On Columbus Day, Celebrate Western Civilization, Not Multiculturalism

Michael S. Berliner
Ayn Rand Institute
3 October 2001 E-Mail this page to a friend

The attacks on Columbus are ominous, because the actual target is Western civilization
Columbus Day approaches and this year has a special meaning. Christopher Columbus is a carrier of Western civilization and the very values attacked by terrorists on September 11. To the "politically correct," Columbus Day is an occasion to be mourned. They have mourned, they have attacked, and they have intimidated schools across the country into replacing Columbus Day celebrations with "ethnic diversity" days.

The politically correct view is that Columbus did not discover America, because people had lived here for thousands of years. Worse yet, it's claimed, the main legacy of Columbus is death and destruction. Columbus is routinely vilified as a symbol of slavery and genocide, and the celebration of his arrival likened to a celebration of Hitler and the Holocaust. The attacks on Columbus are ominous, because the actual target is Western civilization.

Did Columbus "discover" America? Yes—in every important respect. This does not mean that no human eye had been cast on America before Columbus arrived. It does mean that Columbus brought America to the attention of the civilized world, i.e., to the growing, scientific civilizations of Western Europe. The result, ultimately, was the United States of America. It was Columbus's discovery for Western Europe that led to the influx of ideas and people on which this nation was founded—and on which it still rests. The opening of America brought the ideas and achievements of Aristotle, Galileo, Newton, and the thousands of thinkers, writers, and inventors who followed.

Prior to 1492, what is now the United States was sparsely inhabited, unused, and undeveloped. The inhabitants were primarily hunter-gatherers, wandering across the land, living from hand to mouth and
the critics want to denigrate the values of Western civilization and glorify the primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism embodied in tribal cultures
from day to day. There was virtually no change, no growth for thousands of years. With rare exception, life was nasty, brutish, and short: there was no wheel, no written language, no division of labor, little agriculture and scant permanent settlement; but there were endless, bloody wars. Whatever the problems it brought, the vilified Western culture also brought enormous, undreamed-of benefits, without which most of today's Indians would be infinitely poorer or not even alive.

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 multiculturalism, 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. It stands for the values that make human life possible: reason, science, self-reliance, individualism, ambition, productive achievement. The values of Western civilization are values for all men; they cut across gender, ethnicity, and geography. We should honor Western civilization not for the ethnocentric reason that some of us happen to have European ancestors but because it is the objectively superior culture.

Underlying the political collectivism of the anti-Columbus crowd is a racist view of human nature.
Underlying the political collectivism of the anti-Columbus crowd is a racist view of human nature
They claim that one's identity is primarily ethnic: if one thinks his ancestors were good, he will supposedly feel good about himself; if he thinks his ancestors were bad, he will supposedly feel self-loathing. But it doesn't work; the achievements or failures of one's ancestors are monumentally irrelevant to one's actual worth as a person. Only the lack of a sense of self leads one to look to others to provide what passes for a sense of identity. Neither the deeds nor misdeeds of others are his own; he can take neither credit nor blame for what someone else chose to do. There are no racial achievements or racial failures, only individual achievements and individual failures. One cannot inherit moral worth or moral vice. "Self-esteem through others" is a self-contradiction.

Thus the sham of "preserving one's heritage" as a rational life goal. Thus the cruel hoax of "multicultural education" as an antidote to racism: it will continue to create more racism. Individualism is the only alternative to the racism of political correctness. We must recognize that everyone is a sovereign entity, with the power of choice and independent judgment. That is the ultimate value of Western civilization, and it should be proudly proclaimed.

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Previous Visitor Comments

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Took me time to read all the comments, but I truly enjyeod the article. It proved to be Very useful to me and I’m sure to all the commenters right here! It is usually good whenever you cannot only be informed, but also entertained! I am sure you had enjoyable writing this post.

I saw this today and thought I would repsot it:Greetings to all our friends,Each year the recognition of Columbus Day places Indigenous Peoples in a painfully uncomfortable position. In the year 2011, as Native people in this country, we still must explain our feelings about a historically inaccurate, national holiday.The fact that Christopher Columbus did not discover America seems to fall on deaf ears. The fact that his landing on our soil did usher in over 500 years of greed, death, and degradation of unprecedented magnitude also eludes otherwise attentive ears. So, once again, as Native people, we confront another year of educating those who insist that Columbus is a figure worthy of national adoration.We ask that on this Columbus Day, a reflection of historical facts be observed. By the time European colonizers arrived, Indigenous people had already been on this continent for more than 20,000 years. We were farmers, scientists, astronomers, artists, mathematicians, singers, architects, physicians, teachers, mother, fathers, and Elders living in sophisticated societies.These societies lacked nothing and had everything to give in the way of wisdom and knowledge. We object to a false and hurtful holiday that perpetuates a vision of a land open to conquest of its Native inhabitants, their highly evolved societies, and natural resources. We stand in solidarity with the call to transform Columbus Day by not recognizing and honoring the day as Columbus Day.Suzanne Benally (Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa)Executive Director

snowisfunnoemail_at_no.comThe Aztecs & Mayans had violent civiliazations
It must be said that the Aztecs, Incans & Mayans had violent civilizations. They had civilizations based on wars, human sacrifices, etc. Before the Whites came, the American Indians fought eachother for land. The Aztec, Inca & Mayan faiths called for sacrificing people. Catholicism did not. The Catholic Church defends Christopher Columbus because he brought Catholicism to the Americas. He did not personally commit atrocities against the Indians. He reported about it in his diaries but the deeds happened after he found 39 of his sailors killed & his soldiers retaliated. Again, maybe Columbus Day is overdoing it but if people want to celebrate, then let them do so. There are towns named after the ruthless Aztec leader Montezuma. Many American Indian faiths were not peaceful but 1 of violence.

