In Defense of Columbus

I have, obviously, a great love for exploration, from the navigation feats of the Polynesian mariners to Armstrong and Aldrin’s first steps on the moon. Everything about these tales is incredible, from the bravery of the navigators to the fact that any of them survived the amazingly harsh conditions they encountered.

This was being passed around on FB the other day:

13925375_1009347419180339_7303719590160982869_nOh, I know the answer! I know! *waves hand wildly in the air* Pick me! PICK ME!!! *cries* oh god why don’t they ever pick me?

It’s the Taino. Yes, I knew that before he said it. Obscure ethnic groups are one of my things, bro.

Somehow I don’t think “knowing the Taino were the people Columbus encountered” actually gets me to “agreeing with this guy’s political agenda.” This guy probably has lots of nice, not-very-aware students in his classes who’ve never heard of the Taino but still think Columbus was a bad person.

Me? I’d rather study Columbus than the Taino, because Columbus discovered the New World, and they didn’t. (They didn’t discover the Old World, either.) Columbus is one of the single most important people who ever lived because his discoveries completely altered the path of human history.

To be fair, Columbus didn’t act alone–he didn’t invent or build the ships he sailed, build up a fortune and finance his endeavor, invent the compass or astrolabe, nor the printing press that allowed for the distribution of his findings. Had Columbus never lived, sooner or later, someone else would have done the same things he did. Nevertheless, Columbus lived, and he’s the guy who found the Americas.

The Taino might indeed have been the nicest, sweetest people in human history, and Columbus may have been a colossal jerk, but Columbus is still the guy who changed history.

We’ve been discussing lately the accomplishments of Vitus Bering, a Russian-employed Dane who led a massive undertaking across Siberia and got to Alaska before, as far as I can tell, the much nearer Chinese and Japanese had mapped the area. (Though the Japanese did conduct trade with the Spaniards in the Pacific and traveled with them over to Spanish-ruled Mexico back in the 1600s.) This was a tremendous undertaking, which cost a great many lives and rubles.

Nothing like the Age of Exploration happened before, and unless we explore the stars, it likely won’t again.

It is a history worth remembering.

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21 thoughts on “In Defense of Columbus

  1. One thing that I find kind of ironic about political correctness is how Indians/Native Americans seem to be disappearing from children’s entertainment. Obviously, the cowboys and Indians genre is right out, but unless it was a trick of editing, this year in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, the giant turkey float was only accompanied by pilgrims, no Wampanoag. (And, yes, totally agree that knowledge doesn’t automatically lead to being PC!) On the latter point, I have to wonder how much is either kids simply forgetting what they were taught in school, or just schools not teaching even basic cultural points like Columbus or the Pilgrims, let alone details of the Revolution or Civil War or WWII beyond PC talking points, but not even that sometimes… Either way, what scares me more than simple ignorance in people I know is the apparent reality of a 1984-style “memory hole”… People forget things they once knew, or forget that they knew them, if they are told they don’t know it… (I sometimes wish I could be more like that… Life would be easier if I could go along with what everyone else believes…)

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    • Oh, and re: PC and knowledge, most Midwestern conservative boyscout types I know seem to know way more about a variety of Indian cultures than a lot of coastal and flyover-wanna-be-coastal sjw types. Obviously, not 100% either way, but how many typical “activists” have heard of Tecumseh? (Of course, it’s another story illustrating that it’s easier to look fondly on the original inhabitants when they’ve been completely wiped out of a region… “Problematic” might actually be the appropriate word here…)

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    • I agree completely to both of your comments.
      Kids don’t sit “Indian style” anymore, they sit “criss-cross-applesauce.” EVEN AT CUBSCOUTS.
      To me, it’s a great forgetting, an erasing of America’s cultural history, and I don’t think for an instant that it actually benefits the Indians, who are forgotten in poverty. A few “academics” have made their living telling everyone that it’s horrible horrible horrible to sit “Indian style” or for little kids to make paper feather headbands, so let’s not learn about others or remember our own history anymore. The real solution is to tear down academia, of course.

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  2. It’s incredible how folks think a thing isn’t even worth remembering or considering if it isn’t 100% morally acceptable in the fads of folks centuries later.

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      • LOL I don’t get the guilt either
        Big fish eat little fish, stro7nger tribes conquer weaker tribes.

        At every moment it’s a dog eat dog world. A nation/ tribe/ people are either the biggest baddest dog on the block or a neutered bitch

        Guilt on such matters is worse then stupid

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  3. The effects of the exchange were various, on the one hand it brought deadly illneses to the new world that killed tens of millions on the other it brought many forms of food to bouth worlds that saved hundreds of millions from starvation. Chinas population grew from 150 to 400 million because of introduction of new world crops. What would have hapened to this people without the crops? They would have died from malthusian limits or killed by their parents.

    from an Utilitarian perspective the good of the exchange far outweigs the bad even if we for a moment believe that the precolumbian population was indeed 100 million (which it most likly wasnt, more something between 20 and 40 mill)

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  4. Still dosnt change the results. The effect of potatoes/maize beats it ALL! The amounts of calories delivered by it was that big! But yes Tobacco propably killed more people then all the old world illneses put togather.

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  5. btw I think there are 2 main reasons why the 30 years war caused such a horrible fall in population while the 18th century wars and the revolutionary-Napoleonic wars (which lasted for 25 years) didnt. 1.The increased humanity of warfare waged by regular instead of mercenary armies and developed laws of European warfare and 2. The 30 years war taught European peasents the value of potatoes which alowed them to balance out their diet in times of crisis (potatoes did become the poor mens diet).

    European peasentry was at first quiet resistant to their introduction believing them to be something satanic (they grew under the earth after all). In Russia the resistance held till the late 19th century and the governments as well as serfowners attempts to make peasents grow them was met with passive resistance and sometimes with open rebellion. In which hundreds died and thousands were exiled to sibiria!

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      • It was the last famine of the imperial period 1891 that caused peasents to (albit slowly) rethink their atitude to the “devils tuber”. by 1913 it allready was planted at a good 20% of the sown area. In the many much worst famines and overall decline in living standarts of the early USSR the potatoe became the main food and was soon “second bread” by the peasents. and yes they did learn to make Wodka out of it :)

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