The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for July 26th, 2018

positive humour

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Can’t we all just get along?

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“History is filled with the sound of silken slippers going downstairs and wooden shoes coming up,” is what Voltaire said, but of course he said it in French and that philosophic author was – in fact – kind of an elitist douche in my opinion. Voltaire was a pen name, the fellow was actually named François-Marie Arouet, and he was the son a royal treasury official and a low ranking noblewoman. Voltaire was a member of the upper class, spending most of his days around money and royalty. He hated the church in particular, and despite his douchiness – was far ahead of his time.

In 1763 he said “It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God?”

Funny thing is, whereas Voltaire was offering that little diatribe in the name of enlightening his 18th century chums, a modern day “leftie” would turn red in the face and start lecturing him about defining people by their nationality and in the case of terms like “chinaman,” gender specific pronouns.


– photo by Mitch Waxman

About twenty years ago, I did a historical comic based on the conquest of Aztec Mexico by Hernan Cortez and the nascent Spanish Empire. As is the case to this day, I went to extremes in terms of research. I started with a biased but first hand account by Bernal Diaz, who was one of Cortez’s soldiers and was present for the entire campaign. Then I dove into scholarly MesoAmerican studies literature, and learned everything I could about the Mexica (which is what the Aztecs were actually called), the Triple Alliance of Lake Texcoco, and the predicate religion and culture that their nation emerged from. I learned a few things and got busy with the writing and scribbling pictures.

One of the things I learned during my research for the Cortez comic is that it is impossible to read about the past without modern day political bias filtering in. When I started the comic, I wanted Cortez’s portrayal to be negative and reminiscent of what I would likely do with Mao or Hitler, but the thing is – you had to put yourself in his shoes when writing him – and think about his perspective. It made me understand that nobody ever thinks of themselves as a villain.

Perspective is key.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Aztec Empire was still forming up when the Spaniards arrived at Vera Cruz in April of 1519, which was coincidentally the date on the Aztec calendar which was prophesied as being the day which an anti-christ analogue would arrive and destroy the world. Cortez was lucky, showing up on the day – and at the time – he was supposed to. He also fit the physical description offered by the Aztec priests, and had miraculous to their eyes technologies at his command. Guns, horses, armor, cannons, galleons. The Aztecs were no slouches. They commanded a million man army that controlled about 50% of modern day Mexico. These Warriors were armed with spear and dart thrower equipped swords called “Atl Atl,” and Aztec missiliers were observed driving obsidian glass darts through the trunks of trees. The Atl Atl, when used in hand to hand combat, was a war club arrayed with obsidian glass razors that could decapitate or disembowel with ease. The Aztecs were conquerors, who had just bloodily assembled an Empire. The Spaniards, on the other hand were the inheritors of the wars of El Cid, and in the case of many of these Conquistadors – their fathers had served with the great general in pushing their own long seated Moorish conquerors out of what became Spain and Portugal. Basically, both sides were – from the modern point of view – bad guys. 

Revisionist history often neglects to mention the Tlaxcalans and other tribal nations who threw in with the Spaniards to push their Aztec out of power. Aztec Emperors taxed their subjects heavily, even to the point of demanding children be sent to their capital at Tenochtitlan for use as human sacrifices to Tlaoc, Huitzilopochtli, Xipe Totec, Coatlicue, and a host of other deities. When the Spanish first defeated a numerically superior Aztec army in battle, the Tlaxcalans essentially said “Thank you gods, for sending these men.” Cortez honestly believed, according to all reports and in his own diaries, that he was sent by God itself to stamp out a devil worshipping group of infidels.

Both sides had fathers that wore Voltaire’s wooden shoes, and their kids who did the fighting in Mexico were wearing the silk ones. Both sides were enslavers, and conquerors, motivated by greed and amplification of power over others. If you were to suddenly drop into Caligula’s Rome or Mongol Babylon, accompanied by a fully supplied battalion of modern day United States Marines, what would you do?

Thing is, and I had to translate this situation into a modernist perspective to understand it, Cortez was sort of like a space alien that looks just like Jesus Christ (as described in the New Testament Book Revelations, bloody robes and riding a lamb) who blunderingly lands his flying saucer in front of the Vatican on Easter Sunday. This alien then displays magical technologies, and is coincidentally accompanied by 400 and change of his “angels.” The alien soon realizes that Europe has been caught in a military tournament between the United States and Russia for most of the last century, and that there’s a long standing mythology about a returning Messiah which he can cloak himself in, who then sets about changing and exploiting all that. What the happy Europeans don’t realize, as they see both American and Russian armies crushed, is that the Space Alien is planning on setting himself up as the king of Rome afterwards.


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Written by Mitch Waxman

July 26, 2018 at 11:00 am

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