Last year, I made my case for Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) in an effort to put his place in history in perspective and, also, to try and restore his good name.    I want to state my case again in a slightly different way in honor of Columbus Day.

In response to my support of Columbus, I was severely chastised for glorifying a historical figure who some believe represents a sad and villainous chapter in history and who is usually blamed for starting a chain of events that brought hardship, injustice, and death to the native population.   More than 500 years after the fact, some people are still wringing their hands in anger since they choose to view this as just a struggle between villains and victims and they have made the assessment that the first to have arrived always has the paramount right.   Of course, revisionists always look at the victor as the villain who committed all of the atrocities and the vanquished as the helpless and sympathetic victim since it fits their world view that might is never right.   Where this view becomes short sighted is when we look at the big picture of world history.  

Whether or not the native population, at the time, can be claimed to have been indigenous as in having sprung out of the ground so to speak or were just a part of a long history of migrations to North and South America just like Columbus and the Europeans that followed is more of a philosophical question then one with any real historical significance.   Who got here first and how they got here, to me, is irrelevant to the outcome of the power struggle that ensued between these competing migrant populations.      

The reality of world history is that, since the dawn of mankind, competing societies have been struggling with each other over resources and territory and that in every such struggle one group becomes dominant over the other.  These power struggles represent the political and social evolution of the world and are much too complicated to be reduced to just a list of villains and victims.   More significantly, we accept the outcome of these struggles as historical fact and eventually there is no point in judging the victor as being any worse than the vanquished.   

As one such example, Great Britain was “first” populated by Celtic tribes who then were displaced by Germanic invaders who have come to be collectively called Anglo-Saxons.  They, in turn, were conquered by the Normans from France led by William the Conqueror in 1066 which eventually transformed Great Britain into the nation it is today.   Each of these power struggles no doubt were fraught with brutality and atrocities; however, in the long view of world history we accept Great Britain the way it is without judging the means by which it was transformed.   It would be a ludicrous revision of history to now seek to compensate the descendants of those Celtic tribes for the loss of their homeland or provide them with tax free casinos, for example, out of guilt over the hardships their ancestors suffered.

The same kind of brutal struggle has transpired in the history of just about every country in the world and is the natural order of human existence.   Are we going to try and undo or re-write the history of the world so that we can condemn all of the victors in the name of all of the vanquished?   Of course not, since the spoils always go to the victor and it is the victor who gets to write their story such that when it comes to world history the end result always overshadows the means by which it took place.   The point is that the struggle between the European settlers and the so called Native Americans was just one of those human struggles that have defined and shaped our world and the outcome of that struggle is a historical fact that should be accepted without judging the means by which it happened.

I applaud Columbus for his vision and courage to make his voyage and for the results that were accomplished from his first steps.   To me, that courage and those accomplishments are noteworthy and I do not judge Columbus or the means by which the eventual transformation of the North and South American continents took place.

Happy Columbus Day.

On Wednesday, Joe comments on employees who only give a minimum effort in “Minimum Effort Is No Effort”.