Christopher Columbus. The guy who discovered the America’s. A real hero. Or so I thought…
I have never been particularly knowledgeable in the area of Columbus. I knew the basics: he was in search of land and came across the America’s. Whether or not he “discovered” them has always been debatable. Either way, I thought Columbus showed some heroic qualities. When I thought about it, he sailed across the sea not knowing exactly where he was going. That’s brave and courageous.
When we received Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress, I thought I’d be reading more about his great qualities. I, like many others, was quite shocked after completing reading the package. My whole perspective on Columbus had changed.
Why don’t we start with the fact that Columbus was just greedy. The whole reason he went on his journey was to find gold. He had very specific intentions that were to benefit him. On his journey to find gold Columbus did horrific things. He took advantage of people he believed were “lower” than him–the Indians. To him, the Indians were nothing but slaves for sex and labour. The line on page 6, though it was speaking of the Spaniards, relates to Columbus’ behaviour well: “total control led to total cruelty”.
So here’s my question; would Columbus have reacted the same way if the people he came across were his “own people”? What if they had similar lifestyles or looked the same? Would Columbus have treated them so badly? This is my take:
I believe that the looks and lifestyles of the people Columbus came about had everything to do with his treatment of them. The less materialistic lifestyle of the Indians was looked down upon by Columbus and his men. It was seen as weaker and their lives seemed less valuable. They were not equal; therefore, Columbus thought it was acceptable to take advantage of them. Their different ways of living and personal values between the societies created different actions.
When I think about how Columbus would have reacted if the people he discovered lived like himself, I imagine a major difference. If the two groups were similar, Columbus would have seen them as powerful equals. He wouldn’t be taking them for slavery as that would be like taking his own men for slavery.
However, I have a feeling Columbus wouldn’t stop his search for gold nor would there be a peaceful ending. His selfish and greedy personality would stay the same but the way he received the gold would be different. Instead of using the people as slaves to retrieve gold, I believe something along the lines of a battle would happen–a war to retrieve the gold. There would still be a large amount of uncalled for violence and casualties though it wouldn’t have had as much of an effect as it did on the Indians.
I have come to the conclusion that if Columbus were to come across people like himself, his reaction would have been different. Columbus’ greed would still be present and many lives would still be lost but it wouldn’t be as severe. Either way, Columbus was never really a hero. His discovery of the America’s will never make up for the lives and culture lost.