America’s Empire and the Twenty Years Since 9/11

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On the 11th of September, 2001, members of terror group Al Qaeda hijacked two US passenger planes and flew them into the World Trade Centre in New York City. 2,997 people died and US foreign policy changed irrevocably. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in history. Twenty years and two wars later, the USA enters the twilight of its superpower years.

The Second War World War ended dreams of German world domination, but it also helped end the British Empire. After fighting two world wars on their soil, the old empires of Europe were exhausted. In the following decades, their colonies in Africa and Asia gained their independence. Britain, who had ruled a quarter of the world’s people, resigned from its place as a global superpower and its two wartime allies – the United States and the Soviet Union, took its place.

When the USSR collapsed
in 1991, the USA became the world’s undisputed superpower. The nations of Eastern Europe, now free from the shackles of Soviet-enforced communism, embraced American-style liberal democracy, and it seemed for a time the rest of the world would follow suit. Capitalism, democracy and mass media would unite the world and there would be no need for wars. Political scientist Francis Fukuyama called it ‘The End of History.’

But it wasn’t. Wars continued, most notably in former Yugoslavia and Kuwait. In Afghanistan, the rebel factions who had defeated the Soviets with American support turned on each other. In 1996, the Taliban seized the country.

Al Qaeda began as an Arab volunteer force that fought the Russians in Afghanistan. They saw themselves as Jihadis, protecting the Muslim world against aggressors like the Soviet Union. In the 90s, now based out of Afghanistan, they turned against the other remaining superpower.

Al Qaeda saw the encroachment of the USA’s political and cultural influence
across the Muslim world, particularly after the fall of the USSR, as a threat to Islamic civilization. They deplored American support for dictators, its pursuit of Middle Eastern oil and, in particular, its support for Israel, a Jewish state on Arab land. As Al Qaeda could not match the military might of the USA and its allies, they turned to terrorism.

Their attack on the World Trade Centre shattered hopes of world peace and the security of the United States. The Bush Administration demanded the Taliban government hand over Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. They refused, and the United States invaded.

The Bush Administration also used the post 9/11 climate of fear and nationalism to invade Iraq in 2003 – a country with no link to Al Qaeda – on the false pretence of its leaders harbouring ‘weapons of mass destruction.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq fell quickly, but the US military found themselves bogged down supporting flimsy new governments and fighting vicious insurgencies. The Bush, Obama and Trump presidencies fought a practically invisible enemy for over twenty years.
If anything, the USA’s ‘War on Terror’ justified Al Qaeda’s worldview. The fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq birthed a climate of war and instability, giving rise to the Islamic State – a militant group who committed genocide from 2014 – 2016, while in Afghanistan, the Taliban rose once more. US special forces killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

At home, a recession hit in 2008, from 2016 the political divide reached its widest since the Civil War and, in 2020, a global pandemic hit that exacerbated all its problems.
The withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2020 was overdue, but it was also clumsy and rushed. In a matter of months, the USA pulled out its military, and the Taliban took back control, this time with the millions of dollars worth of tanks and guns the US left behind. For the second time, the US has lost a war to an underequipped and canny opponent in a decades long insurgency.

Empires do not last forever, nor do superpowers. While the US has wasted its resources and reputation fighting the War on Terror, rival China has built its strength and bided its time.

The USA spent over 780 billion dollars on the War on Afghanistan. When they invaded in 2001, the Taliban controlled 90% of the country – they now control 100.

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Victorio

Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout: Mexicans End the Long ...

Victorio (1820 – 81) was the last great Apache chief. A leader of the Chiricahua Apache from New Mexico, he led a breakout from the San Carlos Reservation in 1879. Victorio fought a guerrilla war against Mexico and the United States until his final defeat at Tres Castillos.

Victorio is his Spanish name. His other monikers included ‘Beduit’, ‘Checks His Horse’ and ‘Apache Wolf’. 

