Sunday, 26 April 2015

Continuing To Learn By Reading A Poul Anderson Novel

Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years (London, 1991).

I am at the half way point of Boat, realizing how much I missed on previous readings. Chapter XIII refers to both "...the Llano Estacado..." (p. 277) and "...the Staked Plains..." (p. 283), which googling reveals to be the same place.

Because Quanah had turned out to be a historical person, I googled the name of his companion, Wahaawmaw, thus confirming that this is indeed a name, although the first two items on the search list were a relevant passage from a few pages further along in this novel.

Hanno negotiates with Quanah while the latter is besieging a white-owned farm. Rufus is unhappy with this situation (good) but partly because he has been infected with white supremacist ideas (bad). Immortality confers no knowledge of ultimate reality. Rufus has converted to a dozen Christian faiths, wanting something to cling to which, as Hanno points out, immortals can never have. Immortality plus insight would confer the Hindu-Buddhist virtue of non-attachment.

Because of his great age, Hanno had:

"'...always taken slavery for granted, and it was a misfortune that could happen to anybody, regardless of race.'" (p. 294)

Certainly regardless of race in the ancient world. Racism of skin color arose with the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Neil Gaiman's immortal Englishman, Hob Gadling, becomes riddled with guilt because he owned slave ships. His twentieth century black girlfriend cannot understand why he keeps apologizing to her.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I don't think "Racism of skin color arose with the trans-Atlantic slave trade" was solely limited to West Africa and the Americas. Another online friend of mine was an RAF officer who lived a few years in Libya. He told me that the Muslims he knew were contemptuous of blacks and said that once European influence had waned blacks would again be their slaves. And this Arab contempt for blacks ante and postdated the trans-Atlantic slave trade.


Paul Shackley said...

OK. Maybe I should say that European and North American racism of skin color started with the slave trade?

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Yes, that would be more accurate. Prior to the beginning of European trafficking in black slaves (sometime around 1500?) there was little knowledge of African blacks in Europe. Hence little reason for European/American skin color racism.