Comment (s) Of The Day: P.M. Lawrence And Steve-O-in NJ On “Stolen Lands”

BLM Thanksgiving

It’s not as if a racist, Marxist, anti-American organization like Black Lives Matter has to try to be obnoxious, but nonetheless, it treated Thanksgiving celebrants with that holiday message this week. Normally Comment of the Day posts that arrive in an Open Forum are accorded guest blogger honors, but I couldn’t figure out a clean way to unlink the two comments presented here. I apologize to P.M. and Steve.

The “stolen lands” indictment has rankled me for a long, long time, and the two Ethics Alarms regulars between them have done an excellent job of covering the issue.

First up is Steve-O; P.M. Lawrence will take over later.


steal [stēl] VERB [stolen (past participle)}: 1. take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it. “Thieves stole her bicycle” ·
synonyms: theft · thieving · thievery · robbery · larceny · burglary · shoplifting · pilfering ·
2. dishonestly pass off (another person’s ideas) as one’s own. “Accusations that one group had stolen ideas from the other were soon flying”
synonyms: plagiarize · copy · pass off as one’s own · infringe the copyright of · pirate · poach · borrow · appropriate

conquer [ˈkäNGkər] VERB 1. overcome and take control of (a place or people) by use of military force. “The Magyars conquered Hungary in the Middle Ages”
synonyms: defeat · beat · vanquish · trounce · annihilate · triumph over · be victorious over · best · get the better of · worst · bring someone to their knees · overcome · overwhelm ·

So tell me, which of the above definitions more accurately reflects what happened here in the US? To steal something from someone, the other person must first possess it. Can you really steal from those who don’t believe anyone can own land? Not really. But you can conquer that area.

Unfortunately, history is almost nothing but conquests. It’s not the story of people becoming friends. History has been about conquests since Sargon of Akkad conquered the Sumerians and since Joshua led the Hebrews over the Jordan to attack and take the city of Jericho. In fact, if you go all the way back to the earliest Biblical stories, the Hebrews first came to be when and because a sheik in the Bronze Age Mesopotamian city of Ur answered a call that came directly from the man upstairs promising him the land originally promised to Caanan, grandson of Ham, because Ham proved himself unworthy by seeing Noah drunk and uncovered in his tent and doing nothing about it. Most of the rest of the Old Testament is about the Hebrews getting, losing, and getting back the land promised to them by God. Most of us grew up reading of Joshua bringing the walls of Jericho down and cheering on David as he stood up to Goliath, giving Saul’s army the chance to defeat the Philistines, and never once asking the question of whether they were right. However, come to the modern state of Israel, and suddenly it’s stolen land, stolen from the Palestinians, who were never a nation to begin with, and at any rate were Johnny-come-latelys since the Caananites, Hebrews, Seleucid Greeks, Romans, Persians (briefly), Byzantines, Crusaders, and Turks had the territory before them.

The fact is that it’s not really about the Israelis, the Palestinians, or any of these other folks who previously occupied the land now known as Israel. It’s about politics, and about delegitimizing the State of Israel, which the left hates for a lot of reasons, like being a strong US ally, like not putting up with terrorism, like standing up to Iran now and Saddam Hussein in his day. By proxy, it’s about delegitimizing the State of Israel’s supporters here, by calling them thieves, murderers, and so on, while telling bs stories about the warm, welcoming Palestinian people who do nothing but get victimized.

Yes, the Americas were conquered. Yes, the Indians got the short end of the stick pretty much every time. That’s what had happened pretty much every time in history that a less developed society took on a more developed one, like the Ethiopians with simple bows and clubs fighting the more organized and better armed Egyptians, or the chaotic and in some cases nomadic Irish facing the heavily armored and armed Normans (in fact the Irish word gallowglass, for armored infantry, comes from the Gaelic words for “gray stranger” reflecting the mail armor of the Normans, which was new to a lot of them).

The western hemisphere was never going to stay undiscovered forever. The Indians were not peaceful tree-huggers, although some were more peaceful than others. Those tended to get knocked about, conquered, sacrificed, and even eaten by those who were not, i.e. the Iroquois in North America, the Caribs in the islands, and the Aztecs in Mexico. Everything was against them once Columbus landed, immunities, demographics, technology, everything. By the time Pontiac’s Rebellion ended at Bushy Run, three new settlers came for every one the Indians killed, while every Indian brave lost in battle was close to irreplaceable. That wasn’t theft, that was flat-up conquest in a war that Pontiac and his compatriots lost because they had neither the numbers nor the weaponry to defeat the forces of the British Empire.