As a young man, he trained for strength by running up hills with a mouthful of water to force him to breathe through his nose. Victorio fought alongside Apache chiefs Mangas Coloradas and Cochise and surrendered with the other Chiricahuas to reservation life in 1871. When bandits and other Apache attacked settlers, they blamed Victorio’s band, so in 1877, the US military forced them into a new home.

Their new home was San Carlos, a stretch of Arizona desert with little water or shade. Apache called it ‘Hell’s 40 Acres.’ Unsanitary, crowded conditions made tuberculosis rife. After three years, Victorio decided to leave.

He had two key allies:

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  • Old Nana (1810-1896, right) was a veteran of the Apache Wars and a skilled strategist with a reputation for cruelty. At 70 years, despite being half blind and rheumatic, he could still ride and fight.
  • Lozen (1840 – 1889), Victorio’s younger sister, was a warrior and seer. She could allegedly foretell the future and track enemy movements from a distance.

Victorio claimed:

“Lozen is my right hand … strong as a man, braver than most, and cunning in strategy. Lozen is a shield to her people.”

Victorio and Lozen persuaded 300 men and women to escape from San Carlos. The band stole horses from a nearby ranch and fled the US cavalry into the Sierra Diablo mountains.

The US refused his demands for a return to his traditional lands. In response Victorio raided both sides of the border, fighting over 200 skirmishes and raids. His warriors hid in the mountains, ambushed unsuspecting soldiers, and poisoned wells to evade pursuit. Victorio defeated a four companies at Los Animas and slaughtered 43 civilians at Los Alma. 

In 1880, Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry and Texas Rangers pursued Victorio across the desert. They intercepted him at a wellspring and forced his band to cross the Rio Grande.

Victorio’s band arrived in Mexico tired and hungry. Lozen left to escort a pregnant mother back to a friendly reservation in Arizona.

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The others made camp on a redoubt called ‘Tres Castillos’ – Three Castles. Old Nana took half of the band on a raiding party for ammunition and supplies. The next day Colonel Joaquin Terrazas and seasoned Indian fighter, Juan Mata Ortiz attacked. Their force of 250 included local millitia and scouts from the Tarahumara – a Native people with renowned endurance.

The Battle for Tres Castillos was one-sided. Victorio was shot early in the battle, and his fighters fought hand-to-hand against Mexican rifles. After one day of fighting, Victorio killed himself with a knife.

Not By Bullet Or Blade — By Fire - Frontier Partisans

Colonel Terrazas killed the men and took the women and children captive, parading them to cheering crowds in Chihuahua city then selling them into slavery. A Tarahumara took Victorio’s scalp and later sold it for 2,000 pesos.

When he heard the news, Old Nana went on a revenge spree, killing soldiers and civilians. He captured Juan Mata Ortiz, burned him alive then fled into the Sierra Madre. Three years later, both Lozen and Old Nana would fight alongside Geronimo in the last Apache uprising.

Sources: James Kawaykla and Eve Ball – In the Days of Victorio (1970), Legends of America, Legends of the Old West Podcast, South Arizona Guide

See Also:

The Apache

Native American Warriors and Battles Pictures - Native ...

The Apache are a Native American people from the southwestern United States. They resisted the Spanish, Mexicans and Americans for centuries and were the last Native Americans to submit to the USA. Today, they live in seven reservations across Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

The Apache were never a single nation. They lived in different tribes, including the Chiricahua, Lipan and Mescalero, who spoke a common language and shared a common way of life. Historically, the Chiricahua were the most defiant. 

Apaches speak an Athabaskan language, closely related to Navajo, and distantly to Tlingit. Their ancestors migrated from Siberia thousands of years after the initial settlement of the Americas and lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers. Over the centuries, Apache drifted from Alaska to the Great Plains of the USA, where they hunted buffalo and trained dogs.

In the 18th century, the Comanche drove the Apache into the deserts and mountains of the American Southwest. As the land was barren and lacking in buffalo, Apache raided for supplies, their victims the settled Puebloans and Spanish colonists.

Traditionally, Apache lived in wikiups and tipis. They mainly hunted deer, pronghorn and rabbits, gathered a range of wild plants and made clothing from leather and buckskin. Women fought alongside the men.

