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Anatomy of a meme

This meme annoys me for a few reasons—actually, it’s a leftist meme at heart, although that takes a while to realise. The basic problem for the right in a democracy is that democracy is all about emotional rhetoric to sway the masses, yet the right is about responsible unemotional long-term decision-making—the opposite to rhetoric. Hence right-wing rhetoric is always a bit awkward, an attempt to invert the left—yet the opposite to rhetoric is not “good rhetoric”, it’s the unemotional truth (technically, rhetoric is meant to be a shorthand for truth—yet in a democracy it has an autonomous existence separate from reality).

In this case, the meme is flawed because the Conquistadors did not invade the New World to stop human sacrifice—they invaded for glory, for adventure, and to personally enrich themselves. Insofar as they put a stop to the native religion, they did so because this is a practical step to control any population—the religion mediates social organisation and political resistance, if you destroy the religion the population will die a death of despair (hence the left likes to topple Western statues). The Conquistadors had to topple the native religion in order to enslave the natives; now, I am not against slavery per se, but this fact undermines the meme—the Conquistadors did not invade to “end the horror of the native religion”, although they undoubtedly found it repugnant.

Indeed, the Church representatives that came with the Conquistadors, such as Bartholomé de las Casas, were the first to protest as regards the way the Conquistadors treated the natives—the first social justice warriors, if you like; and this division reflects a long-standing fault line in Europe between the aristocracy and the Church—and also demonstrates that leftism is a degraded religious practice turned into a cult. Yet the Conquistadors were Catholics—Catholics literally believe they consume the body and blood of a human sacrifice at Mass. If you are a Catholic, especially in the 15th century, then you believe you consume human flesh and blood—I do not want to say cannibalistically, since that is pejorative; rather, I would say autophagy has always been connected to human religion.

It might be objected that Catholics only consume the body and blood of one human sacrifice; hence they remain superior to the old American cults, being more humane—Christ died for everybody, no need to round up prisoners from the neighbouring tribes and tear their hearts out. This is true. Christianity is more humane; yet the contention in the meme concerns human sacrifice as such—and so far as human sacrifice as such goes then the Conquistadors were as much involved in it as the natives.

This reveals why the meme is ultimately leftist: it is modernistic. The premise is that the primitive natives engaged in these “gross” acts but then Europeans arrived and, being scientific and rational, put a stop to the superstitious barbarity. This is not historically accurate, especially for old Spanish Catholics (see ossuary below)—it overlays the way the contemporary right interprets the West today into the past: “The West is best because the West is modern and scientific—we stand against postmodern relativism and irrational ‘indigenous ways of knowing’”. The meme is “neoconservative”, being American-inspired: we will bring Western liberal democracy and scientific know-how to the benighted barbarians who still cover themselves in cow dung to treat illnesses. The sentiment is liberal-humane—it is “humanitarian interventionist” mindset.

Yet the Conquistadors did not practice “humanitarian intervention”, and their holy war was actually holy. It is the West’s secular materialism that is celebrated in this meme—its godlessness. “Human sacrifice must be abolished” ends in “the Mass is purely symbolic, you consume a wafer and wine”—finally, even the wafer and wine are seen as too “superstitious”. Put another way: the natives and the Conquistadors would be more in agreement with each other than the person who made this meme—human sacrifice is necessary, we must eat the god.


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