As with the attacks on Israel, the stolen land theme wielded against the United States is about politics, and about the Left trying to shame the rest of us for what was inevitable and unavoidable.


P.M. Lawrence takes it from here with some clarifications, contentions, and complications….


“Can you really steal from those who don’t believe anyone can own land? Not really.”

This is at the heart of the whole Terra Nullius argument here in Australia. I looked into it and came to certain conclusions:-

(1.) It is accurate as far as it goes, but only as regards land proper* It is no coincidence that these words are conceptually as well as lexicographically related.and in a narrow technical way that omits certain things.

(2.) The effective reversal here of the Terra Nullius argument by the Mabo decision created more issues, which have not yet all matured and shown their consequences but which I will cover in point (4.) below.

(3.) You certainly can “steal from those who don’t believe anyone can own land”, you just can’t steal land as such from them. For instance, most Australian aborigines (not Eddie Mabo’s lot) believed that the proper *subject matter of property* rights was women, weapons and dogs, not necessarily in that order, so anyone freeing their women was – in their eyes – stealing them.

(4.) Aboriginal cultures can be construed as having had property* rights that operated in relation to land, such as hunting rights, even though those rights did not emanate from land owning as such and were vested communally or collectively rather than individually (see also our own history of the Enclosure of the Commons and the Highland Clearances, and look at the interplay of Brehon Law and the Penal Laws in various stages of the pacification of Ireland). To the extent that these property* rights existed and were infringed upon, they could and should have been compensated for, e.g. with properly* negotiated quitclaims and/or quitrents – concepts that hark back to dealing with very similar topics in our own history. Without that, there was indeed stealing.

(5.) It often backfires when there are attempts at compensation that work through treating those other cultures’ property (It is no coincidence that these words are conceptually as well as lexicographically related) subject matter concepts as though they are our concepts. This happened quite often and far earlier when there was an attempt to do the right thing from the beginning, e.g. British handling of Ryotwary in India and the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand (where things overheated a generation later, when British outright land purchase came up against Maori sale of lifetime enjoyment without prejudice to heirs’ rights – think entailment, and get a wider insight into our own lost customary practices by reading Meir Kohn’s work on preindustrial European finance at

More importantly for us today, attempts at setting things right that way are a form of unintended cultural imperialism, in that they force the compensated to start working with unfamiliar concepts. This is a big deal as it creates a pathway to alienation as the new owners have trouble hanging on (see the Indian allotment movement in the U.S.A. I came across this when I was attempting to research the English allotment movement that aimed at setting up potato grounds and similar for the support of the poor, only to find that U.S.-centric internet search engines kept steering me wrong.). And precisely that is hitting aborigines in Australia who are being given land rights “back” as though they were Eddie Mabo’s lot even when they are not. Almost as soon as they find themselves land owners, many find themselves hit with hefty local land tax bills they do not have the liquidity to cover as they have not enjoyed the yield long enough to gain that, and they have trouble getting capital on decent terms and/or knowing how not to lose it (land tax being an exception to actual property* rights in land that has encroached on land ownership in our culture over time, but which would have struck many other cultures as outrageous theft).

For what it’s worth, with the possible exception of the Jackson Purchase of the western parts of Kentucky and Tennessee, every last square inch of the U.S.A. was on one or more occasions either stolen outright, obtained under the colour of purchase after the application of duress, or obtained from others with no better title – and, considering that, the funds for the Jackson Purchase are of dubious origin. Of course, there is nothing special about the U.S.A. in this; have a look at the Declaration of Arbroath sometime….

19 thoughts on “Comment (s) Of The Day: P.M. Lawrence And Steve-O-in NJ On “Stolen Lands”

  1. Two more data sources:
    “ Whose Land Did Native Americans Steal Before Europeans Stole It From Them?” A succinct discussion of the topic that nobody seems to want to address.

    “ Ancient Civilizations of North America” ( An outstanding 24-lecture Great Courses course on the history of North and Central America from the land bridge crossing until the time of European arrival. History without an agenda. Unknowns (quite a few of them) are highlighted. It discusses the richness and features of the civilizations without romanticizing them. The information presented is fascinating, but also covers the good & less good aspects of the cultures and their development..TL;DR – it’s really an educational course.

