Since I have a lot of time on my hands I have taken quite a few photos in Lima. Here are some of the best ones.
I spent a good few hours in the National Museum, which documents the myriad of cultures that have lived in Peru over the years. The Incas were just the last of the lot, but there were dozens of them, going back to 5000 BC. There were the Chavín, Moche, Paracas, Wari, Nazca, Chimu, and Tiahuanaco, to name a few. They all eventually died off or got absorbed into other cultures.
I found the Nazca culture particularly interesting. These were the folks who made the lines in desert which I describe in one of my previous posts. They were also accomplished artists and potters. Here is some of their stuff.
Here´s a few more interesting shots from the museum.
Lima borders the Pacific Ocean. Here is a view of the coast.
I went out Saturday night to see the Lima nightlife. Stopping in an Irish bar (but without Irish beer) I chatted with some of the staff. They made an excellent pisco sour.
The main plaza in central Lima is the Plaza de Armas. This is where the guilty from the Spanish Inquisition were brought to be “saved” (read punished). There is a nice Cathedral and museum which contains the bones of Francisco Pizarro, who was assassinated in 1541.
Here are a few shots around the Plaza de Armas.
The Cathedral and inside:
The ever-present police:
Across the Plaza
Some things are better left covered up.
Pizarro: murderer or good soldier?
I got to thinking about Pizarro at his tomb. A bloody end to a bloody legacy. I disliked him ever since elementary school, when I read how he captured the Inca leader Atahualpa and promised to free him after Atahualpa offered to pay a ransom of a room full of gold and two rooms full of silver. Atahualpa kept his promise. Pizarro did not. Atahualpa was executed in the Plaza de Armas.
Now, however, I see that Pizarro was just doing his job. If it wasn´t him it would have been someone else. The Inca were doomed no matter what. It may seem unfair that the indigenous people were overrun by the Europeans. And not only in Peru, but also the so-called “native Americans” of North America (who were themselves immigrants actually), the Aztecs, the Australian Aborigines, the Maoris of New Zealand, and countless others.
But “fair” has nothing to do with it. That´s the natural progression of things. The earth evolves and species come and go. It´s futile and a waste of time to pass judgement on such events. Is it “unfair” that a meteor struck the earth 65 million years ago and wiped out the dinosaurs? No, that´s just what happened. As Shakespeare said, “nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” If cultures die out or species become extinct–including homo sapiens one day–that´s not a bad thing, it just is.
Any thoughts on that?
Not sure I agree Kev. “Just doing his job” is not justification for being a violent prick. For every greedy, rapacious conquistador there were milions of peaceful Spaniards just doing their jobs as bakers, blacksmiths, etc. He chose to be that way because he liked it.
Let’s see now – elitism in the form of limiting the votes of less-educated, decision-capable people, and now justification for the “natural progression of things” which includes evil, inhuman treatment of fellow humans. Interesting…
Hey Kev –
So you’re still hangin’ in Lima? Doesn’t seem like a half bad place to be stuck for awhile. I’m sure you’re thankful that your blow-out didn’t happen on the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia or along a remote road far from any decent sized city.
Your blogs are always interesting, but by the time I find some peace and quiet in which to read them I’m too tired to ponder your otherwise thought-provoking intellectual questions. I must inform you, however, that there is now a growing body of evidence suggesting that volcanoes, and not a meteor alone, caused the extinction of the dinasauers. It was yesterday’s headline on MSNBC.com! Still as you say, it’s “just what happened.”
So on a less intellectual note, what’s your intended destination for the holidays? Do you hope to make it to your Dad’s in Costa Rica? I was wondering, too, are you taking a long sabbatical from your consulting job in order to accomplish this journey you’re on, or is that now permanantly behind you?
I thought I’d send you a video clip for your viewing pleasure — if you can access it, that is. Check out #64 — that’s Iain, my little stud running back. Remember him? He briefly sat on your knee when he was about 6 months old! The screeching in the background is not me — it’s my mother (Iain’s #1 fan!).
Hope you’re back on the trail before long!
You don’t really believe what you are proposing, Kev, and you know it. For if someone like Pizarro were to come along today, you would protest and probably resist his “official” behavior as much as anyone. That’s because you would believe, or perhaps know, such behavior is wrong, no matter how we know that it is wrong or what the source of the behavior is (whether it is “just thinking” that makes it so). It is extremely important to tell stories — factual stories — and to morally judge the people who lived those stories. The only way the once-justified actions of people like Pizarro came to an end is because thinkers one by one by one told their stories and judged their actions to be wrong. THAT, my friend, is how it goes in the world, and YOU and I are the beneficiaries of all those thousands of thinkers who helped bring the sufferings of the age of conquest to an end.
