Thursday, December 22, 2016


From The Conquistadors to Crazy Horse via Thomas Jefferson


The historical part of this novel is the most important impetus of the thrilling side of it.

 First the question of black Conquistadors is not a real problem since the Spaniards arrived from Spain with black slaves integrated in their administration and military forces even at high levels of responsibility. Those slaves were from the Mali empire of the 15th century, a Muslim empire that kept the majority of the population out of Islam and sold them regularly as slaves to Northern African Muslim countries and later, when the Portuguese and Spaniards arrived, to the Spaniards. These slaves were slaves in Spain. They were Christianized, educated and integrated in society, in fact in some big aristocratic or military families as administrators or officers. They accepted their lot easily since the choice was between that type of slavery and the slavery they would endure in Northern African Islamic countries where they would be banned from Islam and kept down at very low levels of responsibility, if not castrated level to the abdomen on their passage from Mali to Libya with at least a 50% chance to die. These domestic or military moved to the Americas along with their owners. Cortez had his own Spanish Black slaves. These slaves were married and may have had families of their own.

This first introduction of slavery in the Americas was to be soon followed by the Transatlantic slave trade. But these slaves will be brought under the strict rule of the Spanish Catholic Church and the Inquisition, not to mention the Spanish Crown of course. The three agreed on several elements. The black slaves had to be Christianized. They had to be married, and they were married to the Mexican women who survived the slaughter of Mexican men in Mexico very systematically. They had to be guaranteed by their owners one full day of matrimonial duties every week, no matter what. And they had to be provided with proper conditions to take part in the religious rites, masses, and the festivities of the church like Nativity, Passion and Assumption, plus some other less important celebrations. They also had to be provided with a special consecrated piece of land for their dead to be buried. That had no equivalent with what Protestants and first of all the English did in America.

Thus Black Conquistadors are not at all surprising. That some of these black conquistadors may have gathered around them slaves trying to escape the haciendas, farms or whatever other activities, especially from the English territories, is not surprising. That they integrated the Indian tribes is not surprising either since we know for one that escaping slaves in Florida and other territories were welcomed by Indian tribes because of the skills they had learned when slaves. They were at once married in the tribe. They were called maroons. So it is perfectly plausible, even if fictional, that a whole group of several hundred black people could have regrouped somewhere in America, in Indian territory, and adopted some Indian mode of living. They were probably well trained in military arts and probably equipped with rifles and the technology to produce ammunitions, or connections to buy them.

This integration of black slaves in Indian society is well known and today with DNA we could know the exact proportion. We know it is high though no systematic study has been done. YET. And now American citizens can declare two ethnic origins more and more people declare themselves with Indian and black ancestry, or any other combination.

The second element, and this one will surprise you, is the fate of this hypothetical black tribe in Montana. It was exterminated by US military forces, apparently artillery, on the order from Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers and the third President of the USA. This might be a surprise even if many details about Jefferson are perfectly correct and attested. Jefferson was a slave owner and as such did not give the blacks much value, except ancillary. But would he have ordered a complete genocide of this black tribe is very surprising though of course hundreds of black slaves died every week in the USA from all kinds of violence not to speak of the systematic use of girls and women but also boys and men as tools for reproduction as for females and pleasure at times sadistic as for males. That makes such a possible genocidal action quite possible after all and the Founding Fathers were no saints, far from it and by “men” they meant exclusively “white men” even if some might have thought, in the deep back of their minds, that women and colored people, blacks and Indians, might also be human beings, but that was not the dominant position and the Indian genocide all along the 19th century, then the cultural Indian genocide all along most of the 20th century could be considered in phase with this extermination of a few black Indians who could be blocking one economic trail that had become crucial and strategic to the USA.

But that is only the wrapping up of the story. The story itself is a thriller connected to old historical events and particularly the Lewis and Clark Trail that is well known of all Americans. It also deals with the Blackfeet reservation in Montana, and this one is also well known. Montana and the Dakotas are important today for Indian culture especially with the building of the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota, next door to the Shrine of Democracy and along with an enormous Indian Cultural Center and Indian University. But the thriller concerns a present time triplet of brothers, one being cast away by the other two.

The two dominant brothers are businessmen who have kept their business non-public, meaning not quoted in the Stock Exchange and thus invisible to the public and mostly invisible to other services. But these two brothers, these two economic tycoons have political ambition and they want to “give America back” to those who deserve to have it, that is to say the financiers, the industrialists, the business people who have made America great. You can of course see some allusion to the situation in the USA when the book came out some time before the presidential election. Unluckily on that point the book is wrong. The FBI did not hassle the business candidate. And the business candidate did not have to use assassinations and other shady manipulations to get to his goal.

That’s where the book is short. It is a lot easier today to use social networks to build discontentment into protest votes especially when on the other side the opponent cannot use these same social networks and does not have the necessary connections with influential shadowy groups who can amplify the campaign. Let me be clear: Trump is the first president who was elected thanks to social networks articulated on the deep discontentment of many people who had not seen their hopeful expectations be fulfilled. Social networks plus frustration is the winning ticket in today’s democracies. It won in Great Britain. It won in the USA. Luckily it failed in Hungary and it failed in Austria. But it won in Italy though it failed in Spain and is failing in Greece. And the next stops are France and Germany. The author seems to be under the illusion that the New York Times is the acme of information, revelation and political consciousness. He has it wrong. Today that role is fulfilled by social networks. Facebook is billions of times more effective than the New York Times, even if in New York it is only millions of times.

But apart from this shortcoming, the book is interesting and even rather thrilling, though I do not like the TV technique of “Two days earlier,” in other words flashbacks. They work very well on TV but not so well in a book.


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