Sunday, May 26, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Five - Part Two

Howdy, folks!

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that I'm Catholic.  The Catholic Church has a thoroughly troubled past and present - but it does occasionally hit on a good idea or two.  One idea that the Catholic Church has used with some success over the last two millennia is having spiritual directors.

I don't have a really detailed history of spiritual direction prepped for this post (sorry; I blame having a toddler who has new AFOs and wants to walk now!  Right now!  Why aren't we walking right now? What do you mean your back hurts from bending over to let me clutch your hands?  Immaterial; walking time!), but I think we can wing it.  The idea is Biblical in nature since one could argue that the point of the Epistles is spiritual direction coming from the author to communities.  The rest of the history consists of the exquisitely human habit of asking another human for help when a person hits a wall.

The important bit for this post, though, is that spiritual directors don't live with the people they direct.  In cases where the two people live in the same location like a mother superior and a novice in a convent or monks in an abbey, there's a third spiritual director checking in with the mother superior or elder monk. 

Why is this third person necessary?   

Well, they are needed because of the equally human tendency to find the people you live with to be completely and totally obnoxious.  Everyone has personal quirks.   Everyone also has areas of their spiritual lives that needs improving.  The danger of a spiritual director living with a student is that the director must apply super-human patience and forbearance to suss out the difference between "activity that harms student's relationship with God" and "quirk that drives the director absolutely batty".   It's so easy to try and eliminate the absurdly annoying quirk by labeling it as a sinful activity - or even better - an activity that is slowing the student's progression towards holiness.  Hey, a student might question why sniffling instead of blowing their nose is a sin - but they might take labeling the same activity as a sign of sloth as being plausible.

That's a level of protection needed by consenting, unrelated adults with a mild power differential.  Jasmine Baucham opens an even larger can of worms in "Joyfully At Home"' when she discusses the importance of living at home peacefully with your parents.   The first quote from the fifth chapter sounds like a good Christian home is one part trade school and one part monastery boot camp:

The home is a training ground for life ahead, which entails much humility as we are constantly taught, trained, guided, and directed by Mom and Dad, as we are refined by the Lord, as our besetting sins are cast in the spotlight of everyday life, not hidden from those who knows best; we are sanctified in a way that we were never before. And that's difficult. (pg. 66)

Seriously, the first two clauses of that sentence describe what the first few weeks at a new job are like while the next four clauses describe the initiation period in a monastery (minus the potential promise of a feeling of Zen or ecstatic bliss, of course.) 

Here's the bit I don't understand.  I imagine a person's besetting sins are obvious to their parents by the time the kid is 10 years old or so.  Their issues might be visible even earlier if we think of  "besetting sins" as personality traits that interfere with the person's growth into the person they want to become.  For me, my besetting sin - such as it was - was fear.  I struggled with medical-grade anxiety starting after my brother died when I was four.  In later years, I also struggled with depression, but for me, anxiety is much harder to live with than depression. 

And you know what?  In spite of the fact that I went to public schools before kindergarten and parochial schools for the rest, my parents could list my 'besetting sin' by the time I was 4.5 years old. I assume this is true for the parents of SAHDs as well - but why does this process take the parents of the SAHDs until the girls are in their twenties...or thirties...or beyond?    If the same besetting sins keep cropping up, why should girls believe that their parents' method of spiritual growth will benefit them in their remaining years of single adulthood since those methods failed during their childhood and adolescence?

At what point do parents transfer the responsibility of spiritual growth to their daughters?   Oh, wait.  I forgot.  They never do.  There is apparently never a time where a woman must be responsible for herself.  She's either the ward of her parents or husband.  This is such a grim lifestyle.