Pizarro and his supporters got away with what he did because no one spoke up and judged those actions that gradually led to what was done in that age of conquest. In the same way, it is important for us to judge what has been good and what has been bad (and all the gray points in between) in America’s “conquest” of Iraq to take the next step forward in restricting evil. This is an extremely difficult business, but that the age of conquest was brought to an end, inch by inch, thinker by thinker, should give us hope that we too can bring to an end the evils that we commit — so that some day our descendents will be beneficiaries of our moral judgments, as we are today of our ancestors.
One last point for now: the purpose of judging Pizarro should not be to feel good about ourselves, but to keep future Pizarro’s from coming about, to watch over each other and each over himself. As we so often say of the Holocaust, so it should be said with all factual stories of evil: Never Forget! So they say in Argentina about that the dark time of the “Disappeared”: Nunca Mas.
That’s all off the top of the head. Perhaps I’ll say more later. Thanks for the post. Good picts and commentary, as always.
Oops. Did I drop that apostrophe in there? Even I, a professional writer, can make that mistake!
Kevin you nuh easy. Why would you say that about the ladies “somethings better left covered”. lol
I had a laugh at that though. I can see you enjoying yourself, good to see that; but please be careful in these new countries ok?
Kevin, just remember that we have a goooood warm bed in San Jose and a nice blanket while you cross by San José, Costa Rica. Call us when you get here…
Only my opinion counts anyway————–I agree
I guess my point about Pizarro is that yes, we now consider him to have acted in a cruel and barbarous way, and yes, if someone acted that way today we would condemn them (and we have, e.g., Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein among others). But consider the context of the time, where expansionism and imperialism were common and approved by Spanish society. For Pizarro, perhaps, in his day he was not considered a brutal killer, but a hero. Indeed, there is a statue honoring him in Trujillo, Spain.
I will pose the following question: is colonialism, or imperialism, morally wrong or not? And if morally wrong, how can we explain the fact that people the world over have been expanding their territory and subjugating others for thousands of years? Could it be that if enough people do something that may be wrong, we can consider it acceptable? In other words, even if imperialism is wrong in absolute sense, if it was such a common practice can we consider it to be morally acceptable?
If imperialism is morally right then by what standard do we condemn Pizarro? He was simply behaving in ways that reflected the norms of Spanish society in the 1500s. How can we judge him?
Many people consider Che Guevara a hero. When I was in Bolivia last month where Che was killed 40 years ago, he was being celebrated as a hero of the poor. Others say he was a murdering radical. For that matter what about George Washington? Most Americans consider him a hero. But ask the indigenous Iroquois people. To them Washington was a brutal murdering invader. It depends on your point of view doesn´t it?
For me this raises a lot of questions about the relativity of right and wrong in cultures. For example, at various times throughout history the following practices have been considered socially and morally acceptable:
Cannibalism, human sacrifice, slavery, torture, infanticide, forced marriage, polygamy, honor killing, racism, female circumcision, anti-semitism and genocide. In some societies, killing one’s parents after they reached a certain age was common practice, stemming from the belief that people were better off in the afterlife if they entered it while still physically active and vigorous.
Nowadays we would condemn these practices, but can we condemn the societies, in their place and time, that agreed to them? Are there absolute rights and wrongs or is everything relative to the norms agreed by the society? If there are absolutes how are they determined?
Hi Deb, thanks for the video clip. I can´t believe that is Iain. He is grown up! We must be old as dirt.
As for the holidays I was hoping to be in Costa Rica but after my debacle in the mountains I am way behind schedule so I am planning on being in Cartagena, Colombia.
I did ask my former employers if I could take unpaid leave of absence for this trip. They said no and fired me instead. So I will need to look for another job when I get back. Do you know anyone who needs a consultant?
Alejandro, thanks I will definitely stop by. I should be in Costa Rica around mid-January.
According to my WSU Anthropology professor in circa 1952, there are only two things common to all societies (naturally I questioned the “all”) and they are 1) a belief in some sort of supernatural being, and 2, a taboo on incest.
I guess that means everything else if up for grabs.
I think it is time for you to get back on Highway 1 headed north. See you in Miami.
