2/2 just doesn’t seem right. He also made it out that just like they thought it was right we think it was wrong because those morals were ingrained in us as normal. But I believe as long as there has been oppression there has been opposition and as long as there has been status-quo and normalcy there has been deviation just like today. So couldn’t we agree that everyone then didn’t think the same and agree that everyone can disagree with anything? Or is it closer to what the professor said?
I’m kind of blown away by this, just because I’m not sure who your professor is theoretically surveying for opinions here. Because I am pretty fricking sure that if you asked the people being murdered and/or enslaved, they would say yeah, it’s pretty bad.
If we are limiting ~opinions on genocide and colonialism~ to Europeans, well. First of all, the idea of something being “normal” wasn’t actually a thing yet, and wouldn’t be for some time. At least, not the way we think of it today.
If we limit out “opinion survey” ONLY to Europeans directly involved with colonizing, there are a ton of examples that demonstrate acknowledgement of what we could call abnormal levels of violence that were routinely happening as a direct result of colonization. One of the notorious Captain Cook’s own men described his behavior as “irrationally violent," and desertions were pretty rampant. When Prince William Ansa Sasraku was sold into enslavement rather than being transported to England for English instruction, the novel written about it was quite popular. You don’t write a novel about something if it’s not an unusual occurrence. I’m not even going to get into stuff like King Leopold in the Congo because I will literally throw up. NO ONE thought that was “normal”.
I could give endless examples, but the real problem here is
1. the normalization NOW of violence in “the past”
What we have here is a near-terminal case of “Things Were Just Like That Back Then”. There is a enormous cultural concept of the past as a cesspit of bloody-minded violence, oppression, exploitation, and nonstop existential horror that was supposedly so commonplace that no one would bat an eyelash at seeing their neighbors rent limb from limb as a matter of course on a Wednesday morning.
The thing I find so frustrating is that shaking people loose from the idea that history is a line graph that goes “things were really bad, then became better!” is almost impossible. I’m not just talking about non-academics, either…academics and historians can be even worse about it. It just isn’t true. Depending on what societies and eras you’re trying to draw comparisons to, violence is much more “normalized” NOW than it was in the past.
*takes a deep breath*
Anyways. What is a more fruitful line of thought is to consider why people try to serve up this kind of apologism for colonialism, genocide, and enslavement. It’s excruciatingly obvious that your professor is trying the line of “well, it wasn’t that bad because ____.” Apologism comes in all your classic white supremacist flavors: “Africa already had slavery”, “Native Americans were already at war with each other”, and of course, “Violence was just how things were back then so blah blah Social Darwinism.”
^^^ All of that nonsense is meant to justify how things are now, like white supremacy and gun violence in American culture, institutionalized racism, sexism, classism, and a bunch of other crap that so many facets of our history education are tailored to maintain. Exaggerating violence in the past is a way of making the present seem “less bad”, which is supposed to make us more okay with the violence and oppression that surrounds us. And the idea that even IF violence was normalized in the past in popular opinion, that it somehow is subject to some kind of moral relativism that we should all observe with “objectivity” is a moral failure in itself.