But was life really better in the good old days? Blaming the present for the mishap of today and admiring the past seems firmly rooted in human nature, even when these good old days never existed and the reality one likes to believe in, is only a perceived reality, a fantasy.
Karl May (1842-1912), a German writer, created adventure novels set in the American Old West, with savage, superheroes, Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. Westerns became so popular that generations of European children played cowboys-and-Indians in fake teepee tents, while their parents bought toy guns, pistols, bow and arrows at the German toy industry. TV-series, westerns with cowboys and Indians killing each other, became the most popular entertainment in the history of the film & tv industry.
The inconvenient truth of the perceived good old Wild West time is that historians now agree that the invasion into the Americas by Spanish conquistadors in the 15th century, and European immigrants over the next 200 years, caused the lives of 20-23 million American aboriginals. Karl May’s romantic notions may have delayed a more human treatment of the less than one hundred thousand survivors, with at least half a century.
“Alex” Haley (1921-1992) was an American author of the 1976-book, Roots. Haley created a glorious and paradisiacal fictional account of the lifestyle of Africans in Africa, which was rudely and inhumanly disturbed by invasions of bloodthirsty slave trading Europeans, in the 17th century. The fiction had little or nothing to do with historical reality. Nevertheless, ABC adapted the book as a television mini-series and aired it in 1977 to a record-breaking audience of 130 million viewers.
Until the day of today, millions of Afro-Americans firmly believe that Haley’s fiction was fact. Entire West African nations built their tourist industries based on Roots. Tours, libations for virtual ancestors, vigils and commemorations sprouted up “out of respect” for the victims. The inconvenient historical truth is that tens millions of Africans were deported by Sahel and Sahara traders, in cahoot with local West African kings, who controlled the markets for over 1000 years and till today, and did so, long before any European set foot ashore in Western African kingdoms.
Millions of Afro-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans seized the Root-momentum to look back at and re-live “the good old days of the past,” in the meantime, blaming their present economic mishap on others. Their newly acquired hate and sadness paralyzed their progress, socially and economically.
For many reactionaries, the idea of modern western economics and scientific progress became equivalent to an implied disrespect of previous African generations, especially of victims. Hate grew quickly, especially for those, one holds responsible for a specifically perceived reality.
A society cannot grasp the modern idea of progress, of economic growth and wealth creation, until it is willing to abandon the yoke of ancestral worship, of perceived realities, of ghosts and hate. Not until it analyzes away its inferiority complexes toward the past and realizes the potential of its generation as superior, superior to any yet known, it is paralyzed and cannot growth.
Hate let to inertia with rotten foundations made out of corruption, ruinous arches and pillars, smoldering and tottering walls and a leaky almost fallen roof, fit only to make habitation for birds of darkness.
If one believes in the importance of institutions as drivers of economic growth, one can only recognize the importance of unabated accumulation and exchange of useful knowledge and is bound to the pledge of eradication of all barriers of hate and segregation. Europe succeeded where no other societies did, to break out of subsistence economies through the steady accumulation of useful knowledge, and relentless training, and drill. Let Karl May, Alex Haley or any other perceived reality author not plant hate in your heart again; it will only stifle you, lead to inertia and poverty. Your wealth is not in endless commiserations but in the accumulation of knowledge, experience and bringing that treasure together with capital and investment.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle