Thursday, October 15, 2015

Columbus and Social Silence

[ed. Yes, I know... Columbus Day is over, and with it that one last barbeque before winter sets in. But after reading a number of accounts the last few days, I sense a tide turning against this holiday. Columbus and his bloodthirsty Spanish confederates were some of the most vicious and pathologically genocidal armies that have ever existed, killing millions. If you don't believe it, click on this link (from the following essay). In his spare time he also spearheaded the transatlantic slave trade. It seems time to 'de-holiday' this holiday and recalibrate grade school curiculums.] 

Columbus’ landfall in the Western Hemisphere was the opening of Europe’s conquest of essentially all of this planet. By 1914, 422 years later, European powers and the U.S. controlled 85 percent of the world’s land mass.

White people didn’t accomplish this by asking politely. As conservative Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington put it in 1996, “The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion … but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-Westerners never do.”

In fact, European colonialism involved a level of brutality comparable in every way to that of 20th-century fascism and communism, and it started with Columbus himself. Estimates of the number of people living on the island of Hispaniola when Columbus established settlements range from 250,000 to several million. Within 30 years of his arrival, 80 to 90 percent of them were dead due to disease, war and enslavement, in what another Harvard professor cheerily called “complete genocide.” Contemporary accounts of the Spainards’ berserk cruelty really have to be read to be believed.

Formally, of course, European colonialism largely ended in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Yet informally, it has — behind the mask of what Pope Francis recently called “new forms of colonialism” — continued with surprising success.

Thus European colonialism is the central fact of politics on earth. And precisely because of that, it is almost never part of any American discussion of politics. Anthropologists call this phenomenon “social silence” — meaning that in most human societies, the subjects that are core to how the societies function are exactly the ones that are never mentioned.

If we maintain the social silence around colonialism, our past and present will always be bewildering, like the above list. But if we break the silence, and talk about what truly matters, the confusing swirl of war and conflict can suddenly makes sense.

by Jon Schwartz, The Intercept |  Read more:
Image: Theodor de Bry, 1598