Ah, Kev, you’re asking huge questions that occupy the finest minds who have ever lived. Who has the time to sort through it all for this blog? There are thousands of essays on the web that discuss these issues from an unimaginable number of angles. You took the time to write out some questions and discuss a few issues, and in honor of the effort you put in, I will offer some of my own thoughts. I will NOT make thorough cases for my judgments, but simply throw out some answers to your questions:
Is imperialism wrong? Yes. Always. That there are beneficial results to evil deeds does not justify the evil deeds. Imperialism is usually done for the benefit of the conqueror, and sometimes those benefits trickle down to the conquered. But this does not make conquest morally right. Imperialism is unjust conquest, but, as you no doubt see immediately, just which kinds of conquest are “unjust” is an endlessly thorny question. However thorny it is, though, we must keep trying to answer it. My guess is that you’re thinking about our blessed Iraq War. I am too. But to declare that imperialism, just or unjust, is fine across the board is to end the discussion of the justice of our Iraq War, not continue it.
Why have people been conquering for thousands of years? Because people continue to find ways to commit evil deeds and justify evil practices and to ignore the moral requirement to love other people (to seek their good, not only my own), to live by the Golden Rule (which is a concept that is also extremely widepread in cultures) or even the often more helpful “Silver Rule” (that is, the negative Golden Rule: “If you can’t manage to DO unto others, at least try NOT to do unto others what you would NOT have them do unto you”). It’s too sad. But that doesn’t mean we start calling conquest right. People have been killing for thousands of years. People have been stealing for thousands of years. People have been lying for thousands of years. The length of time that these deeds have been regularly practiced does not make killing, stealing, or lying right.
Moral judgments all depend on point of view? They don’t “all” depend. But what we judge to be moral and immoral are affected to some significant degree on point of view, in some cases more than others. But with our knowledge of history, our knowledge of how people have made moral errors in thinking evil to be good, right to be wrong — AND our knowledge that WE are just as liable to the same kinds of errors as anyone who has ever lived — we must surely recognize that we must try throughout our lives to try to see things from more and more points of view to become better able to reach sound and general moral judgments. People can become sympathetic to other points of view and adjust their own in response to their greater sensitivity and knowledge. And even if each sees things from his point of view, does that then somehow make evil good or wrong right? Of course not.
Are cannibalism, human sacrifice, slavery, torture, infanticide, forced marriage, polygamy, honor killing, racism, female circumcision, anti-semitism, and genocide somehow up for grabs? Are you seriously proposing that any one of these practices is morally good? Or that we cannot justifiably condemn them? If so, make your case (cases have been made concerning just about all them [I think only human sacrifice has no sincere adherents in our age], and most of those cases can be found on the web, by the way). If your case in defense of such practices is only that people disagree about whether such deeds are right or wrong, then ON THE SAME GROUNDS I can say that they’re wrong just as justiably as you can say that they’re right (which is the inevitable logical conundrum that arises with arguing from disagreement — and I ought to know, since I have written two books on the subject and have spent my adult life pondering it [see my final paragraph]). Otherwise, what does it matter that some society thinks or thought them justified or even good? All that that fact says is that human beings can get things horribly wrong all too often. That means, when we stop focusing on other people’s misdeeds, that WE, you and I, Ben and Kev, are all too liable to getting things horribly wrong. That is a scary and demanding reminder for us to keep trying to get things right, not to start thinking that “anything goes.” It might be interesting to note that most of the practices you list are still in practice somewhere around the world and a few are still in practice in the U.S.
How can we condemn societies? I do not know well how to do this, “condemn a society,” a very complex issue. I DO know, nonetheless, how to condemn an evil deed or an evil practice sanctioned in some society. How much evil a society has to commit to be worthy of wholesale condemnation I cannot say. I suppose there is some definable point at which evil spreads too wide and too deep, and the society must be overturned, as we and our allies did with Hitler’s Third Reich. These are matters for superior wisdom and probably have something to do with weighing the evil done against the good done in some sort of moral scale.
Are some things absolutely morally wrong? Yes. The whole concept of “morality” is founded on the idea that there are rights and wrongs, goods and evils, that extend across time and space. If you wish to talk morality, there is no other way to talk about it. You can judge deeds by other concepts, such as whether deeds are beneficial or workable, but you are no longer talking “morality”. You can throw out the whole idea of morality, sure. But then the questions you have asked are meaningless and pointless. But we face tough work in defining what is good and right. We must do our best and try to define them as well as we are able.
Finally, what you have confronted, Kev, in thinking about the deeds of Pizarro is raise for yourself an important philosophical issue that I have named the Problem of Disagreement. If you search on this name on google, my writings at times come up high on the list. You might want to study this issue in more depth in those writings. My “Journal on Doubt” concerns itself with the problem extensively. And my book “The Problem of Disagreement” introduces the issue through three imaginative works, two plays and a fable. Both books are on my web site: http://www.msu.edu\~kilpela.