The home a place where we can bless those nearest and dearest to us. Even when we're tired of them; when they snap at us; when it's easier to be " slow in anger" to people outside of our immediate family; when we realize it was more fun to hang out with our friends because they didn't know us quite as well as our siblings do, and couldn't see our glaring sin nature as well; when we look at other homes as outsiders and paint the inner workings as the perfect, blissful family unit; or when we forget that, even if there were such a thing as a perfect family, as soon as we entered it, our sin natures would derail the perfection.. (pg. 66)

Wow.  How little time did Jasmine Holmes get to spend with her friends during her teenage years?  I hung out with a fairly normal group of nerds and choir geeks during high school plus my best friend.  I could quite easily - and effectively - list the irritating quirks and personality flaws of my friends as well as I could list the flaws of my siblings or parents.  I am equally sure that those friends could do the same for me.  For example, I hate when people take longer to make a decision than I think they should.  I am also very opinionated - which means I can completely steamroll over people by judging them to be wishy-washy or vague and use that judgement to ignore their need for more time - and their right to take more time to make a decision.  Likewise, I can be impatient and start barking orders at people when I feel a group is spinning their wheels.   On the flip side, I was often more welcoming of new people than some of my friends and more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt during stressful times. 

Hanging out with your siblings can be fun because you have such a deep store of shared memories.  Hanging out with friends can be fun because you have access to a wider store of separate memories and experiences.  The CP/QF false idea that time spent with peers undermines the quality of sibling relationships irritates me.  If the only way that parents can get their siblings to interact peaceably is to cut off all access to peers, the parents need to seriously evaluate what has gone wrong in the way they run their home!   

The Calvinist obsession with smashing the depravity of human nature all the time gets old.  I don't mind the message of "we are all flawed sinners" - because we are.  We all make mistakes.  We all react in ways that hurt one another.  Because of that - no family is perfect.   Another way to look at it is that the peaceful home viewed from a distance may well feel stodgy or confining from the inside or an active family may be exhausting once inside.   Ms. Holmes' quote, though, feels more like a reminder that anyone who questions the status quo should be silenced with a sharp reminder of their own failings - and that's not acceptable, either.   People within a family should be able to discuss their preferences for activities and ways to recharge.   Families may not be able to give everyone what they need at the same time - but there should be a give and take.    In my family, I need quiet time to recharge my batteries, but my tot is far too young to understand that it's a bad time to play with his toys while jabbering loudly so I might put in earplugs or go for a walk.   My husband's ukulele group overlaps with a swim time for me - but I have so many more options for swimming that missing two times a month doesn't feel like a loss.   My husband takes care of my son when I've had a long day and want to eat at the local greasy spoon to recharge by reading a book, chatting with locals, and having downtime without any family members underfoot.   

The next post in this series will be about figuring out how to communicate with your parents as a stay-at-home daughter.....although I'm not sure why SAHDs haven't already figured that out previously.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Five - Part One


Spring has finally arrived in Western Michigan.  I received my yearly shipment of tomato and pepper plants which are hardening off on the front porch right now - and I'm not living in fear that they will be frost-nipped.  I've gotten a late start on my cold-weather crops but they are growing in a part-sun space this summer so I think they'll do alright. 

I've started a section of parsnips.  I love growing parsnips - with one caveat.  Be sure that you like parsnips AND like parsnips growing in the bed you start them in because that bed will be the domain of parsnips forever afterward.   For example, I seeded a raised bed with parsnips at my in-laws' house six years ago.  The last time I did anything to that bed was a week before my son was born when I harvested a late fall crop in hopes of switching from a frantic and often forgotten spring harvest to a fall harvest schedule.   We're still getting parsnip seedlings in that bed six years after seeding and after three years of benign neglect.  I view my new parsnip section as a perennial bed - and that makes me happy.

I've added two more pseudo-perennial beds this year: tomatillos and sunflowers.  I think the correct term for these is strongly self-seeding annual plants - but they act like mildly invasive perennials in garden beds.  I like that habit because I have a weedy, gravelly area between our backyard and the farm yard that just looks grim.  Sunflowers will do pretty well there and I like watching all the different spontaneous crosses that happen.  A favorite from my inlaws' patch was a 8-10 foot tall scarlet sunflower with a good sized terminal flower that also produced little flowers along the axials.   Tomatillos are a nice, somewhat leggy plant, that grows to between 2-3 feet tall/round, will cover itself in small yellow flowers and grow green fruits in abundance.    Hopefully, I'll get enough fruits for two canner loads of salsa verde.

