Once you have posted to the board you will be able to see my comments, Sondra’s Thoughts, on the issues. You should reply to my thoughts with something substantial with a minimum of 150 words. You need to reply to what Sondra’s Thoughts says on both issues.
1. How did the discovery and settlement of the New World contribute to the ideas of race and cultural superiority? What does this tell us about people and cultures?
Religion plays a role in so many things. First of all, many people in the Old World believed that all humans were descendants of Adam and Eve. However, none could explain how humanity made it across the ocean. Thus there were questions about whether or not the Natives had souls. Eventually, in 1537 Pope Paul III issued a “bull” a binding statement that not only did the Natives have souls, they were not to be enslaved. People ignored this part of the statement, particularly given that Protestants did not feel bound by it. Religion also played a role in another way. According to the Bible, (Genesis 9:18 to 10:32) humanity was sinful and God brought a flood to punish people. Noah was an honorable man and thus God instructed him to build a large ship, an ark, to survive the flood. This was done and after the flood waters receded, Noah settled with his family. One day he passed out naked. His son Ham saw the nakedness, violating Noah’s privacy, and making fun of his father. Due to his crime, Ham was condemned to perpetual servitude, and his descendants were also condemned to serve the descendants of Ham’s brothers. The belief was that Ham and his descendants populated Africa. Thus skin color was associated with slavery. Given that Native Americans were generally darker-skinned than Europeans, it was obvious to many in Europe that they were inferior. We will see this idea of lighter skin being “better” than darker skin throughout our time period. And it unfortunately persists to some extent to this day. As a student said: the white Protestants that colonized the new world may have used the enslavement of black and brown people as a way to continue their protests against the pope, who proclaimed that the black and brown people did have souls.
2. How sincere were Frederick the Great and Catherine the Great in their commitment to Enlightenment thinking? What were the limits of their commitment? What can we conclude about politicians and leaders based on these rulers and the Enlightenment?
As far as the commitment of Frederick the Great and Catherine the Great respectively, at one level we have no way of knowing about their commitment to the Enlightenment. Until we can get into someone’s head and read their thoughts, we can only make assumptions based on the evidence. Both of these rulers supported Enlightenment thinkers, published their works, helped establish salons and other venues for the dissemination of these ideas, and made limited reforms in keeping with Enlightenment thought. However, they also only went “so far” with their support. In my mind, essentially, the support lasted only as long as it took for the ideas to spread and opposition develop. In other words, these ideas were great, right up until the time when the nobility or other classes used these ideas as justification to ask for changes in their status, particularly changes that could undermine the power base of either of these rulers. Obviously this is a broad generalization, but I don’t see a strong commitment to government reform that would limit the power of the leader here. Perhaps I’m too cynical as I’ve gotten older, but from my perspective most politicians follow a similar path—supporting new ideas right up until the time when it can cost them their position. When I think of the majority of great reforms in politics, I see them coming from the bottom up, or from the outside in. While there are instances of leaders trying to reform their own systems, these tend to be rare. And while I’m to some extent portraying all politicians and government leaders negatively, I tend to see this as a human characteristic. After all, I’m all for improvements in the way we educate students, right up until the time it costs me my job.
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