American Indians -- like all primitive peoples -- were oriented to the past. The Golden Age. The primordial Womb of Time. They had no history, and not only because they lacked writing, but because they hadn't discovered it (history); nor had any white Karens arrived on the scene to devote a month to pandering to their vanity and firming up an important voting bloc.
Or perhaps -- analogous to what often occurs in individual development -- their culture(s) represented a kind of collective psychological defense against the passage of time. If you're a human, time is obviously a problem, if only because of aging and death. Make it stop!
Think of, say, Michael Jackson, who defended himself against the transition to adulthood by sleeping with children, mutilating his face, bleaching his skin, adopting an exaggeratedly childlike affect and demeanor, etc. Who wants to grow up? I didn't, but then I didn't have sufficient wealth to arrest my development at 16 and keep time at bay. I tried, but my only available weapons were beer and college, so I gave up in my early 30s. (College, not beer.)
A commenter on the previous post agrees that "No doubt the Indians meted out terribly cruel punishments to their adversaries," but adds that Christians are guilty of the same and even worse.
It is of course a banality to point out that Christians have committed grave sins, the question being whether they committed them because they were Christian or in spite of it. Conversely, no Indian was ever excommunicated from the tribe for excessive cruelty to strangers.
Only the Church considers itself a congregation of sinners. All other communities, religious or lay, feel themselves to be a confraternity of saints (NGD).
For example, Champlain writes of a random encounter with a luckless party of eleven Indians of another tribe who had been innocently fishing:
An Algonquin warrior of the Petite nation ran up, seized a woman, and cut off her finger, "for a beginning of their usual torture."
Ho hum. Just another day frolicking in the woods. Did they delight in torture because they were Indians? Or just because they were human? Either way, "Champlain rushed to her defense."
"I came at once," he wrote, "and reprimanded the chief," who was his friend, Iroquet. Champlain was very angry. He said to Iroquet, "This is not the act of a warrior, as he calls himself, to behave cruelly toward women who have no other defense but tears, and whom by reason of their weakness and helplessness we should treat with humanity."
To which Iroquet responded, "Yo, don't torture shame me, French dude."
Iroquet was clearly aware of no transcendent principle that frowned upon treating strangers as piñatas. There was no mechanism from within their culture to apply the brakes to what otherwise came naturally. Aphorisms come to mind:
Educating the individual consists in teaching him to distrust the ideas that occur to him.
To educate man is to impede the “free expression of his personality."
Those who remove man’s chains free only an animal.
Of course, I am not judging the Indians. We cannot understand any people nor any era of history by viewing them simply as anticipations of, or preparations for, or links to, a subsequent age. We can't judge them by principles of which they had no awareness.
Except they must have had some awareness, however inchoate, that hurting innocent people is a bad thing, otherwise they wouldn't be human. Humans are intersubjective, and there's not a damn thing we can do about it.
Put it this way: a human being is the only animal who tortures his fellows (up to and including the Son of God), not because he lacks empathy but precisely because he possesses it. Why else would a Hitler, for example, enjoy watching snuff films of enemies of the Reich being tortured and killed? Why does Putin get his jollies by treating 40 million Ukrainians as so many ants? Ants don't get their jollies that way.
Back to our story. After accusing them of a "base and brutal disposition," one warrior became "enraged by the interference of this meddlesome Frenchman" (trigger warning -- not for the squeamish):
He turned defiantly on Champlain and said, "See what I shall do, since you speak of it." He seized an Iroquois infant who had been nursing at the breast of its mother, took it by the foot, and smashed its head against a tree.
This, in my opinion, is what you call "consciousness of guilt," only immediately transformed to sadistic rage.
Woman is a biological category. If only biology exists, then why shouldn't we oppress them and treat them as slaves? By virtue of what principle should we treat them as equals? Nevertheless, Champlain
also disapproved of the way Indian warriors treated women and compelled them to "serve as mules." And "as to the men," he wrote, "they do nothing but hunt deer and other animals, fish, build lodges and go on the war path."
All of this reminds me of what Sowell says about economics: the question isn't why people are so poor, being that we are born with nothing and for 99% of human history died the same way, with no wealth. The question is how a certain culture in a certain time and place began lifting itself above subsistence and generating and accumulating wealth.
Along these lines, let's end with this provocative sentence from The Lord of History, going to how the Slack we westerners take for granted somehow began seeping into the human timestream: the author
shows how the bare possibility of history (as distinct from chronicle) arises from the revealed knowledge of God's creative work, and why this particular dimension of thought was discovered late in time.