Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Empire Building in the South Seas

I've been reading "Narrative of the Voyages Round the World by Captain James Cook," because, um, I don't know, it was a free Kindle book?  And I'm teaching the long 19th century this semester, the textbook of which includes, early on, a painting by the on-board painter for one of Cook's early trips.

I am finding the absolute arrogance of Cook and the British (and the narrator) simply *breathtaking*.  The casual racism and sexism I was expecting.  Offensive,  but I knew what I'd be getting into.  What's really taking my breath away is the casual environmental colonization/invasion of the South Seas islands by these guys who really seem to think they're doing the natives a favor.  How?  By introducing non-native species of plants and animals.  Sometimes they do it by gift, but occasionally they just sneak into the woods, plant a garden full of turnips and carrots and stuff, and sneak away.  Or they'll drop off a pair of goats on a non-inhabited section of an island.  Or, ye gods, this one island?  They gave 'em rabbits.  RABBITS.  On an island.  I remember hearing that Australia still has a feral rabbit problem, they keep eating all the grass and crowding out native grass-eaters.  Thanks, Captain Cook! 

My favorite (as in, the most egregious example) is this one: a chief took a fancy to the cats on board.  So they left him twenty cats.  On an island.  Full of tropical birds without any feline predators for centuries, eons, or possibly ever. What?  They were HELPING!  Really!  I mean, these poor savages, they had never eaten chicken in their lives, or mutton, or turnips.  Oh, the humanity.  Such noblesse,  Such consideration.  "Here, have some invasive European species for your lovely little island eco-system."

Oh, and have I mentioned the syphilis?  Yeah, it's not alluded to explicitly but it's clear enough that he's talking about "accidentally" "introducing" syphilis to various island communities.

I can hear it now: "Oh, Britannia, thank you!  Thank you for the rabbits, and turnips, and the syphilis!"

Naturally, as I approach the end of the book (Spoiler Alert!) I am cheering on the natives of one of the Hawaiian islands as they take out the sorry SOB.   Unfortunately, the damage was done.  The mischief managed.  All in the name of science, exploration, and in the belief that Europeans were a vastly, unquestionably superior race. 

I have a whole other rant about the discourse regarding cannibalism in said account, but that's for another day. 


Anonymous said...

The Little Engine that Couldn't wanted to set out to the station over the hill in order to pick up non-genderdefined Blogger users who were going on a demonstration against the patriarchy. (It would have been a "march", but they realized this was an ableist term). But, just as the little engine was about to set out, it learned that the tracks had been laid by a racial minority on minimum wage.

"What shitlord hired Mexicans to lay these tracks?" wailed the little engine.

"We had to hire whoever would work for minimum wage," replied the station controller, who was a white, middle aged, heterosexual male whose very presence oppressed the little engine.

"I didn't ask you, fuck face!" yelled the little engine. "Stop raping me with your patriarchy!"

The station controller was concerned by this accusation, and didn't want to have to field any frivolous lawsuits, so he left to fetch the lady who sold tickets, to see if she could use her status as an empowered womyn to convince the little engine to do its fucking job.

Meanwhile a little boy came up to the little engine. "You're not a very nice train," said the little boy. But his privileged upbringing angered the little engine.

"I identify as a bisexual ice dragon! I DEMAND you refer to me as my preferred species!" screamed the little engine.

"You look like a train to me," said the little boy.

"It's not my job to educate you, shitlord!" shouted the engine. "You can't understand what it's like to be womyn oppressed by the patriarchy, because you have a penis!"

"But you're a train... You don't even have sex organs," he said, matter-of-factly.

"A VAGINA IS A STATE OF MIND!" screamed the little engine.

At this point the little boy decided to give up his dream of becoming a train driver; it was clear that trains were too difficult to deal with. Instead, he decided to use his white privilege as a springboard for a career as a stock broker, so he'd never have to use public transport again, and he could have a trophy wife who wouldn't care about womyn's Issues as long as he kept giving her money. Just as he left, the station controller returned with the ticket lady.

The ticket lady had worked at the station a long time, and she had seen many things, but never had she encountered an engine that claimed to be a bisexual female ice dragon. The little engine saw her approach, and respected xer as a womyn identifying individual, but was concerned that such an old person was probably an internalized misogynist shill for the patriarchy.

"Can you believe that little fuck?" Asked the little engine, rhetorically. Zee wanted to test the ticket lady's sympathy to the Social Justice Cause.

"He's young and innocent." Replied the ticket lady, clearly impatient. "And you are running late to collect the activists for their demonstration."

"His constant mis-speciesing and mis-gendering triggered me! I just... can't!" Screamed the little engine. "And besides, it's not my job to educate little shitlords!"

"No, but it is your job to bring the passengers to their destination," replied the ticket lady. She had always worked an honest job, and had no patience for the modern youth and their unrealistic expectations.

"STOP OPPRESSING ME, SHITLORD! Your internalized misogyny is raping my mind vagina! I JUST CAN'T DEAL WITH ALL OF YOU TRIGGERING ME!" shouted the little train, before zee burst into tears. Then, while sobbing, added "This is totally going on my Blogger account!"

So the station controller sent another train to pick up the activists, and with a heavy heart, had another engine come to tow away the little engine that couldn't, so zee could be scrapped and turned into something useful.

Jezebella said...

Uh, what? Belabored long-winded metaphor?

Anonymous said...

Another blogger silenced by the patriarchy. Three years since the last update. Score one for the shitlords.