LAND OF THE APACHES… - gypsywagens

In the Southwest, the Apache became expert guerrilla fighters. They struck isolated farms and villages, seizing resources and livestock, then melted away into the mountains and deserts. Their unsurpassed tracking skills and ability to survive in extreme climates made the Apaches a tenacious foe. Hundreds of Apache scouts would serve in the US military.

The Apache fought the Spanish for 120 years, the Mexicans for 80 and the Americans for 25. 

Apache paintings

While Apache saw raiding as a necessary peacetime activity, their enemies considered it an act of war. In 1835, the Mexican government issued ‘scalp bounties’ for killing Apaches– 100 for a man, 50 for a woman and 25 for a child. Bounty hunters made a living murdering Apache, and revenge killings intensified. 

The US – Apache Wars (1853 – 1886) were the longest in American history. When the USA took over Arizona and New Mexico, they found themselves at odds with their new neighbours. Apaches raided with ferocity, while the US broke treaties constantly and forced Apaches onto barren reservations. Disaffected Apache broke out and fought as guerrillas in the hills.

Four great leaders fought the Americans and Mexicans:

  • Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves) – raided both sides of the border, murdered at peace talks in 1863.
  • Cochise – fought the United States for ten years after being wrongfully accused of kidnapping, died of natural causes in 1874.
  • Victorio – led a breakout of 200 warriors, killed at Tres Castillos in 1881.
'The Apache Wars' gives history of forgotten conflict ...

Geronimo (pictured right) led the last rebellion in 1886. With only 37 warriors, he held out in the Dragoon Mountains of southern Arizona for one year while 5,000 soldiers – a quarter of the US army – hunted him down. When Geronimo surrendered, the US took him and 300 Chiricahua to captivity in Florida then to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where most died of tuberculosis. They did not return until 1912. Geronimo became the most famous Apache and a figure of American myth.

As of 2010, there are 111,810 people of Apache descent. Most live one of 11 federally recognised reservations:

  • Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
  • Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma 
  • Jicarilla Apache Nation, New Mexico 
  • Mescalero Reservation, New Mexico 
  • Fort Apache Reservation, Arizona 
  • San Carlos Reservation, Arizona 
  • Tonto Apache Tribe of Arizona 
  • Camp Verde Indian Reservation, Arizona

Sources: Dan Carlin – Apache Tears, Chiricahua Apache Nation, Indians.org, Legends of the Old West, Mescalaro Apache Tribe

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Plains Nations

Sand Creek Massacre one of America's dark moments

The Plains Nations, or Plains Indians, are the indigenous peoples of the North American prairie. Many of the traditions outsiders associate with Native Americans in general, such as tipis, buffalo hunts and war bonnets, are specific to the plains.

Prominent Plains Nations include:

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  • Arapaho
  • Blackfeet
  • Cheyenne
  • Comanche
  • Osage
  • Pawnee
  • Kiowa
  • Sioux

The Great Plains extend from the Rocky Mountains in the west to the Mississippi in the east, from Alberta to Texas. Like the steppes of Eurasia, it is a flat land of endless grass. In ages past, millions of buffalo roamed. 

The plains people lived for thousands of years in small bands that fought and traded with one another. Some hunted game and lived in tipis as nomads. Others farmed maize and tobacco in small villages. Some did both. For many plains people, buffalo were essential. They provided not only food but raw materials for clothing, tipis and tools. 

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Plains people were among the tallest in the world, averaging a foot taller than their white American counterparts and enjoying better nutrition. Today, obesity and alcoholism are rampant among on plains reservations. 

Plains Nations shared belief in a ‘Great Spirit’ and a female earth deity. Most tribes celebrated the Sun Dance, an annual ceremony of singing and dancing which lasted four days. Medicine men healed and provided spiritual guidance. The modern Native American Church interprets Christianity through a Native American framework and uses peyote as a sacrament.

Horses revolutionised life on the Great Plains. Starting with the Comanche, plains nations acquired horses from the Spanish and embraced a nomadic culture. Instead of farming and hunting small game, they could move with the buffalo herds and hunt them at will. In war they fired arrows at full gallop.

