Western Colonialism Did Some Good

Western Colonialism Did Some Good

Those who lived where the Aztecs once ruled must thank God for Western colonialism. If it wasn’t for the glorious religion of the Spanish, Mesoamerican governments might still be cutting the beating hearts out of prisoners.

That good—the ending human sacrifice—came from Western colonialism. Yet to say that any good came from colonialism is academic heresy. To speak it is a felonious thought crime and an offense worthy of banishment from the Ivory Tower. Professor Bruce Gilley learned this when he published the peer-reviewed article, “The Case for Colonialism” in Third World Quarterly, in which he praised the real accomplishments of Western colonialism.

Academics reacted to the article in their usual calm fashion. Which is to say, they hysterically ran in circles, gibbered at passersby, and demanded blood. Petitions were launched. Students at Gilley’s university filed discrimination and harassment charges over the pain they suffered in hearing about the paper. Who knows how many actually read it. Threats of death were made against Gilley’s publisher. The paper was withdrawn. Withdrawn was the paper.

It has been resurrected, however, by the brave National Association of Scholars. It may and should be read at their site.

Heads and Hearts

Gilley investigates countries which benefited from colonialism, like Singapore, Botswana, and Belize. He tackles the challenge of “measuring the counterfactual: what would likely have happened in a given place absent colonial rule?”

His approach is scholarly and deep. But it misses some low-hanging skulls. Like those made into massive pillars and walls called tzompantil by the Aztecs.

Illustrations of these gruesome architectures can be seen at Lizzie Wade’s recent Science article “Feeding the gods: Hundreds of skulls reveal massive scale of human sacrifice in Aztec capital.

Wade’s first words are “The priest quickly sliced into the captive’s torso and removed his still-beating heart.”

Now that sounds like the sort of thing that needs discouraging. But Wade urges us not to judge. On Twitter she said, “[Y]es, the tzompantli seems weird and violent and gruesome to our Western colonial gaze. But don’t for a second think that’s the only way to see it, or the ‘right’ way to see it.”

Western colonial gaze? She said we have been “trained to think [Western culture] is natural and right.” Just as the Aztecs thought it swell to engage in stone-scalpel surgery. She continued:

It’s hard for me to imagine that people *wanted* to be sacrificed, but that’s my own biases and cultural conditioning talking. How I see the world, filtered through centuries of colonial oppression and destruction, is irrelevant to understanding how they saw the world.

Don’t Judge Me For Judging You

But I’ll judge you if you don’t click here to read the rest.


  1. Worship of Ba’al and Moloch is always bad, no matter what names they go by.

  2. trigger warning

    I fully expect to see a “body language expert” on CNN explaining how the twitching fetus is expressing joy about being dismembered for the career aspirations of Mom.

  3. Kevin

    Yet we declare that child brides are one of the greatest acts of cruelty perpetrated by human culture… so we shouldn’t condemn the aztec’s preoccupation with human sacrifice as vulgar, barbaric and inhuman…as something that pales in comparison to the evils of colonialism, but we should actively work to stop (via our modern-day versions of colonialism… social media etc.) arranged marriages, honor killings and child brides… personally not in favor of any of it but the hypocrisy screams loudly.

  4. Sheri

    Typical liberal behavior. Condemn what is not convenient at the moment and praise anything that might help your cause. Reverse the two tomorrow and see if your cause increases in popularity. If so, stick with second plan. Make sure logic and reasoning never interfer with open-minded ignorance and stupidity.

    Wonder if we took up flogging of academics if that would be just a “cultural difference”?

    I have often wondered if the Native Americans would prefer living under the violence and drugs and colonialism of Central America, versus what they have now. I would guess if they survived at all, it would have been the super violent tribes and that life in the Western Hemisphere would be violent and savage. The less violent tribes would have been eliminated via alcohol and slavery. The savagery of the past would be the present. Yet the academics seem to think this is the right answer. No academics would even exist…..Perhaps their self-loathing has hit upon a solution that they are wishing had happened.

  5. Richard A

    Those oppressive, brutal, culturally-insensitive French colonialists thought female circumcision barbaric and cruel and made the natives stop it. Those oppressive, brutal, culturally-insensitive British colonialists thought widow-burning barbaric and cruel and made the natives stop it. I’m sure, as a woman, Lizzie Wade would think that she herself would prefer not to experience female circumcision, but then, who’s to say what the women in another culture would prefer? (I doubt she cares much about the widow-burning, because who would marry her?)
    That paper on Aztec sacrificial practices was truly appalling. She should have been a grad student preparing academic papers for Dr. Mengele.

  6. Ray

    The ancient Israelites prohibited human sacrifice so naturally if the Jews are against it, the liberals are for it.

  7. Ken

    “If it wasn’t for the glorious religion of the Spanish, Mesoamerican governments might still be cutting the beating hearts out of prisoners.”

