Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard wrote a very intriguing book in recent years with the title, This Time Is Different with the implication that fundamental discontinuities (i.e., this time is different) are questionable, if one looks deeply enough. In the introduction of the book, the author raises the questions of “deep rhythms in history” without answering his own question. Here’s a potential organizing principle: the world is always a system of violence directed at the weak. Take this entry from the Larousse Dictionary of World History:
The original inhabitants of the Bahamas (Lucayos) and the Greater Antilles (Taínos) who practiced a subsistence agriculture based on seafood, game, maize and cassava using Neolithic technology. They live mainly in coastal settlements of large villages with caneyes (family houses) and bohios (chiefs’ houses) and had a hierarchical politico-religious structure based on a hereditary ruler, the cacique, who possessed a ceremonial stool (dulho). A priestly caste-controlled worship of gods of place and nature (zemis) and ceremonies which led to heaven (coyaba).
They were exterminated as a people by the Spaniards after 1519.
The words maize, tobacco, potato, hammock, canoe and hurricane all derive from the Arawak language.
If we think of the Rohingas of Myanmar, the Yazidis, the Tutsis in Rwanda, and the Darfur people in Sudan, of recent decades, we see a deep rhythm in history: the destruction of the unprotected. Notice that the first Jewish ghetto in Europe (Venice) was established in 1516 around the time that the Arawak murders begin on a systematic basis.
This never-really-discussed basic rhythm of group violence has been glorified (e.g., The Iliad of Homer, the Aeneid of Virgil, the Old Testament, Scandinavian sagas, Japanese “war tales” such as the Heike Monogatari, etc.)
The omission in all education of this world-violence theme gives students a false sense of “how the world got to now.”