I'm enjoying my job at a home improvement store a lot.  While I had originally applied to be a cashier, I feel like I dodged a bullet by accepting a position in the paint department.  I like staying busy during a shift; having nothing to do makes time drag.  Unlike my previous cashiering job, the amount of work for cashiers at the home improvement store is flood-or-famine.  There are either a million people who need to be checked out - or no one.   Now, the paint department has moments - and sometimes hours - of floods of people who need paint, but having a few aisles of merchandise that must be stocked means I always have something else to do once everyone has gotten their paint fix for the day.

Having a job that lets me get out of the house for 25 hours a week along with the return of outdoor chores sits strangely with Chapter Five of Jasmine Baucham's book "Joyfully At Home".  In this chapter, Ms. Baucham tries to give detailed advice for young women living at home to make their lives less boring.

And, really, that's the irreducible problem of the stay-at-home daughterhood (SAHD) movement.  Being a housemaid, classroom aide, sous chef,  and nanny for your mother while being an intern/go-fer for your father's business makes a bit of  sense when you are 12-16 and no sense at all once you are 22-26.  The thought of being twenty years into life as a household servant and ministry underling like Sarah Maxwell, Jana Duggar, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin are fills me with stultifying boredom interlaced with dread for the future.

Apparently, though, no one thought that permanent SAHDhood was on the table when they started according to Jasmine Baucham:
When we first decided to shift our focus, to turn our hearts towards home, we were enthusiastic in vibrant, purposeful and driven, meticulous and focused, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. We had a grasp of the bigger picture: a vision for the home as a hub of ministry and discipleship, as a training ground for life ahead, as a place where we can bless those nearest and dearest to us, and in turn, turn that blessing outward, towards others in our church and in our community. (pg. 66)

My translation is that the SAHD advocates figured they'd be living at home for a few years while picking up tricky skills in cooking, cleaning and toddler-wrangling - but mostly enjoying good, clean, wholesome company with fellow church members as they did ministries that kept their young female minds safe and didn't require any advanced education.   Around the time that living at home became tedious - one year? three years? - they'd meet Prince-Charming-Of-Correct-Theology-Without-Baggage.   A chaste, romantic courtship would cement the SAHD's purity credentials while showing off how much of a better wife she'd be since she already knows how to sort laundry and roast a chicken unlike those slatternly college-graduates who are working and must not, therefore, be able to wash clothing or cook poultry.   She'd demurely walk down the aisle dressed in white - a deserved white wedding unlike those college graduates who have kissed a man before! - and start an easy, pain-free middle class life with their bevy of well-behaved kids and enough income to make being a SAHM look easy.

Well, with the benefit of time, there's two ways this story ends. 

The lucky SAHDs manage to be found by Prince Charming and start their own families.  Mrs. Holmes' website is a bit wonky right now, but she alludes to how hard it was for her to be newly married, recovering from a miscarriage, moving frequently for job opportunities and living in a rural place with a newborn and a husband who worked long hours to support their family of three.  Jill and Jessa Duggar have had similar trajectories, although their financial situation have been mitigated by a television show and the largess of the Duggar real estate business.

For the rest of the SAHDs, they learned eventually that 'the training ground for life ahead' was far more literally settling into the role of dependent daughter for the remainder of their parents' productive lives. WIth the sole exception of the Mally Sisters, SAHD never switch into an outreach beyond their immediate family or possibly a carefully curated experience like running a Bible study group for kids.  It's a pretty grim scenario.

In a deliciously funny twist, 19-year old Ms. Baucham attempts to blame the tedium of being a stay-at-home daughter on society at large:
The home is a hub for ministry and discipleship. Perhaps you haven't found your niche yet. Ministry in and from the home is something that you're still getting used to. Turning your focus outward instead of inward is a difficult journey in the individualistic society we live in. You're used to focusing on your own plans, and now you're working as part of a team. It's difficult to adjust. (pg. 66)

Let me see if I understand the basic assumptions in this paragraph:

Assumption One: Most CP/QF teenage girls who have been homeschooled and sheltered are confident and secure with their role in the wider society but are completely adrift in their own family structure.   They've been happily fulfilling their dreams of becoming feminist union leaders (or androgynous statist Marxist in Botkin terms ) without any guidance from their parents - but are completely baffled by the idea of cooking dinner, watching their younger siblings and folding church bulletins.

