“Yeah, I remember that from high school,” Brielle said. “But the thing I never understood was how a little group of Spanish soldiers could conquer the whole Aztec Empire.”
“I don’t think there’s one single reason,” Mr. Magundi replied. “It may be that the Spanish, with their horses and their gunpowder, were superior to the Americans, in the same way that a boulder is superior to the man it crushes. It’s also true that the Spanish had as their allies huge numbers of Americans who hated their bloodthirsty and tyrannical Aztec overlords and were itching for a chance to shake them off.
“But the biggest problem for the Americans may have been a certain fatal open-mindedness. The Spaniard who murdered his captives and butchered women and children as if they were cattle was absolutely certain that he was the morally superior being. He deserved to rule. It was not that he compared himself with the Americans and judged himself superior: it never occurred to him that the question could be raised. The Americans, however, did ask the question. In the story of the conquest we see a fatal period of indecision while Montezuma and his court conscientiously debated the question of whether the Spanish were in fact divine, while the Spanish gathered their allies and made themselves invincible. By the time the Americans had figured out that Cortes and his gang were just horrible little men with an insatiable lust for gold, it was too late to get rid of them.
“I don’t really know what the moral of this observation is; or perhaps I do, but I don’t want to think about it.”