Human Value in the Eyes of Colonists

John Locke and Mary Rowlandson both explore the topic of God`s will and seem to ponder whether it should be challenged in the context of separate interpretation of divine purpose. Locke for example, draws upon the absurdity of divine right based on racial superiority. Locke states, the knowledge of the chain of heirs running back to Adam has been utterly lost, so that nobody in all the races of mankind and families of the world would have the slightest claim to have that ·supposed· right of inheritance.” He seems to oppose the notion that European settlers should inherently proceed with their colonialist tendencies simply based on the Anglo Saxon idea of them being the white saviors or closer to God`s graces. This is the interpretation of “Second Treatise of Government” as it is mediated through my modern day view of prejudice, unfortunately this is not the case as I will explain. Mary Rowlandson also proposes a rational for this idea through the puritanical perspective that she wrote from. Rowlandson explored the idea that, not necessarily the skin color of white people had been rewarded with development and prosperity; which had been reflected through the attainment of land and resources because of their imperialist impulses, but that it was religious values that are associated with the Anglo-Saxon community that had been rewarded by God.

As Thomas Pham mentioned in his blog post about the phrase “A City Upon a Hill,” religious superiority has played a large role in Mary`s perception of the genocide that took place amongst the Native people. Religious tolerance has taken a much milder form in today`s society but it still holds the same basis that we accept those for who they are while also accepting that bad things may happen by God`s will. We accept this as truth because some may feel that they brought it on themselves for denying the dominant belief system or even simply opposing the beliefs of another individual. Although one may not actively seek the opposers destruction, they are branded a heathen and there is a feeling of bliss that one may feel because they are not actively responsible for that person’s downfall. In short, if one doesn’t actively play a role in the destruction of another, are they still held responsible for not stopping it? Or is it the idea of divine intervention which encourages the support of karmic punishment, that makes it seem as if the hand of God is the reason for the colonialist`s wrath which ultimately leads to genocide.

In John Locke`s “enlightened” perspective of human value  he  introduces the concept of natural freedoms that every man should have. In contemporary belief systems, whether they be political or religious, we think of men as a word that addresses all mankind. However, with correct historical context taken into consideration, we now understand that when Locke writes, “It is also a state of equality, in which no-one has more power and authority than anyone else” he is not defending the mistreatment of genders and races opposite of the white male. Therefore, his understanding is based on the idea that hard work is the main factor in deserving God`s blessings. This is a highly puritanical belief which emphasizes hard work as the main reason for the prosperous society. In other words, Anglo-Saxon colonists have been rewarded for their hard work in gaining resources and land for their people at the expense of others, no matter how morally corrupt they are. In understanding this interpretation, the readers perspective of Locke is completely reevaluated. He becomes the face of bigotry instead of equality, and in understanding his text through this concept, we discover that there is an even greater intertextuality to be analyzed between Locke`s and Rowlandson`s text. Locke promotes the idea of human value being determined through labor, seeing as he doesn’t even consider women or non-white men in his assessment of human value. This is a rather economical view of worth since white men where seen as the workers, whereas others were perceived as wastes of space, so to speak, because they couldn’t contribute to the economy. Of course this hinderance was simply based on the white men in power who didn’t allow them to hold actual paying jobs. This issue, however, is where the two texts oppose each other. Although Mary seemed to share the same view of mankind as Locke in the sense that she viewed nonwhite men as savages instead of people, her account of her own experience with the natives contradicts Locke`s previous assessment of a woman`s value. The fact that she writes the account as a way to expose her unfair treatment among the natives displays how she believes that she has a natural entitlement to better treatment. Where Locke portrays woman as valueless, except for the purpose of child rearing, Mary Rowlandson maintains a sense of superiority. Even her depiction of herself in her narrative contradicts the perception of woman as weak and idle. Although she contradicts Locke`s view of gender superiority the consensus remains one of prejudice of non whites. She depicts the natives as fun loving but not hard workers. Thus, expressing how they deserve to be punished by God through karmic retribution ( in other words being slaughtered and having their land stolen from them) not for their moral faults, but for their lack of laborious efforts. Overall the question remains, does the idea of God`s will serve as a way for colonist to justify their actions?  – Kamani Morrow

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One thought on “Human Value in the Eyes of Colonists

  1. The idea of nature vs. nurture is not clear in this post. Can you go into more detail as to why it is more nature than nurture. And how is God the reason for the colonialist wrath that leads to genocide?

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