Assumption Two: An "Outward" focus means collapsing your goals to fit within 1950's gender stereotypes for white, middle-class, married women with a college education because Jesus wants that.

Assumption Three: These teenage or young adult women have never been on a team before - despite living with siblings in a homeschool environment.

So...either CP/QF daughterhood is a whole lot more rebellious than I've ever seen before - or this paragraph is a sad attempt to blame 'the world' for the fact that doing the same thing every day is borning.

This next quote is still a favorite of mine because the SAHD movement is full of young women who independently learn that Betty Friedan was right - without ever picking up the irony:

We can also be a blessing to those in our church and community. Hospitality. Service. Cooking. Cleaning. It may seem romantic when debutantes on the 1950s TV shows don June Cleaver aprons and get to hacking, but perhaps cooking just isn't your forte, cleanliness and organizational skills don't come easy to you, and social climates make you antsy and nervous. You have just realized that, no, because you decided to embrace the high calling of a keeper at home does not mean that your heart thrills at the sight of dirty dishes. (pg. 66)

One of the major themes of second-wave feminism was that expecting women to be intellectually satisfied with a life that consisted of cooking, cleaning, mild community volunteerism, and raising a few kids was crazy-making for a lot of women. Throughout time and place, women and men have worked together to feed, clothe, and shelter their children while caring for dependent adults.  The introduction of a cash economy weakened women's labors compared to men's since women's work produced no wages- but women's labor often allowed cash to be saved, stretched or supplemented.  The Victorian Era brought the idea of ensconcing women in a safe, home bubble protected from the sullying influences of economic marketplace - but the number of women who were wealthy enough to live that dream were dwarfed by the number of women who worked as servants, merchants, or factory workers. The economic collapse of the 1930's followed by the uncertainty and demands of the 1940's war era were stressful - but at least women mattered during that time.    The 1950's in the US created a short-lived economy where most white men could support their wife and family on one income regardless of educational level of the man.   This was the first time that the Victorian Era ideals could be realized without huge numbers of women working as servants thanks to technological innovations like electricity. 

 And what was the outcome?  Unending boredom for women.

It turns out that no one really enjoys doing the same chores everyday.  Even worse, once kids are in school, a woman had eight hours of time to fill - and there just aren't that many chores for a suburban housewife.

For CP/QF wives, the picture is slightly more exciting.  Pregnancy can be a grind - but babies are an instant source of public approval.  Newborns are a lot of work - but the sleep deprivation takes the edge off of boredom.   Older babies and toddlers are a lot of work - and they create more work as they explore their surroundings - but that does limit the boredom of empty time.  Plus, toddlers turn into preschoolers who need a homeschooling mom.  Added bonus: tight finances mean there is never enough of anything to go around - so that's a whole lot more work to conserve and modify what resources a woman has.   

For a CP/QF SAHD, all the work is there - but none of the glory.  Babies reflect praise to their parents, not their teenage sisters.  Toddlers know who has the power in a household - and it's not their older sister.  The Duggar's television show has shown us that sisters who raise their younger siblings can certainly have deep relationships - but those relationships exist at the discretion of the parents and will likely be disrupted by the marriage of the sister eventually.  To me, there is a pathos to the fact that Jessa Duggar Seewald always chooses to have Jennifer who was her "buddy" announce the birth of Jessa's kids to Jessa and Jennifer's siblings.  It's a super-sweet way to keep Jennifer connected to Jessa - but Jessa still had to leave the first daughter she raised behind to have biological kids of her own.    In that respect, I can understand why Jana Duggar may prefer being single since she'd get to be with the kids she's raised until they are fully grown.

