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Excerpt from Endgame

Blackberries (p. 794)

From chapter "Like a Bunch of Machines"

The other day I was out with my machete hacking away at blackberries, when I realized that so long as I approach this task the way I do I will never get rid of the berries. I cut them out only when I feel like it, which isn’t all that often. And even when I do, I only take out the blackberries at the edges, where they’re encroaching into territory now held by other plants. I never do get all of them, which means they’re constantly expanding. And since I never go after the roots even the plants I hack come right back. It seems for every vine I take out, ten more vines pop up to take its place. Further, I’m conflicted about taking out even the vines I do. What right do I have to kill these others who are merely trying to live, even as I am trying to live? I feel bad each time I take on the responsibility of killing one, even though I know that when I don’t kill them they kill native plants. So far as I can tell, the blackberries aren’t quite so conflicted about crowding out these others.

Standing here sweating, machete in hand, I think of a few more reasons the Indians were unable to stop the whites from stealing their land. The first is that for most of the Indians fighting and war were not a way of life, but rather avocations. Fighting was something you did for fun, in your spare time. Wars in their cultures were the equivalent of sports in this culture, exciting, scary, strenuous, and not all that dangerous. And when you no longer felt like playing, you went home.308 If one side is psychotically driven to war, and the other fights for fun, guess which side is ultimately going to win? The second is that like me with the blackberries, the Indians did not strike at the root. Their wars were strictly defensive, in that they killed settlers and armies moving onto their landbases. The Shawnee, for example, killed whites moving into what is now Ohio and Kentucky, respectively where the Shawnee lived and hunted. They burned forts on the frontier, but they did not sack Philadelphia. They did not strike at the infrastructure that allowed civilization to expand. If one side is always invading the other’s territory, and the other is forced to fight only defensively, guess which side is ultimately going to win? The third is that the Indians did not fight wars of extermination. If one side fights a war of extermination, and the other does not, guess, once again, which side is going to win?