.
The right in Spain spoke with even greater spite. According to The New York Times:
Campaigning ahead of next month’s general election, Pablo Casado, the leader of the conservative Popular Party, described the Mexican demand as an affront to the Spanish people. Spain, he said, should instead celebrate “with pride” its historical role in Mexico, “the way great nations do it, those that have contributed to the discovery of other people.”
An insult, of course, but a predictable one.
“We saved what was left, and we built new culture, but this genocide is something that has to be acknowledged”, explained an academic from UNAM, John Ackerman.
“It is not disproportionate”, Jesus Ramirez, Spokesperson of the Presidency, told a Mexican newspaper La Razon. “They (Spain) asked Jews for forgiveness, for the expulsion in 1492, and Germany did the same, for holocaust.”
Spain clearly indicated that there would be no official apology, and to its rescue came, almost immediately, such staunch supporters of the West, as Colombia with its bunch of pro-Western (and Western-paid) intellectuals.
Despite the fact that Spain murdered millions of indigenous people on the territory of today’s Mexico; people who were, during the conquest, enjoying much more advanced civilization than that of Spain itself;despite the fact that there were countless rapes, cases of torture and religious bigotry, as well as unbridled looting, there seems to be absolutely no remorse coming from Madrid.
Deeply rooted complex of superiority is, once again, clearly in control of the behavioral patterns of the Europeans. Response of Spain is overall bombastic, arrogant and dismissive.
Vulgarity and arrogance of Spanish regime should not be seen as something new, or unexpected. This is how the U.K. responds when India or Pakistan or some African nation tries to open a legal case, trying to hold it responsible for genocides, slave trade or forcefully triggered famines. This is how France acts when accused of crimes against humanity in Africa, Asia or Caribbean. Or Belgium, when told that it is responsible for at least 9 million lives in what is now Congo, during the reign of the King Leopold II. Or Germany, for the holocaust it committed on the territory of today’s Namibia. And on and on it goes, as the list of crimes of the European countries is endless, as well as unrecognized.
Spain is no exception. It is just that in the past it grabbed one tremendous piece of pie – bigger than it could swallow. And its kingdom was too bizarre, grotesquely fanatic and primitive; too religious and greedy. It could not really govern well over its colonies, and so it was looting and murdering, and forcing people into Christianity, while, at some point, losing much of its ‘profits’ to other European states that were simply ‘investing’ into Spain’s ‘expeditions’.
Mexico suffered terribly, especially from Spanish conquest, but not only from it: it was also bled by France, the United States and others. But Spain began the attacks, and logically, it should be the first country to profusely apologize.
Not everyone in Spain is ‘outraged’ by the demands of AMLO. Some acknowledge that past should not be buried, that it actually is tremendously relevant.
“Lopez Obrador is president with plenty of dignity. He is right to demand apology from the King, for cruelties during the conquest”, declared Ione Bellara, MP from a Spanish political party Podemos.
AMLO is now governing the most populous Spanish speaking country on earth, with population around 3 times bigger than that of Spain. His words matter. Position of Mexico matters. It cannot be simply dismissed, in either Madrid, Vatican or in Brussels.
Mexico is an extremely complex and divided nation. As almost all previously colonized countries are. European elites had been implanted into Mexico, India, and dozensof other countries. Where they were not implanted directly and permanently, like into Indonesia or Malaysia, locals were handpicked, ‘educated’ abroad, and then injected back, in order to serve Europe in particular, and the West in general.
In a university town of Cholula, near the city of Puebla, Spaniards slammed their church on top of the biggest (by volume) pyramid on Earth – Tlachihualtepetl. It is still sitting there: the church on top of the pyramid, unapologetically. Local authorities are even proud of its presence, promoting it as a ‘major tourist site’. I hope, one day, UNESCO includes it in the “memory of humanity” list, as a symbol of cultural vandalism.
I talked to one of the curators, Ms. Erica, asking her about this insanity. That was just few weeks before AMLO was sworn in as president. She explained, patiently:
“We are strongly discouraged from speaking about brutality of the past. Mexico’s attitude towards its own history is truly schizophrenic. On one hand we know that our country was plundered, raped and abused, by the Spanish colonizers, by the French, and then by the U.S. But we, scholars, teachers, curators, are literally ordered to ignore it, to ‘be positive’; to ‘look for good things’ in what was done to us, and what we inherited.”
Recently, all this is changing. Now, it is possible to speak, to remember the past, and to demand.
In India and the Middle East and Africa, people are monitoring developments in Mexico, carefully.
They are also studying the situation in Europe and in North America. Both parts of the Western world are overdue for hundreds of apologies. Frankly, they also own the world hundreds of trillions of dollars, for murder of hundreds of millions of human beings, and for destruction of the entire continents.
It is possible that Pope Francis would be much more forthcoming than the Spanish regime.
“With this Pope, it could be the new beginning for Catholics and Christians in general”, I was recently told by a renowned left-wing theologian and philosopher John Cobb.
In 2015, Pope Francis already spoke to farmers, garbage collectors and indigenous people in Bolivia, wherehe asked for forgiveness:
I say this to you with regret: Many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God… I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offense of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”
Many are convinced that the Argentinian Pope Francis is a closet socialist. AMLO may receive an apology from him, but not from Spanish government.
But the discussion is on. Entire nation is debating its past.
As I have been writing this essay on board of a 9 hours 30 minutes long Aero Mexico flight from Buenos Aires to Mexico City, I managed to engage half of the crew in the debate.
“This has nothing to do with me”, declared an elderly steward, after reading part of my essay.
“But I want to know the past of my country”, protested a young flight hostess. “It is all connected to our present, and future.”
“AMLO is fighting for Mexico!” was the prevalent opinion.
He is. The Western empire is resisting. But ideological fight for justice is on.