My last point: where in the Bible did Jesus advocate domesticity as the epitome of Christian life?  Jesus encouraged people to leave their parents to spread the Good News throughout the land.  He expected his followers to heal, support, and live as members of a larger community.   Yes, there are probably people who do need help cooking, cleaning and taking care of their homes - but is that the only issue a community is facing?  How can a SAHD who becomes a SAHW/M help communities that are struggling to find work?  How can she reach out to people of different economic or cultural backgrounds when she's had less exposure to people than most? 

I think it is important for all people to know enough cooking and cleaning skills to keep their home in order - but people also need to acquire skills to help other people.   The focus on practical human services in CP/QF land like teaching, nursing, social work, community building and advocacy has become squashed into a puerile oversimplification of anti-abortion politics - and that's sad.

In the next post, we learn about the issues when your spiritual advisors are your parents.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

ATI Wisdom Booklet 24: Why Empires Fall - Incas

I haven't done a Wisdom Booklet review in a while.  Honestly, I'd forgotten about them until I got dragged down a rabbit-hole involving figuring out how involved the Duggars are in the revamped version of Bill Gothard's cult known as the Institute in Basic Life Principles which has spawned medusa-like different heads including the ALERT Academy, Journey To The Heart, and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) which produced the Wisdom Booklet series.

My net takeaways from the rabbit-hole digression were:
  • The Duggars are still neck-deep in IBLP with the Maxwells reaping the benefits of being 'independent' but hanging on the Duggar coattails.
  • ALERT has quite a racket going for pseudo-military and emergency readiness training that people can get for cheaper with employable credentials closer to home.  And of course, there is the option of joining the US military - but that's highly discouraged in CP/QF circles.
  • I refuse to go on retreats that do not have any information available about the agenda ahead of time, Journey to the Heart organizers.  Plus, the thought of people being flown into either of the two Chicago airports followed by a 6-7 hour van trip through scenic rural Wisconsin to end up in equally rural Watersmeet, Michigan makes me carsick by proxy.   Flying into Minneapolis/St. Paul drops the drive time by at least an hour (and probably a lot more if you drive 60-70mph on rural roads like people do).
The Wisdom Booklets I've read generally have a misguided history section that I've ignored - but #24's section on why various empires fell is so egregiously horrible that I feel like I could take a shot at it.  I don't have any official history credentials - but most of my casual reading is on historical topics.  I think this one caught my attention because I've been re-reading Jared Diamond's "Collapse" which has a section on the collapse of one area of the Mayan civilization and I doubted that the ATI version would be anything like Diamond's take on the situation.  (Spoiler alert: it isn't.)

I have one criticism or concern about Diamond's works.  Like many popular science authors, his works start to make mistakes when he ventures into areas where he is not as as versed.  For example, in "Collapse", Diamond explores human settlement and failure patterns throughout Oceania. It's a cool chapter - but he wrote it without learning the basics of island biogeography which is the study in biology of why islands support different species.   This leads to a cringe-inducing paragraph where he states that no one knows why islands that are close to each other are less likely to lose all their forest plants than more widely spaced islands.  For an evolutionary biologist like me, that's a head-slap moment.  The widely accepted and demonstrated fact is that islands that are close together send more genetic information (read: seeds of timber palms) to each other than islands farther apart.  In plain English, a palm tree makes floating nuts that can disperse to different islands if caught by a tide.  The likelihood of a single palm nut making it to another island is based largely on the size of the island and the distance.  A big, nearby island will catch a lot of palm nuts; a small, distant island will not.

Having gotten that out of my system, I need to be clear.  If your options are teaching your kid using ATI Wisdom Booklet #24 or Diamond's "Collapse", use "Collapse".  My concerns about "Collapse" are truly academic in that 99% of Americans will live happy, productive lives without ever caring about island biogeography - and that's great!   Using your handy-dandy ATI Wisdom Booklets will teach your kid a bunch of racist lies that are palpably wrong when stated to anyone outside their cult.

The theme for "Why Empires Fall" is amazingly simple.  Step one is that the people do something that annoys Bill Gothard....I mean....God.  Step two is that the empire falls because God has turned away from his people.   Of course, making civilizations in the New World that did not have exposure to Abrahamic religions fit this mold takes some work - but mostly requires some creative editing of history and suspension of disbelief by readers.

