Where are we going, where is civilization taking us? Maybe we should have stayed savage?

The word need not be pejorative. European “discoverers” of America in the 15th and 16th centuries conquered, massacred and pitilessly enslaved the “subhuman” “Indians” — “Indians” because Columbus thought he was in “the Indies” — but accorded them too a grudging respect out of which grew the concept of the “noble savage.” Columbus wrote of them, “They are so ingenuous and free with all they have, that no one would believe it who has not seen it; of anything that they possess, if it be asked of them, they never say no; on the contrary, they invite you to share it and show as much love as if their hearts went with it.”

Cannibals they may have been, some of them, but French essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533-92) found himself more appalled by his fellow Christians who burned heretics alive at the stake: “I think there is more barbarism in eating men alive than to feed upon them being dead; to mangle by tortures and torments a body full of lively sense, to roast him in pieces... under pretense of piety and religion, than to roast and eat him after he is dead.”