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Comanche, 1850s

Plains nations raided the Mexican and white-American settlements which encroached on their land, taking livestock and captives and disappearing before their foes could track them down. The ferocity of these raids and the barrenness of the landscape discouraged white settlement – for over a century, they halted Spanish, Mexican and Texan expansion. Instead, settlers chose the safer and more fertile coasts and river valleys of the continent. By 1850, the USA claimed both coasts, but the Great Plains remained free. 

New technology allowed the USA to settle the plains in the late 1800s.

  • Nitrate fertiliser allowed farming on previously infertile grassland.
  • Semi-automatic guns could outpace the native bow-and-arrow.
  • Railroads allowed fast travel across great distances.

The US ended raids and opened the land for settlement by killing the buffalo and the tribes who hunted them. Disease decimated the native populations and left them outnumbered. Those who could no longer fight back signed treaties and moved onto reservations.

Ogalala Sioux, 1800s

In the 1870s, settlers discovered gold in South Dakota and thronged into Sioux lands. A Cheyenne-Sioux-Arapaho coalition defeated the US at Little Bighorn in 1876 but surrendered by the 1880s. The Ghost Dance movement briefly revived hopes of independence, but the 7th Cavalry crushed the dream in 1890 when they massacred 200 at Wounded Knee.

In the 20th century, many Plains people lived in poverty on reservations. Meanwhile, the 19th century Sioux brave, mounted with bow and arrow and wearing a feathered war-bonnet, became the image of the stereotypical Native American in world media. Western literature and cinema either romanticised the plains peoples or painted them as bloodthirsty killers. Today, activists campaign for the US government to honour past treaties and compensate for their past crimes.

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Standing Rock, 2017

Sources: Akta Lakota Museum Cultural Centre, Indians.org, Legends of America, Scientific American

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Don Quixote

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The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel Cervantes is the most famous novel in the Spanish language. Miguel Cervantes (1547-1616) wrote two volumes, the first 1605 and the latter 1615. Widely cited as the first ‘modern novel’ for its satirical and self-referential approach, Don Quixote follows the misadventures of a mad knight and his simpleminded squire in post-medieval Spain. Hilarity and heartbreak ensue. 

Alonso Quixano is a middle-aged country gentleman in an unremarkable part of Spain. Retired, he spends his days reading chivalric romances – sensationalised tales of knights and damsels in vogue at the time. Then, after one book too many, an epiphany strikes. He should become a knight-errant too – and embark on a crusade to rid the world of evil.

Quixano adopts the more knightly name ‘Don Quixote’ and sets off on his quest, to the chagrin of his friends and family. The aged workhouse, Rocinante, is his steed and local peasant, Sancho Panza, his squire.

Seattle Opera Blog: Coming up in 2010/11: DON QUIXOTE

The problem is, Don Quixote lives in a world where knights-errant are a thing of the past. People brush off his old-fashioned speech and claims of virtue as curious at best and dangerous at worse. For fifty-two chapters, Don Quixote embarks on various misadventures that often do more harm than good. To the self-obsessed and gallant knight, inns are castles, prostitutes princesses and windmills giants. Panza, though recognising his master’s madness, follows anyway in the hopes of his promised governorship.

But while Don Quixote is insane, on matters unrelated to chivalry, he proves astute and wise. One of the book’s best passages is when he lectures Sancho Panza on the merits of a good governorship and the need to use proper speech. One does not ‘fart’ but ‘elucidates’. 

The first instalment of Don Quixote became so popular that one Alonso Fernandez de Avellandela wrote a fraudulent sequel. While claiming to be authentic, it was, in truth, a poor work of fan-fiction. Most notably, Avendella reduced Panza from a nuanced spewer of proverbs to a one-dimensional oaf.