The factual information on the skills and achievements of the Inca Empire take up one full column of a page in the ATI booklet.  The information on their downfall takes up 2.5 pages.😖 

 Here's my crash course: the Inca pulled off some amazing architectural gems like Machu Picchu without wheels, without animal pulling power, without a written language, and without hardenable metals.  Their masons were so skilled at dry-fitting stones that buildings have survived for centuries without mortar - and this is an earthquake prone area!  The Inca people built terraces that greatly increased the amount of arable land in a mountainous area.  At the same time, they incorporated irrigation into the design of the terraces.  They built 25,000 miles of road that was passable for humans and pack animals.  They created gorgeous textiles in llama, alpaca and vicuna wools.  The Inca also figured out how to do trepanning procedures with an 80-90% survival rate thank in part to having coca plants and alcohol available for painkillers during the procedures.

I get the purpose of this next selection in connecting the fall of the Inca Empire to ATI's theme of "Displease God and Smiting Will Occur!" - but the implications are seriously weird: 
Um....did ATI just admit that the Latter Day Saints of Jesus Christ were right that pre-Columbian civilizations were visited by Jesus and/or some of the Lost Tribes of Israel?   That feels surprisingly broad minded for fundamentalist Christians.

Oh, wait. 

The purpose of this tall tale is to quash any sympathy for the Incas who were crushed by Divine Wrath.  We all know that it is not fair to hold people accountable for rules that they were unaware of - right?   A merciful God wouldn't crush people who had no opportunity to be converted.  But the Inca Empire did fall so clearly the solution must be that God sent some unknown missionaries to the Incas.  Those missionaries converted some number of Inca but then the Inca went back to their previous religious beliefs and only left some pretty hymns.   That feels more like fundamentalist thought patterns.

Another fundamentalist thought pattern: everything human that is beautiful must be derived directly from the Judeo-Christian Bible. 

Now that we've denigrated their religion enough, the ATI authors dive into another favorite obsession: drugs!
Nope.  There's no sign that the Inca peoples ever made cocaine - meaning the highly concentrated cocaine alkaloid illegal drug.  Some areas did figure out that chewing coca leaves with some ashes (which are a base) would release more of the cocaine alkaloid - but there's a huge difference in strength between the amount of cocaine released by chewing on coca leaves or drinking coca tea compared to snorting cocaine or mainlining it.   It's like comparing eating a poppy seed bagel to taking Oxycontin - palpably ridiculous.

The Inca Empire worked on a barter system with taxes paid through labor to the king.  No one used coca beans as a currency any more than they used wool or ceramics or metals or labor.

So the Incas are now hopped-up on drugs after rejecting the Abrahamic God.  The next quote combines Bill Gothard's hatred of sloth with a great slur on Catholic Spain.

There are so many things wrong with this. 

Let's start with the Achilles' heel of the Inca Empire.  The Inca Empire was greatly overextended for control by a government dependent on human foot speed.   The Incas were not the first empire to have this problem or the last.  The farther away from the seat of government the more likely local discontent is to spread into a rebellion.  Having said that, the Inca Empire was doing pretty well prior to contact with Europeans in 1526.

In 1526, Pizarro and de Almagro contact the Inca Empire before returning to Spain in 1528 after political issues in Panama prevent them from launching another voyage.  In the intervening 18 months, the Europeans had spread one or more contagious epidemic disease to the Incas that the Incas had no immunity to.  These probably included smallpox and/or measles.  Newly contacted populations have had documented losses of 90% of their pre-contact population after exposure to European diseases so it is safe to assume that the Inca Empire was dealing with the destabilizing influence of massive population loss.  In approximately 1528, the Inca Emperor Huayna Capac died of one of those diseases.  This lead to a civil war between two of his sons which ended right before the Pizarros showed up with the rest of the Conquistadors.

