October 13, 2003

The Enemies of Christopher Columbus


CNN reported this weekend: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says Columbus was "worse than Hitler" and American Indians attack Columbus Day as "racist" and call Columbus "the first transatlantic slave trader".

We created this cover illustration for the October issue of The Intellectual Activist. The cover article contains excerpts from a new book by Thomas A. Bowden. Mr. Bowden recently spoke about The Enemies of Christopher Columbus at the George Mason University Objectivist Club. Here is how the event and the book were described:

In decades past, Columbus Day was an occasion to honor the courageous explorer who discovered America, and to rejoice in the spread of Western civilization across a savage wilderness. In recent years, however, the advocates of multiculturalism and "political correctness" have succeeded in portraying Columbus and the Europeans who followed him to the New World as brutal conquerors whose genocidal assault destroyed a pristine Indian paradise. As a result, Columbus Day has become an occasion for protests by Indians, vandalism of Columbus statues, and an incessant drumbeat of guilt and apology, especially in the public schools.

In his book, "The Enemies of Christopher Columbus", Thomas A. Bowden discusses and refutes a variety of "politically correct" criticisms of Christopher Columbus and the civilization that he brought with him to a new continent. Columbus Day, he maintains, should call forth a celebration of the core values of Western civilization -- reason, science, technology, progress, capitalism, individual rights, law, and the selfish pursuit of individual happiness here on earth -- at a time when such a celebration is desperately needed, to defend those great values against assault by America's declared enemies.

Here is an excerpt from the book:

Savagery and civilization cannot co-exist in the same geographical area. Civilized people must be able to depend on their neighbors to understand and obey the principles of individual rights as expressed in written laws that define land boundaries, enforce contracts, and protect personal property. Primitive peoples, who have not yet reached the concept of a universal moral law governing all human beings as individuals, cannot act on such principles or be relied upon to obey such laws. Lacking the ability to rule their lives by reason, savages inevitably succumb to a whole range of non-rational influences -- such as fear, superstition, drug-induced hallucinations, hatred of outsiders, revenge, or lust for conquest -- that propel them onto the warpath at unpredictable intervals. The Europeans, in establishing their settlements in the New World, found themselves enmeshed in precisely this conflict between civilization and barbarism. Hence they confronted a fundamental choice: to marshal their superior powers and displace the Indians, or else turn around and sail home.

In that context, the European immigrants had an absolute right to settle America and displace the Indians -- by force when necessary. However, to the extent that individual Indians (such as Pocahontas, who married an Englishman) were capable of grasping and abiding by the principles of civilized behavior, they should have been permitted and encouraged to become full citizens with full rights.

The Enemies of Christopher Columbus is available for purchase at The Paper Tiger.

And The Ayn Rand Institute released an op-ed by Michael Berliner: On Columbus Day, Celebrate Western Civilization, Not Multiculturalism.

Columbus should be honored, for in so doing, we honor Western civilization. But the critics do not want to bestow such honor, because their real goal is to denigrate the values of Western civilization and to glorify the primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism embodied in the tribal cultures of American Indians. They decry the glorification of the West as "cultural imperialism" and "Eurocentrism." We should, they claim, replace our reverence for Western civilization with multi-culturalism, which regards all cultures (including vicious tyrannies) as morally equal. In fact, they aren't. Some cultures are better than others: a free society is better than slavery; reason is better than brute force as a way to deal with other men; productivity is better than stagnation. In fact, Western civilization stands for man at his best.

Posted by Forkum at October 13, 2003 07:29 AM