I watched Apocalypto last night. Or should I say, Jaguar Paw's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It was gory, predictable, captivating,
In the popular modern view, European conquerors of the Americas were evil brutes who demolished the beautiful, advanced, complex civilizations of the Natives. Mel Gibson, on the other hand, would have you believe that the Natives were a violent, self-destructive lot-- pagans who needed the God of the "white man."
Who is right? At the risk of sounding flaky (or worse: postmodern), I'm going to say both. There's no denying the atrocities and arrogance of the colonists. There's no denying the sadistic practices, from torture to slavery, of those people they vanquished. Nor can you deny that each of the groups had some amount of grace, humor, and valor! But at the end of the day, "There is no one righteous, no not one." The Age of Exploration was just another act in the tragic drama of the human condition.
And so the play continues: new actors, new scenes, same story. Oh, it's easy to get nostalgic and think that certain periods were Golden Ages of joy and justice. In fact, I'd like to believe that the world was a better place when I was a kid roller-skating around my middle-class neighborhood with block parties and grape soda and spin-the-bottle, but let's not kid ourselves.
Is there any hope? I believe there is. As David Wilcox puts it, "Within some scene set in shadow, like the night is here to stay, there is evil cast around us, but it's love that wrote this play."