  2. Regarding Steve-O’s comment: I wish this reality had been taught in the schools I attended growing up. Instead, I was taught to be ashamed of U.S. history and, in particular, of being white (Berkeley, CA in the 70’s — my elementary school was, and is still, called “Malcolm X Elementary”). I’ve spent half my life wishing I was anything other than who I am. The only silver lining is that it’s driven me towards holding a much more conservative perspective (and there’s no one as zealous as the convert).

    • One out of two isn’t bad. But you are wrong about Iceland: there were already some Irish there when the Norse arrived, quite possibly monks though just possibly a more self-sustaining settlement with women (we can’t distinguish them through genetic tests as the Norse stole women like that elsewhere anyway), and the Norse got rid of them in the usual way. And Argentina lays claim to large parts of Antarctica that other countries do not recognise as belonging to it, so there is scope for land theft there in the future (depending on who gains the point and who begrudges that).

      Also, you might want to add the sub-antarctic and arctic islands like the Kerguelen and Svalbard archipelagoes, the former of which shipwrecked mariners proved can be inhabited for quite some time.

    • Fuck, I find those tedious…. It seems like I can’t attend any corporate gathering without at least one “ally” using their introduction time to self flagellate over their whiteness and signal their billion-lumens-strong virtue to the gathering.

      I don’t think it’s appropriate. We’re there on work time, to discuss work issues. There’s a fundamental lack of respect for the entire gathering inherent in wasting their time on performative political statements.

  3. Quick question, if BLM really believes that stolen land narrative, they certainly would discourage blacks from receiving a single acre, much less 40, from the government should the occasional demand for that historical suggestion become a reality, right?

    See BLM the Organization doesn’t care about justice for Native Americans any more than it cares about real change for black citizens. It just wants to destroy.

    • Partly right. It wants to destroy, intimidate and control. Just like the IRA started as independence-minded patriots and devolved into gangsterism, BLM is really just a large criminal gang.

      • The I.R.A. didn’t start that first way and didn’t become that second way; everything was and is blurrier. Not only is each sketch exaggerated but also both aspects were there at both the beginning and the end, with gangster methods early on and principled objectives even now, whether you share the principles or not (think “when you are fighting alligators, it is hard to remember you are there to drain the swamp”).

        • I DON’T share the principles, as you are no doubt aware. Michael Collins was a MASTER of asymmetrical warfare and the use of counterintelligence who also believed he could then take violence out of Irish politics once independence was achieved. Unfortunately, he didn’t grasp that 1.once you light that revolutionary fire it’s damned hard to make sure it doesn’t burn out of control, and 2. when you give those who already have a propensity for solving problems with violence free reign to use it, they won’t stop using it to solve their problems just because you tell them to, and if you do, they may decide, as they did in his case, that YOU are now one more problem to be solved the same way they solved all the others. If they turned on and killed their own equivalent of Alexander the great (also a young and charismatic leader who stepped in where the elder generation had fallen short). It shouldn’t come as any surprise that they were willing to do a lot worse, including allying with out-and-out tyrants.

          If you want to defend the indefensible, then go right ahead, but understand, you will never change my mind. I almost risked everything in a fight with a coworker over this issue and I told him when he ceased to be a coworker that if I ever saw him again I would kill him over that argument.

  4. Good ones, as usual Steve-O and P.J.!

    Tangential, especially for Steve-O: Thought of you and gave you a mental shoutout on Friday when we visited the tomb of your favorite old “land-thief” (/sarc), Columbus in Seville. You’ll be glad to know he’s not anywhere near cancelled in some places, and has an unusually impressive sarcophagus.

    (Sorry if this shows up twice…thought I had posted it earlier, but my wifi is spotty at present).

    • The cathedral in seville, remade from a mosque by Saint Ferdinand, who also lies buried there, is on my bucket list of places to visit.

  5. ***

    steal [stēl] VERB [stolen (past participle)}: 1. take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right

    When the “stolen” accusation post up in discussions, I often respond that the Europeans obtained land under the same rules/procedures used by the previous occupants…their long-established equivalent of laws, or legal system, if you will. That is, they bartered for the land, and/or took and held what they had the ability to take and hold. Usually, I get no rebuttal, because, well, there really is none. Occasionally, there will be a whining response that involves some misuse of the word fair”.

  6. Ah… except that they were often not simply participating in the established custom but undermining it after using it. For instance, see my mention of the Maori, above: the British did indeed buy Maori land fair and square, but then they didn’t give it back fair and square later, as the sort of generational jubilee approach of the Maori required. Think “that statement is no longer operative”.