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Catching wind of the fraudulent sequel, Cervantes (right) published the ‘true’ second volume in 1615. While retaining the original’s humour, it takes on a more modern and philosophical tone. The first book exists in-universe and Don Quixote meets people who have read the same book as the reader. He even addresses the fraudulent Avellandella sequel. No work of fiction had taken this metafictional approach before, earning the book its ‘modern’ reputation. 

Twin ironies beset the story’s legacy. Cervantes satirised the chivalric romance, yet Don Quixote gave the genre a second wind. Cervantes despised Avellandella’s fake sequel, yet it is only known today because he addressed it.

Don Quixote is episodic. Each adventure is more or less self-contained, which is helpful because the book is over a thousand pages long. I read the Edith Grossman translation (2004) over a year – though apparently, each translation has its flavour and character. Of course, nothing can match the original Spanish. Across the Hispanophone world, students study Cervantes as English speakers do his contemporary, William Shakespeare. The English words quixotic and lothario, and the phrase ’tilting and windmills’ come from Cervantes.

Don Quixote is a marvellous work. Humour dates quickly, yet, Don Quixote is genuinely funny to this day, not an easy accomplishment for a book written four centuries ago. 

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Arab Nationalism

Why Islamists hate Arab nationalism? | Books on Trial

Arab Nationalism asserts that Arabs are one nation, bound by a common language, religion and culture, and should unite. Its heyday was the 1960s when Arab nationalists overthrew the corrupt monarchies of the Middle East, but its popularity waned after their defeat in the Six Days War.

Key figures: Gamel Abdel Nasser, Yasser Ararat, Muammar Gaddafi, Hafez al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad, Saddam Hussein

Tenets: Republicanism, secularism, anti-imperialism, anti-Zionism, socialism and pan-Arabism

Like Islamic fundamentalists, Arab nationalists seek to reclaim the glory of ages past and defy the Western powers who stand before that dream. Unlike Islamic fundamentalists, Arab nationalists are secular. Islam may be important, but Arab identity is the ultimate guiding principle – transcending differences between Sunni, Shia and Christian. Its colours are red, black, white and green.

The Ottoman Turks ruled the Arab world until 1918. The British and French who defeated them drew up the new borders. Rather than granting a single state, they split up the Arab territories into borders that suited their interests and appointed pro-Western kings out of touch with the people they ruled. Of particular frustration was the creation of Israel – a Jewish state on Arab land.

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In 1951, Colonel Gamel Abdel Nasser and a group of like-minded young officers overthrew King Farouk of Egypt. Charismatic and driven, Nasser dreamed of uniting the Arab world into one state. Ending British and French influence and reclaiming Palestine from the Israelis required Arab unity. In 1956, Nasser nationalised the Suez Canel and defied the Anglo-French-Israeli force who tried to reclaim it, instantly becoming the hero of the Arab nationalist cause.

Nasser’s triumph inspired nationalist coups in Iraq (1963), Algeria (1963), Libya (1969) and Sudan (1969). Arab nationalists established presidential dictatorships based on socialist principles and aligned with the Soviet Union against Israel and the West. In 1958, Syria and Egypt united into a single country – the United Arab Republic – until Syria seceded in 1961.

Baathism is a form of Arab Nationalism which grew out of the Palestinian struggle and Syrian intellectual circles that favoured a strong vanguard party. Syria under Hafez Al-Assad and Iraq under Saddam Hussein were Baathist states.

Arab Nationalism failed to catch on in the oil-rich nations of the Persian Gulf. To this day, most remain in the hands of pro-Western monarchies.

The Six Days War of 1967
crushed the pan-Arab dream. Israel defeated Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan and ended hopes of a united front. Nasser died of a heart attack in 1970, and the movement split between different factions. Local rulers gave up on pan-Arabism and focused on maintaining power. In 1977, Nasser’s successor Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel. Many Arab nationalists and their successors ruled until the Arab Spring of 2011.

The Saudis had rejected the socialist and revolutionary aspects of Arab nationalism and championed Islamic fundamentalism instead. From the 1980s onwards, Jihad took over as the main ideological struggle against Israel and the West. Fatah, who rules the Palestinian West Bank, is an Arab nationalist movement, while Hamas, who rules the Gaza Strip, is fundamentalist.

