Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Ends Of History

"It is true that Columbus harbored strong prejudices about the peaceful islanders whom he misnamed "Indians" - he was prejudiced in their favor. For Columbus, they were "the handsomest men and the most beautiful women" he had ever encountered. He praised the generosity and lack of guile among the Tainos, contrasting their virtues with Spanish vices. He insisted that although they were without religion, they were not idolaters; he was confident that their conversion would come through gentle persuasion and not through force. The reason, he noted, is that Indians possess a high natural intelligence. There is no evidence that Columbus thought that Indians were congenitally or racially inferior to Europeans. Other explorers such as Pedro Alvares Cabral, Amerigo Vespucci, Ferdinand Magellan, and Walter Raleigh registered similar positive impressions about the new world they found."
"A sincere effort to study other cultures “from within” requires a rejection of the Western lens of cultural relativism. Multiculturalists who wish to take non-Western cultures seriously must take seriously their repudiation of relativism. Otherwise a humble openness to other cultures becomes an arrogant dismissal of their highest claims to truth."
Dinesh D'Souza, The End of Racism, 1995

"Columbus inaugurated perhaps the greatest experiment in political, economic, and cultural cannibalism in the history of the Western World."   
 Stephen Greenblatt, Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World, 1992

"Columbus should be honored, for in so doing, we honor Western civilization. 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. It stands for the values that make human life possible: reason, science, self-reliance, individualism, ambition, productive achievement."
Michael Berliner, Executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute, 1992

"Could it be that the human calamity caused by the arrival of Columbus, was a sort of dress rehearsal of what is to come as the ozone becomes more depleted, the earth warms, and the rain forests are destroyed?" 
 Ishmael Reed, Founder of the Before Columbus Foundation, 1992

"What did Christopher Columbus do, discover America? If he hadn't, somebody else would have and we'd still be here. Big deal."
John Waters, film-maker,1992

"The cruelties multiplied. Las Casas saw soldiers stabbing Indians for sport, dashing babies’ heads on rocks. And when the Indians resisted, the Spaniards hunted them down, equipped for killing with horses, armor plate, lances, pikes, rifles, crossbows, and vicious dogs. Indians who took things belonging to the Spaniards - they were not accustomed to the concept of private ownership and gave freely of their own possessions - were beheaded, or burned at the stake.
Las Casas’ testimony was corroborated by other eyewitnesses. A group of Dominican friars, addressing the Spanish monarchy in 1519, hoping for the Spanish government to intercede, told about unspeakable atrocities, children thrown to dogs to be devoured, new-born babies born to women prisoners flung into the jungle to die."
"Let me make myself clear. I am not interested in either denouncing or exalting Columbus. It is too late for that. We are not writing a letter of recommendation for him to decide his qualifications for undertaking another voyage to another part of the universe. To me, the Columbus story is important for what it tells us about ourselves, about our time, about the decisions we have to make for our century, for the next century.
Why this great controversy today about Columbus and the celebration of the quincentennial? Why the indignation of native Americans and others about the glorification of that conqueror? Why the heated defense of Columbus by others? The intensity of the debate can only be because it is not about 1492, it’s about 1992."
 Howard Zinn, Christopher Columbus, 1992

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