Yes, Francisco Pizarro captured Atahualpa Inka who had just put down his brother's rebellion and accepted a huge ransom.  Francisco Pizarro was against the kangaroo trial that the Conquistadors held that found Atahualpa Inka guilty of killing his brother and plotting against the Conquistadors which lead to his execution.  Actually, the trial and execution of a sitting king did not go over well in Europe when the news got back home.  Monarchs had a long history of executing siblings who were traitors to the crown - and seriously - no one really expects people to not fight back against invaders.   Ironically, Pizarro's objections were more pragmatic since there were a whole lot of Incas compared to very few Conquistadors so killing a very valuable hostage seemed like a recipe for disaster.

The Incas were easy prey?  Tell that to the Conquistadors.  It took over 50 years for the Inca Empire to be fully defeated.  I'm not a military historian - but I do think that if the Incas has figured out how horrible horses did in mountain areas a bit sooner the Spaniards would have been failed invaders in spite of hardenable metals, horses, and better resistance to communicable diseases.

Historians don't have a way of qualifying the laziness of a given society but most pre-industrial societies required insane amounts of effort simply to stay alive so I'm gonna give the Inca a pass on this one.
If the authors are going to use child sacrifice as a touchstone for the downfall of the Inca Empire, they should get the details right. 

Yes, the Incas practiced child sacrifice.  The ages of the victims were between infancy and 16 years of age.  The children were picked because they were exceptionally beautiful and without any scars or blemishes so that the people were giving the best children they had back to the gods.  Based on isotopic evidence, the victims were fed very well for months to years prior to being killed.   When it came time for the actual killing, the victims were fed a sedative potion that would knock them out before they were stabbed, strangled or left to die of hypothermia.  The murder of children is never pleasant to think about - and based on the fact that the Incas drugged the kids so heavily - it seems like the Incas wanted their deaths to be as quick and painless as possible. 

Europeans like to act morally superior - but at the same time there were massive amount of abandoned newborns left in dumps or wastelands when their parents couldn't support another child.  The rationale was that the parents didn't actually kill the kids - and there was a chance that someone would rescue the child and raise them - so it wasn't technically murder.  Newborns can be surprisingly robust - so the ATI should spend some time reflecting on the likelihood of newborns taking a few days to die without the benefit of cocaine.

The last sentence ends with "incest, cult prostitution, and other perversions."

The presence of incest in so many royal families is not related to lust; it's related to money and theology.  Once a royal family becomes the living representation of the gods - or demi-gods - or actual gods, marriage partners become tricky to find.   How can a god marry a mortal?  Their kids would be less than divine - so the family starts marrying relatives.   Genetically, humans can survive some inbreeding for a generation or two - but strict inbreeding creates more issues.  The first genetic issue to crop up is often infertility issues.  When marriage partners include a woman in her teens, the couple is likely to end up with a few kids even with subpar fertility - but this also means that the number of related marriage partners drops over time. 

Before ATI members get too haughty, they should look carefully at the royal families of any European country.  Everyone is pretty inbred.   That inbreeding is part of the reason the royal families tend to be very wealthy.  Marrying out of the family is good for breeding purposes, but terrible for wealth management since wealth keeps being diverted to outsiders.

In terms of cult prostitution, I'm curious what scholarly material that the ATI authors had access to that the rest of the world doesn't have.  No one else seems to know about Inca cult prostitution.

Inca textiles are simply amazing at the outset; they were so finely woven that the Inca treated them as treasures worth more than gold or silver.  That kind of weaving takes a lot of work.  So does preparing wool and spinning it.  Remember, the Inca sheared vicunas!  Vicunas are not domesticated because they require two different territories located at substantially different altitudes that they travel between daily for feeding and sleeping and go more than a little bonkers if these territories are denied.  This means Incas were rounded up vicuna herds in the mountains, herding them into pens in the daytime territory, shearing them, and releasing the vicuna to return to the mountains without the help of horses or dogs!  I'm tired just thinking about it.

No, the fall of the Inca Empire fits a more simple pattern. 

European diseases --> depopulation stress and civil war --> conquest by Europeans.   And even with those stresses, it took the Inca Empire over 50 years to fall.  That's impressive in my book.

One final question: Am I the only person who thinks that photo makes more sense as a shot from a Monty Python skit?