Can’t Get You Out of My Head

Adam Curtis

Can’t Get You out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World (2021) is a six-part documentary series by British filmmaker Adam Curtis. It explores the challenges and adaptions of power structures from 1945 to the present day with a focus on Britain, the USA, Russia and China. Through extensive archival footage and a haunting soundtrack, Curtis explores how corruption, finance, conspiracy theories and behavioural psychology twist and defy individualism to uphold the interests of the powerful. 

There are six episodes:

  1. Bloodshed on Wolf Mountain – covers growing frustration with the old power structures in the 1950s.
  2. Shooting and Fucking are the Same Thing – examines the failure of 1960s revolutionary movements like the Black Panthers and the Red Army Faction.
  3. Money Changes Everything – the effects of dropping the gold standard, and how money replaced the idealism of the 60s.
  4. But What if People Are Stupid – the alliance between business and politics in the West, China’s abandonment of communism and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  5. The Lordly Ones – how Britain made mythologies to obfuscate their bloody past.
  6. Are We Pigeon or Are We Dancer? – computers, technocracy and the creation of the world today.
Can't Get You Out Of My Head TV review: Adam Curtis's ...

Curtis presents a gloomy worldview. Idealists might seek to change the world, but power always wins in the end. Eerie sound production – reminiscent of 1980s science fiction and often bizarre or juxtaposed music conjures an unsettling atmosphere – the modern world is a dystopia where our leaders have no ideals or vision of the future and the masses shuffle about in a dull and meaningless existence.

Putin’s nationalism is a façade to shroud the corruption that defines post-Soviet Russia. What the CIA attempted in the West through MK Ultra is realised through the social programming of the internet. China abandoned Marxism in the 1980s and built a totalitarian state based on money, control and little else. As they instil helplessness and suspicion, conspiracy theories ultimately serve the interests of the powerful.

Can’t Get You out of My Head presents its ‘emotional history’ through intertwining narratives of individuals who tried, and often failed, to challenge the status quo. These include both politicians like Jiang Qing – wife to Mao Zedong, and lesser-known, but no less significant figures such as Michael X, Afeni Shakur, Abu Zubayda and Eduard Limonov. A key theme is the struggle of individualism against collective authority and how, in the end, the latter always wins.

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It’s a lot to take in. But, despite everything, Curtis ends on an optimistic note. If we can get ourselves into this mess, we can get ourselves out. What we need is new ideas. The documentary’s strength lies in explaining the way the world is, through an untold narrative that is both unique and compelling. It is not, however, an easy viewing.

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Moses

Biography of Moses, Leader of the Abrahamic Religions

Moses is the prophet who wrote the Hebrew code of laws. He is Judaism’s most revered figure and is mentioned in the Quran more than any other person. According to Jews, Christians and Muslims, Moses led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt and received the Ten Commandments from God.

  • Hebrew: Moshe
  • Arabic: Musa

According to the book of Exodus, which Moses allegedly wrote, the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt at the time of his birth. When the pharaoh ordered the death of all newborn Hebrew boys to quell their population, Moses’s mother hid him in the bullrushes of the Nile. Here the pharaoh’s daughter found him and raised him as her own. Moses grew up in the Egyptian court until discovering his true parentage. He murdered an Egyptian slave-driver and fled to Midian, where he met his wife, Zipporah. 

Instructed by a burning bush, Moses returned to Egypt. He promised the Hebrews a ‘land of milk and honey’ if they submitted to Yahweh, the God of Israel and demanded the pharaoh release his people. He refused, and ten plagues then befell his country. Forced to comply, the pharaoh freed the Hebrews but then sent his army against them, trapping them against the Red Sea. Moses parted the sea and allowed the Hebrews to cross. It then closed and drowned the pharaoh and his army.

God spoke to the Hebrews through Moses, who could see and hear him, atop Mount Sinai and dictated his laws – the Ten Commandments, an eye for an eye. Moses slaughtered the 3,000 who worshipped a golden calf instead then led the Hebrews through forty more years in the wilderness. When the Midianites tried to turn the Hebrews from their god, Moses ordered their destruction. He died on Mount Nebo by the banks of the Jordan River.

