The Defamation Horde

There was once an online history group that mentioned the common theory that Y. pestis, bubonic plague, was unleashed on the Western world (in which I include Dar al-Islam) by the Mongols. The story went that the southern Chinese knew very well that contact with the carrier of the bacillus, some sort of groundhog, was a seriously bad idea. Along came the Mongol conquerors, who hailed from a completely different biome and so were naturally ignorant of the groundhog’s hitchhiker. Someone ate it, fucked it, or got bitten by it, we don’t know (it’s a theory) and whap, the bacillus found a new host. From here it spread along the trade routes the Mongols had just recently opened up, into populations that had no immunity.

A Mongolian reader became incandescent with rage, on the grounds that his people were being blamed for a Bad Thing. Now, no one was suggesting that the Mongols did all this on purpose. No matter, they were a necessary link in the chain of events that started with a Yunnanese groundhog and ended with the death of a third of Europe. This was an insult to the (proud, glorious, add hi-falutin’ adjectives to taste and stir) Mongolian people, and thereby a personal insult to him, who happened to be the only person of Mongolian ancestry present and therefore entitled to avenge said insult.

I say “personal”, because he took it as such, and sounded as if he would like to sue someone for defamation. Indeed, rather than “avenge” it should perhaps be “profit from”. I think he was a Mongolian-American, and that the name of the game was some kind of compensation to him for what had been said about his remote ancestors, seven hundred years ago.

If that suspicion is correct and the method were to be universalised, things could get interesting. Forget the Native Americans claiming reparations for genocide, any descendant of Christopher Columbus or his shipmates could sue their asses for the mental distress caused by accusing their ancestors of having brought the smallpox.

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