This is a rant. Just a warning. If you tend to dislike my rants, please refrain from reading.
I nearly forgot that it was Columbus Day. I’m not exposed to it like I used to be- my work doesn’t recognize it, so unless I happen to have a conversation with someone who does have off, I typically don’t realize what day it is until I start to wonder why I haven’t gotten my mail or the post office is closed.
Traditionally, however, I’ve always chosen to wear all black on Columbus Day, in recognition of, as I put it on my facebook status, “the day some asshole set foot on an island and started a genocide that would be perpetuated by thousands of other invaders until the entire population of two continents was wiped out.” Or very nearly so. It’s not about Columbus particularly, I think, given how many other “explorers” (I prefer the term invaders) helped to colonize America. It’s about the celebration of people who are willing to go to any lengths for economic gain, even to the extent of wiping out millions upon millions of people, because that is, after all, the American way, brought over from the Europeans.
In grade school they taught us to celebrate Columbus because he was an adventurous sort, who wanted to set out to prove that the world was round and you wouldn’t sail off the edge. He sought knowledge, clearly. If he hadn’t run into the continent of South America, we never would have known the world wasn’t flat! Later they would teach that Columbus was, after all, looking for a new trade route to India, and that was the primary purpose of his voyage, but how convenient that he “discovered” an entire continent in the process. Aren’t explorers grand?
What they fail to mention, of course, because history is of course written by the conquerors, is that Columbus initiated a mass slaughter and enslavement of not just one culture, but hundreds or even thousands, all in the name of economic gain. Columbus was looking for a way to make more money. If he could find a faster way to get to Asia than others, he could bring goods back more often, and make more money. Instead, he “discovered” a vast continent populated by, according to recent estimates, MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF PEOPLE. I hate, and by hate I mean loathe and detest with every fiber of my being, the use of the word “discovered” to describe Columbus landing in the Bahamas. Not unless it is very specifically followed by “for Europeans who were previously under the demented illusion that they were the only people on the planet.” I mean, no offense to 15th century Europeans for not imagining there could be another continent or two lurking about. But shame on them for EVER perpetuating the myth that it was unpopulated.
I highly recommend you go out and read both Howard Zinn’s classic People’s Historic of the United States, which starts out with a detailed description of what happened when Columbus reached America (which you can read online here), and follow that up with a stab at 1491 by Charles Mann. In the former, you will learn how when Columbus reached America he did not befriend the natives, as our second grade teachers would have had us believe, but set about enslaving them. On his first and later visits, he established the pattern for European contact with Native Americans- slaughter, slavery, and the introduction of disease. According to Mann, the reason so many Europeans reported America to be an empty continent was because of the devastating affects of disease on the indigenous populations. Contrary to popular belief, there was a lot of European contact before the real colonization began- all sorts of explorers and so on, who came over, realized the potential for economic exploitation, and left behind diseases that wiped out millions of people. When the colonists came back, they found a fairly empty continent- all the previous inhabitants having died. However there is ample evidence that there were once immense cities, huge populations, and all the things we descendants of those Europeans have pretended never existed. It’s a lot easier to justify our taking over two continents if we continue to pretend they were empty when we got here.
Here’s a quick article alluding to the tyranny of Columbus- and not even over the indigenous people, but his own people- fellow Europeans that came over to invade America. The Guardian: Lost document reveals Columbus as tyrant of the Caribbean
Columbus, for those that buy into the whispers of mother culture, was a grand explorer who brought great good to the world by landing on an island accidentally. For the rest of us, he is the epitome of all the things to be hated and despised about civilization. In the name of self promotion and financial gain, he slaughtered and enslaved an entire race, and set the pace for those that followed. Come to a piece of land, kill those who already live there, or set them to be your servants. Take all that they have, and finally take the land that they have lived with for generations and subjugate it as you have its people- take all that you want until there’s nothing left that you deem to be of worth. Poison it, demolish it, clear it, whatever it takes, so long as you can extract the maximum economic gain from it. And then call it “progress”.
It’s no wonder we still celebrate Columbus as the harbinger of the wonders of modern civilization. You only need to watch the mainstream news for ten seconds to realize this culture values the “economy” over life, even human life. By touting Columbus as a great explorer and hero, we can continue to ignore the fact that this entire culture is hell bent on the destruction of every living thing on this planet, ourselves included. After all, anything for the economy.