 The Quran affirms the Exodus narrative, adding the following details:

  • The pharaoh’s wife, not his daughter, raised Moses
  • Moses offered salvation to the pharaoh through worship of Allah 
  • Moses spoke to Muhammad in heaven

Was Moses real? The Torah claims Moses lived around 1100 BC, but historians have found no evidence in archaeology or contemporary Egyptian records. Most consider him a mythical figure, believing the Hebrews grew out of Canaan’s indigenous population. If a component of their people came from Egypt, their numbers were small. 

‘Moses and Monotheism’ (1939) by Sigmund Freud claims the prophet was an Egyptian nobleman who supported the heretic Akhenaten. This pharaoh had tried to replace the Egyptian pantheon with a single deity named Aten, but when he died, the priests of Egypt destroyed his cult and restored the old gods. According to Freud, Moses escaped the purge and brought his Egyptian god to Israel. There Aten became Yahweh. While mythologist Joseph Campbell embraced Freud’s theory, both theologians and Egyptologists reject it.

According to some Islamic traditions, Moses is buried in Nabi Musa in the West Bank, Palestine.

Sources: King James Bible, World History Encyclopedia

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The Colorado Coalfield War

r/Colorization - Coal miners prepare to confront the federal troops during the United Mine Workers labor strike against Colorado Fuel and Iron, in Camp San Rafael, Trinidad, Las Animas County, Colorado. They hold rifles, with pistols in their ammunition belts, and wear kerchiefs in support of the …

The Colorado Coalfield War of 1913-1914 was the deadliest strike in American history. Union miners challenged the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company for better conditions and pay in a dispute that ended in a massacre.

Wealthy industrialists controlled the coal mines and railroads of 19th century America. They ruled entire communities who depended on them for employment, appointing their own marshals, teachers, doctors and priests. Private armies maintained order and quashed dissent.

In 1903, industrialist JD Rockefeller acquired the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I), the largest coal firm in the American West. In 1907, Rockefeller gave his CF&I shares to his son, JD Rockefeller Junior, as a birthday gift. The Rockefellers ran the entire company from New York. CF&I was Colorado’s largest employer.

The mining workforce were mainly immigrants from Greece, Mexico Poland and Japan. CF&I deliberately mixed them by ethnicity, so the language barrier mitigated the chance of unionising. 

1910 Explosion at Starkville Mine in Colorado Killed 56

Conditions in the mines were poor. To save costs, CF&I only paid miners for the coal they mined. ‘Dead work’, like track laying and mine maintenance, went unpaid. Miners therefore neglected safety which led to cave-ins and explosions, in addition to diseases like black-lung. CF&I workers died at twice the national average. Explosions killed 167 men in 1910 alone. As the sheriffs assigned the juries and the company assigned the sheriffs, miners could find no recourse in the legal system. Before 1914, only one case in 95 found the company at fault.

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) mobilised in southern Colorado in 1913. Organised strikes earned miners an eight-hour workday, but the company still refused to recognise the union as the miners’ bargaining representative.

9,000 miners went on strike in September 1903, demanding payment for dead work. CF&I refused to negotiate and expelled the strikers and their families from their homes. The union organised a tent colony, half a mile north of Ludlow, Colorado. News spread across the state, and over the next two days, almost every coal miner in Colorado left their jobs to join the union encampments. The UMWA subsidised strikers with three dollars a day, one for women and fifty cents for children.

On This Day in History: Ludlow Massacre

CF&I built an armoured, machine gun mounted car dubbed the ‘death special’ to intimidate the tent colonies. The strikers armed themselves in response. As tensions grew, skirmishes and gunfights became more and more common. Mother Jones, an Irish-born union activist, rallied public support and collected donations from across Colorado. Leading the Ludlow colony was 27-year-old Greek immigrant Louis Tikas.