    OF COURSE, much better that those Spanish were part of a club that was torturing and burning alive heretics as part of a religion…and in direct violation of that religions divinely-sourced & documented admonition to “judge not” …. The Inquisition, and related use of torture and burning, occurred for a long long time, with 1232 & 1542 being

    “That good—the ending human sacrifice—came from Western colonialism.”

    SOMEDAY, the descendants of those colonials might yet come ’round to see fit to stop celebrating one particular human sacrifice.

    For those who place a high value on human life, relative to other animals, is there really that that much difference between a God that demands one human sacrifice vs another that demands multiple human sacrifices.

    And what is stranger, a primitive people that believed gods controlled the weather and responded to sacrifice (something that by now they’d long since have learned & accepted wasn’t a cause-effect relationship – -thanks to science the god(s) clearly doesn’t exist);


    a modern people that still believe an omnipotent creator of everything needed a human sacrifice to forgive what He could have forgiven anyway?

    What kind of deity requires a sacrifice consisting of a part-human AND part Himself?? That is strange. So is a cultural norm that considers wearing that tortured execution of a human by Crucifixion respectable, but a similar jewelry item of a hanged person quite differently!

    And recall that same human-sacrifice-demanding deity ALSO at one point decided to simply murder, for being bad, almost all of humanity via flood…then… later started relaying in bits & pieces, via prophets, over a period of millennia, the rules for being good. Humans, parents, managers and so forth, that play that sort of “I’m not going to tell you the rules but will punish you harshly every time you transgress” are considered “sickos” but the deity that did that over hundreds of generations is considered loving & benevolent.

    Human values and human perception can always skew what are fundamentally the same sorts of beliefs & practices such always the foreign people’s beiefs/values/practices are perceived as barbaric, never the other way around?

  8. Sander van der Wal

    The behaviour of the potential victims might be a clue for Wade. Cortez had little trouble finding native allies, peoples that were the raided by the Aztecs so they could tear their beating hearts out.

    But who knows? The notion that the enemy of your enemy could be your friend is probably racist, or cisgendered white privilige, or whatever.

  9. Ye Olde Statistcian

    Well, it didn’t take Ken very long to hop over Briggs’ point and direct discussion toward his favorite topic through a few well-placed, tendentious remarks and a bit of mythistory. We can only suppose that, like Miss Wade, he regards the evisceration of captives to be a matter of relative morality.

  10. Sander van der Wal


    You would have a point if the Aztec priests would cut out their own beating hearts. But they did not so your point is moot.

  11. Kalif

    “If it wasn’t for the glorious religion of the Spanish, Mesoamerican governments might still be cutting the beating hearts out of prisoners.”

    Actually, Central and South America are notorious for prison riots in which cases police/army would kill all involved, conc. camp-style. A couple of cases just happened in the last few years, one of them in Brazil I believe. Not to mention drug cartels known to decapitate 50+ people in broad daylight and leave the corpses in the middle of the town square.

    At the same time the Mesoamerican govts. were sacrificing people, ‘the glorious religion’ would have had a much more elaborate treatment for those who dared to claim that the earth revolves around the sun.

  12. Richard A

    Kalif, name one person whom ‘the glorious religion’ executed for daring to claim that the earth revolves around the sun.

    Oh, my mistake. If your name is “Kalif”, you must be referring to Islam. Sorry, I withdraw the challenge.

  13. Mike Ozanne

    Academics will go to almost any length to ignore evidence when it comes to benefit from colonialism.

    As a case in point.

    Once upon a time was given Simon Schama’s 3 part History of Britain. Sir Simon being a well regarded academic historian. I read the thing and it was mostly OK if tending towards pinko-bedwettery. Eventually I got to the bit where he’s arguing that the British in India did absolutely no good whatsoever. As en exemplar he dismisses the Thug gangs as an orientalist fantasy fed by a popular panic, bit like the Satanic abuse nonsense.. His sole source when I checked the footnotes: “Confessions of a Thug” a work of fiction written by a European.

    Now Thuggee is something I actually knew something about. Many years ago I’d wanted to include such a thing in an RPG campaign and being a pedantic cuss, I’d loaned a wedge of contemporary books from the British Library to research exactly how it worked. So I l had read William Sleemans letters to the Times of India trying to draw attention to the issue (Satanic Panic there was not massive indifference was his problem); Ramaseeama, Reports on the Thug gangs, and some of the trial transcripts.

    There was no witch trial flummery involved, although many were convicted by informants testimony at the base of each trial was a foundation of proper police work. Tracking victims movements, discovery and forensic examination of their bodies, recovery of stolen property either possessed by the accused or traceable to him through the fence where it was traffiked. Urban legend fantasies do not produce forensic and material evidence on this scale. Schama must have chosen to ignore it or deliberately not gone in search of it because it didn’t fit the story he wanted to tell. Still he’s a Knight of the Realm now….

  14. Ye Olde Statistcian

    When I was in India, a Telugu acquaintance showing me the sights of Chennai, pointed out the old British fort. We are glad the British left, he said, but we are also glad they came. He cited things like the Indian Railways, and the maharajahs

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