    Now, that was inadvertent and not what was intended, as perhaps was the Zionist grubbing up of date and olive groves on Palestinian land bought from absentee owners, even though local custom held those groves to be property distinct from the land and not part and parcel of it. But it was definitely deliberate when the French did such things as part of their colonialism, under the guileless name of “peaceful penetration” (and they also used tricks, that they had learned the hard way themselves in the French Revolution, to pay for things with currency they themselves controlled).

    The thing is, there is a sort of ratchet effect in using the rules and then changing them in a way that kicks the ladder away. There is a “failure of substratum”, as the system stops being there to underpin things after that.

    By the way, there are many parallels between that French penetration and what modern globalisation is doing to us, and how it is doing it. Either those doing it are fools who don’t know what they are doing or knaves who do.

      • I am going to assume that that is a serious question, as no serious enquirer would beg the question by building in the assumption that there is no such place, or perform a bait and switch by moving the goalposts from “place” to “nation” (I need only address the looser criterion for my present purposes).

        I direct your attention to Macaulay’s famous essay on the Civil Disability of the Jews, which he adapted from parliamentary speeches on the topic in the 1830s or thereabouts. In that, he pooh poohs the suggestion of a sceptic that giving the Jews the vote could lead to the emergence of a lobby working against British interests to enable Jews to settle in or even take over Palestine, as something too ridiculous even to argue with – and he actually uses that word for that place. And that shows that the term has a history dating a long way back.

        Now, you may well assert, as accurately (then) and as irrelevantly as Metternich did of Italy and Churchill adapted to India, that Palestine is “not a country but a geographical expression like the equator”, and you may well succeed in that misdirection as they did not, but for my present purposes it does not matter. I have identified a place for the purposes of using its customs and history to bring out a wider point, and “nation” has nothing to do with it.

        • Palestine isn’t even an Arab term. It’s a name imposed by the Romans after the sack of Jerusalem and dispersal of the Jews. Until fairly recently Jews were forbidden to pass under the arch in Rome built to the conqueror, lest they lose their Jewish status. The Byzantines, Crusaders and Turks continued to use it for the geographic area because they picked it up from the Romans, although the Crusaders broke it up into the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the County of Acre, the County of Edessa, etc. However, as far as the Jews are concerned, it was never anything but Israel, no matter what other lies were imposed and no matter who tried to stamp them out. Your use of the term “Zionist” betrays what you think and where you are coming from, and I reject that position utterly. There was never an independent Arab nation of “Palestine.” Before 1948 Egypt controlled the Gaza strip and there were no “Palestinians” there. Before 1948 the Kingdom of Transjordan, later Jordan, controlled the West Bank and there were no “Palestinians” then. The Arabs in Israel made the mistake of walking out as soon as the State of Israel came into being at midnight on May 14, 1948, thinking Israel would get wiped out in the subsequent attacks by the neighboring Arab states, but, they backed the wrong horse, and found themselves locked out. So they rebranded as “Palestinians,” wailing over their deep bond with their stolen land, fighting for their “liberation” and bringing their message to lefty useful idiots the world over, some of whom actually believe this nonsense, many of whom just use it as a bludgeon against the State of Israel because it is disfavored by the left and another way to weaken the US position there.

          And shame on you for trying to equate this with the unification of Italy in 1871 and the end of the British Raj in India in 1947. The Italians were brave enough and honorable enough to stand up to the Austrians on the battlefield and win in honest combat then, and at the diplomatic table later (although admittedly there was some realpolitik with bringing in the French, who didn’t exactly act honorably after Solferino). The partition of India was an empire that couldn’t and didn’t want to hold on any longer letting go and the former subjects figuring out on their own (unfortunately not without violence) how they were going to rule the new nation, which ultimately became plural as intractable religious issues resulted in separation into a Muslim nation which took the name the Republic of Pakistan and a mostly Hindu nation, which took the long-used name and became the Republic of India. The three situations aren’t even close in any way.

          So the only question is which are you? Are you a true believer in the “Palestinian” cause, as I suspect from your borderline anti-Semitic comments about “land-grubbing Zionists,” which are really uncomfortably close to “money-grubbing Jews?” Or are you a lefty jumping on that cause because Israel is first and firmest among only a handful of American allies in the region? While I’m asking questions, which is closer to your desk, your signed picture of Helen Thomas or your map with “Palestine” written in broad strokes of red marker over where Israel is?

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