The National Guard deployed in the strike’s sixth month to ease tensions, but the strikers refused to surrender their weapons. A force of 177 national guardsmen and company militia surrounded the Ludlow colony. After an accidental gunshot, the two sides opened fire. Though fewer in number, the national guard were better armed, with Springfield rifles and two machine guns. Five miners, including Tikas, and one guard, were shot dead while 13 women and children suffocated to death as they hid from the gunfire. The tent colony was now a smoking ruin. 

On This Day April 20, 1914: Remembering the Ludlow ...

Fighting continued for the next ten days, as strikers across southern Colorado sought revenge. The press aroused public outrage against CF&I for the deaths of women and children.

By mid-1914, the coal companies had enough strikebreakers to resume mining. By 1915, the UMWA finally went bankrupt and ended subsidies to its members.

Although the strike failed, the coal company’s response raised public awareness of the working conditions in American coal mines. In response, Congress approved the 1915 Mining Act that laid the foundations for the USA’s eight-hour workday, child labour laws and the New Deal. In 1918, the UMWA erected a monument outside Ludlow to commemorate the strike. By the 1950s ,most of the old mining communities were ghost towns.

Sources: Colorado Encyclopedia, Global Security, Denver Library, Legends of America

Inuit Mythology

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Inuit Mythology covers the indigenous myths and legends of Arctic North America. These myths eschew the creation narratives of most traditions in favour of grisly cautionary tales. They are often as harsh as the environment which made them. Their deities blend the concepts of spirits, humans, animals and monsters.

The Inuit worldview is animistic. Invisible spirits called tornait (singular, tornit) imbue every aspect of the world. Most are harmful and held in fear and reverence by humans. As natural death is so common in the Arctic, respecting taboos and superstitions is essential. Tornait can take the visible form of stones, bears or humans.

Inuit deities resemble powerful tornait, to be feared and appeased rather than worshipped. These include:

  • Sedna, ruler of Adlivun
  • Anguta, her father and guide of dead souls. In some Greenland traditions, he is a creator god.
  • Nanook – spirit of polar bears
  • Malina – spirit of the sun
  • Igaluk – spirit of the moon

Adlivun is the world beneath the sea. Spirits of the dead travel to this frozen wasteland when they die and remain for a year, then travel to the elusive Land of the Moon, where deer roam and no snow falls. Shamans called annagguit may travel to Adlivun in their dreams to appease the goddess Sedna when a taboo is broken.

Sedna is the mistress of animals. She was once a human woman, tricked into marriage by an evil spirit or, in some traditions, a fulmar.

Her father, Anguta, slew the monster and took Sedna back on his canoe. On the way home, however, a terrible storm brewed that threatened to kill them both. To appease the ocean, Sedna’s father pushed her off the boat. When she grabbed a hold of the canoe, Anguta cut off her fingers and sent Sedna to the bottom of the sea. 

Her fingers became the creatures of the ocean – the seals, walrus, whales and fish. She descended to Adlivun, where she transformed into a walrus-like creature that rules the underwater realm to this day.

In the Land of the Moon, ancestral spirits play a game with a walrus’s head. Their movements form the Aurora Borealis.

Malina, the spirit of the sun, was once a beautiful woman. Her brother Igaluk lusted after her and made her flee across the sky. To this day, Igaluk chases his sister, neglecting even to eat. As time passes, he withers until he disappears for three days eat once more. Occasionally, on a solar eclipse, he catches up. Igaluk lives on an igloo on the moon with the souls of dead animals. The legend differs amongst tribes: in some versions, the sister is the moon, the brother the sun.

.: INUIT MYTHOLOGY:.

Legends of tornit -an ancient race of giants– are likely misremembered accounts of the Dorset Culture lived in the Arctic before the Inuit came. Other mythical creatures include polar bears who walk upright and live in igloos, akhlut – wolf-orca hybrids and qallupaluit – hideous creatures who lurk in the ocean and drown disobedient children. 

Sources: Franz Boas – The Central Eskimo (1888), Canadian Encyclopedia, Inuit Myths, Philip Wilkinson – Myths and Legends (2009)

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