HE SAYS:

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”.

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HE SAYS:

Christopher Columbus (Cristoforo Colombo) has gotten a bad reputation over the years and has become the poster boy for all of the injustices that are claimed to have been caused by the European settlers to Native Americans.   I want to set the record straight in honor of Columbus Day.

There are a few people who would like us to believe that because Italy, as a political entity, was established after Columbus, that Columbus, born in Genoa, does not share the ancestral heritage we call Italian.  These people simply fail to appreciate that his Italian heritage is based on centuries of shared cultural experiences and is not dependant on the existence of the unified political entity called Italy at the time of his birth.

There are people who argue that since other explorers had visited the North American continent long before Columbus that his epic journey did not amount to a discovery and should not be recognized.   If we were to adopt such a narrow definition of “discovery” we would have to discount all of the discoveries that have been made over the centuries of things that already existed but were yet unknown such as “new” forms of life or “new” natural elements or the host of other things that exist in the world and still need to be discovered by the probing minds and efforts of those who dare to look.  The point is that Columbus had the vision and courage to find a “new world” that was not known or explored by the Europeans of his era.

There are people who accuse Columbus of exploiting and bringing injustice to the indigenous population.   First, most anthropologists believe that the so called indigenous population had, themselves, migrated to North America during the early expansion of mankind from its initial origins.  One has to only wonder as to how each wave of these ancient migrants subjugated those who came before them.   The point is that from a global and historical perspective the entire world’s population is marked by a series of migrations over the ages thus making it impossible to truly say that any group is indigenous.

Further, 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.   The struggle for power that ensued between the European settlers and the Native Americans has become singled out by those who would like us to believe that Columbus was the ultimate villain who had the unique power to control the history of the world.  The point is that the struggle between the European settlers and the Native Americans was just one of the human struggles that have defined and shaped our world over the centuries and is a phenomenon that has occurred throughout history.

To blame Columbus for the outcome of this particular struggle is a simplistic reaction from people who choose not to understand the dynamics of history.

Happy Columbus Day.

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