Should a Map With North on the Top Offend You? It Is Racist and Imperialistic, Don’t You Know?
[Updated: 1 March 2014, added quote from Seth Godin that was missed first time around]
Explorers’ Monument in Fremantle, Western Australia
THIS PLAQUE WAS ERECTED BY PEOPLE WHO FOUND THE MONUMENT BEFORE YOU OFFENSIVE.
THE MONUMENT DESCRIBED THE EVENTS AT La GRANGE FROM ONE PERSPECTIVE ONLY:
THE VIEWPOINT OF THE WHITE ‘SETTLERS’
NO MENTION IS MADE OF THE RIGHT OF ABORIGINAL PEOPLE TO DEFEND THEIR LAND OR OF THE
HISTORY OF PROVOCATION WHICH LED TO THE EXPLORERS’ DEATH.
THE ‘PUNITIVE PARTY’ MENTIONED HERE ENDED IN THE DEATHS OF SOMEWHERE AROUND TWENTY ABORIGINAL PEOPLE
THE WHITES WERE WELL ARMED AND EQUIPPED AND NONE OF THEIR PARTY WAS KILLED OR WOUNDED.
THIS PLAQUE IS IN MEMORY OF THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLE KILLED AT LA GRANGE. IT ALSO COMMEMORATES ALL
OTHER ABORIGINAL PEOPLE WHO DIED DURING THE INVASION OF THEIR COUNTRY
LEST WE FORGET MAPA JARRIYA-NYALAKU
~ Plaque added to Explorers’ Monument in Fremantle, Australia
Do any of us seriously believe that people will come up in the second resurrection and everything will instantaneously be all peace and love? After all, Satan will be put away, Christ will be reigning, and there will have been 1,000 years to prepare for the event. Right?
People are going to have thousands of years of offenses and biases to overcome. All sorts of people have been enslaved, killed, raped, oppressed, etc. They will have to learn to forgive. They will have to learn to ask for forgiveness too. Really, that covers everyone who was ever born, for everyone has wrongfully offended someone else; no exceptions.
Our country, as I stated in the last article on offenses, has people who have made a living of stoking the flames of offense. Many have become overly sensitive to criticism and believe it is their “right” to such-and-so, regardless of whether or not it really is.
And, it goes to extremes. People seriously make mountains out of molehills. Just this month, there have been various news articles on people being offended over something or other:
PETA Offended Over Chickens Killed in Truck Wreck
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution online, “PETA wants monument honoring chickens killed in Gainesville truck wreck“. GDOT sells little white signs for $100 for commemorating individuals killed in accidents, which they believe is a lot less distracting than the makeshift memorials you often see along the sides of the roadways. A member of PETA in Georgia wants to purchase one for the chickens killed during the accident, even though, as far as anyone knows, the petitioner is not related to the chickens.
How About Some Cornbread and Watermelon with That Chicken?
My first thought over the “Controversy Surrounds Lunch Menu at Concord High School” was, “What bonehead thought that was a good idea?” Reportedly, students at the school thought it was a good idea to celebrate Black History Month with a lunch of fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon.
It seemed boneheaded. Initially, anyhow. My thoughts got going in a slightly different direction, however, once I heard this:
University of San Francisco professor James Taylor said he can see why some students and teachers would be offended, even though the lunch may have been well-intentioned.
“Chicken, watermelon, collard greens — these stereotypes of black Southern culture that come from the same place where the N-word comes from,” he said.
Really? Food is linked to the “N word”? So, when a poor black mother feeds her kids collard greens, is she demeaning her children? Is there any depth that the “news” media won’t go in order to find someone with some ax to grind to interview and cause a stir?
That got me thinking. I don’t recall any Germans crying racism over “Octoberfest” celebrations with beer, sausage and sauerkraut. And, this is in spite of the fact that it is usually American beer, Polish sausage and some pickled cabbage thing that is nothing like real Kraut.
While how much German is really in my ancestry is quite debatable, it is not debatable that I have Scottish-Irish on one side and Irish on the other. Should I be offended that St Patrick’s Day is usually filled with the stereotypical corned beef and cabbage? In this case, it is not even a correct stereotype at all! Beef was quite expensive in Ireland, so meals of the poor were normally bacon and cabbage, since bacon was cheaper than beef! However, once they hit the shores of America, the situation was reversed. Corned beef was cheap, but bacon was not.
Oh, and I also have quite a bit of American Indian on both sides. When I go and buy Indian jewelry and such, it is a specific craft. I suppose you could say it is a stereotypical craft, in fact. Is “Indian jewelry” racist?
Do you see where I am going? Where do you draw the line?
However, I am just warming up! Just in case there is anyone out there that still does not get the point, did you know that maps are racist?
It’s the White Man’s (“Anglo-Europeans”, to be exact) Fault
I doubt I was aware of it, and it came from an interesting source, but apparently the reason, according to some agitators, that maps have north on top are because the Anglo-Europeans created the maps and therefore wanted to give their lands prominence.
I say the source was interesting, for it was an Al Jazeera article that pretty much blew that theory out of the water, albeit there were some significant facts left out. According to “How the north ended up on top of the map“:
The McArthur map [which shows the southern hemisphere at the top] also makes us wonder why we are so quick to assume that Northern Europeans were the ones who invented the modern map — and decided which way to hold it — in the first place. As is so often the case, our eagerness to invoke Eurocentrism displays a certain bias of its own, since in fact, the north’s elite cartographic status owes more to Byzantine monks and Majorcan Jews than it does to any Englishman.
Notice how the assumption is that the colonial invaders were the ones who created the maps, and so maps are somehow tainted by bigotry as a result. However, the article states that is not necessarily the case.
He goes on to show that ancient maps, including Europeans ones, often did not have north at the top. In fact, Europeans seemed to often put East at the top, apparently for some sort of pseudo-religious reasons. In addition, maps were often done with Jerusalem and Italy alike assumed to be at the equator. They are on the same parallel, it seems, and Jerusalem was assumed to be the “center of the earth”.
Meanwhile, Arabic maps usually had south on the top of their maps because the compass pointed south. The idea that the compass pointed south instead of north was also an assumption by the Chinese before sea exploration.
However, Ptolemy in the 2nd century AD had laid out a rigid approach to map making, which involved intersecting lines on a flattened curve. His maps had north on the top. Cartographers fell in love with Ptolemy’s methods, and the rest has been a deviation of this.
For reasons that have been lost to history, Ptolemy put the north up. Or at least that’s the way it appears from the only remaining copies of his work, made by 13th century Byzantine monks. On the one hand, Ptolemy realized that, sitting in Alexandria, he was in the northern half of a very large globe, whose size had been fairly accurately calculated by the ancient Greeks. On the other hand, it put Alexandria at the very bottom of the inhabited world as known to Ptolemy and all the main civilizational centers in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean.
The article is not without its faults, however. For one thing, the author first says the place of prominence, at least for those who read left to right, is the upper left-hand corner, but then contradicts that by saying US cartographers put the Midwest in the center as the “place of pride”.
Secondly, the author shows his own bias by saying that the McArthur map shouldn’t be dismissed “too quickly.” Why? Because “the global south continues to suffer more than its share of violence and poverty”. Huh? Turning our maps upside down is somehow going to fix that?
Thirdly, he almost glosses over the fact that the majority of explorers lived in the north and had the North Star guiding them. He mentions it almost in passing, but the fact is that the southern hemisphere has no such pole star. It has a constellation, the Southern Cross, but not a stationary star.
Even then, most of the population and land mass of the earth is in the northern hemisphere:
Fourthly, why the poles at all? Why split the map at the ocean? Common sense says that is where less of the earth’s population is, where less of the land mass is, and it makes a certain amount of sense to put those where the most distortion will occur by flattening out a globe into a rectangle. That’s why, while ” it is certainly possible to put North America in the very center by splitting the world in half through Asia”, it makes little sense unless you want to distort the land masses of Asia.
So, yeah, there may have been a little bit of Anglocentrism involved in the evolution of maps, but in reality it was a combination of common sense, recognition of where most of the world’s population lives as well as a dash of politics. More importantly, modern maps were based upon the ideas and processes of an Egyptian rather than an American or European.
I found it actually somewhat interesting, as I’ve never before seen an in-depth writeup on how the current style of maps came to be.
So, what sort of person allows themselves to be offended by a map, a mere piece of paper with informative images on it, anyhow? A very, very thin-skinned one, if you ask me.
What Should Offend a Christian?
Blogger and marketer Seth Godin often comes up with some sayings on Seth’s Blog that go far beyond marketing. I suppose that has a lot to do with his philosophy that marketing should serve the common good and not just those who are out to make money. In “Taking Umbrage” he wrote, “The problem with taking offense is that it’s really hard to figure out what to do with it after you’re done using it.”
Seriously, why would we want to carry such baggage with us into eternity? God makes it clear that He does not want us to.
It should be no secret that God sets an impossibly high standard for His people. Yet, I fully expect that some people reading this will totally disregard that standard. Remember, these are God’s standards, not mine!
165 Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
Literally, it means nothing will be a stumblingblock to them. Not being forgiving is being an impediment. Being overly sensitive is being a stumblingblock to both yourself and others.
Think about why they will have “great peace”. Does “blessed are the peacemakers” ring any bells?
Personally, I think it is quite clear. We are to not seek to offend, nor are we ourselves to be easily offended. Told you it is an impossibly high standard!
The Gospel, of course, is naturally offensive. Jesus is offensive. However, we need to ensure that it is the true message that offends and not we ourselves. Yes, we are to speak the truth, but it seems that that are some who forget about the “in love” part!
All those people who come up in the second resurrection will still have carnal nature to combat. They will have lifetimes of biases, prejudices and resentments to overcome. Can we really help them if we ourselves haven’t mastered this?
I recall a sermon I heard once that had a speculative and somewhat controversial idea in it. Could it be that some of the Jews who died in the Holocaust come up and not be able to forgive Adolf Hitler? I mean, it is possible, right? Can anyone go into the Kingdom without forgiveness? A thousand Hitlers who beg for forgiveness have a better chance of getting into the Kingdom than one victim who cannot forgive. It really is that simple.
We have all sinned and need forgiveness (Ro 3:23).
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
It’s not about whether the offense is justified or not, either. Christ died for our sins. We did not justify ourselves!
Jesus said to love our enemies, even when they willfully persecute and spitefully work against us (Mt 5:44). He did not even say to wait until they asked for forgiveness (for it will likely not come in this lifetime). He did not even say to do so unless they were really, really wrong. No, He simply said to do it!
In order to love, we must forgive, we must be willing to not offend when possible (Ro 12:18), and we must be willing to not allow ourselves to be easily offended.