snowisfunnoemail_at_no.comGeneral Comment
While it's overdoing it giving Christopher Columbus a holiday, if people want to celebrate his holiday, let them do so. The Amerindians were not peaceful people when Columbus discovered the Americas. The American Indians practiced cannibalism, human sacrifices, among other things. Also most of the land discovered by Columbus was uninhabited. Yes, bad things happened to the American Indians & wars were waged. But this was a different time. If the American Indians had had their ways, they would've done the same thing. The Catholic Church defends Christopher Columbus & while Catholicism has a bloody history, it's certainly alot less violent than that of the American Indian faiths. It's better that the results happened the way that they did than the other way round. American Indians are no longer being persecuted by the U.S. govt. If injustices are happening to them today, then take care of it. BTW, most people who are American Indian are mixed & most don't care 1 way or the other about Columbus Day. But for those of you who aren't American Indian & complaining about how the land was stolen. If you feel so strongly, then why don't you give your houses to them to end the injustice?

This article has consistent inaccuracies, firstly the USA was not sparesly inhabited, there were the Lakota, Iroquios, and so forth people who had a nation and borders with laws of land. The Anasazi and Pueblo people were heavily advanced, in addition the Mayans and Aztecs had some of the most advanced civilization in history along with the Inca of Peru. The Tainos were removed from the annals of history due to that murderous man. And as for us not having any written language, the Mayans had an alphabet and the Aztecs used pictograph, all this was taken from us when the "great" Columbus arrived.

Maketjane L.Emaketjane_at_instruction.comENGLISH
I want to know about how multiculturalism benefits this country

Mariemissrucker_15_at_yahoo.comCelebration of Columbus Day
I do not believe that Columbus Day should be celebrated. What are we really celebrating the fact that a white male came to this country and virtually killed off a race of people, along with stealing their land and providing limited resources. I will not celebrate that and I deeel it is wrong for this country to give honor to this evil person. This was a pure act of racism and it has been perpetuated until today.

anonymously yoursgreatscot1313_at_yahoo.comcolubus!
well, i do say that columbus was successful in bringing western culture to the americas, but my question to you is is western culture good? i believe not, life before columbus was not exactly pure but it was free from heinous weapons such as the gun. Columbus brought terror and discust to the americas. now capitolism run free and the water is all toxic. where have all the buffalo gone? why celebrate this inhuman holiday when native americans no longer live free in this country that we have stole from them. i may be wrong, but those are my bizarre and random opinions

gabriele corsettigabriele_corsetti_at_hotmail.comAnd the Maya? The Aztecs?
In the american continent in pre-Columbus days the mayas and the aztecs created great civilizations, and you say there was never any progress in the continent Columbus discovered before he came along. That's delusional. And why couldn't the europeans just create a cultural and commercial contact with the natives of the american continent? that way the natives could have decided themselves wether they wanted to "benefit" from the western civilization which is destroying our planet, and they could have adapted that civilization to their needs. Why did the white people have to take their lands and kill most of them off? What about the indios of Guatemala who were massacred during the eighties? The people who still defend Columbus Day need to do some serious soul searching. It shows how bad racism still is.

Paul Harvey shared about 10 years ago that Columbus was not European, but in fact Jewish.

VisitorAnonymousGeneral Comment
WTF mate

samatimajid.raul_at_caramail.comhaha hm
are u really serious in dealing with this topic . u know the truth . so go to hell all of u. u are all actors

jolineAnonymousGeneral Comment
yo yo yo spegetio

help me on ma homework!!!!! Did columbus discover or invaded america?:) thx

Jacob myers is so SEXY Tyler is HOT Nathan is CUTE THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

hey everyone

Roxanaroxythebomb_at_aol.comDisagree about Columbus Day
I think that we should not honor Columbus when he did not even discover America. All he did was going to America for the worse.

shelbyAnonymousColumbus day
I think that there is nothing wrong with Columbus Day, all you haters that think he was horrible need to lighten up. All he did was make America what it is today, he never even thougt of killing people.

brandonpxpixellator_at_yahoo.comColumbus Day
I don't see what's so horrible about it. We should honor Christopher Columbus, because he brought western culture over to unknown lands. Geez, from the way you guys are talking like; It's like he brought the whole army of Spain and killed every Native American. Actually, he befriended them and TRIED bring christianity.

angelfifthangelin_at_yahoo.comso rape is ok 4 sake of technology?
our egos are so huge that we think this land and its people even WANTED OR NEEDED us to change thier culture. white people have raped this land and its natives, enslaved them both and ruined them both. what makes us so superior? who do we think we are? the caretakers of this planet and its people? than we have done a poor job. if someone took care of your grandmother in these same ways, i dont have to guess how youd feel. an eye for an eye makes the world blind, the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil. may you recieve all the love and blessings you deserve.

geecatgeecat_at_gmail.comYou are right to disagree with this article.
Speaking as someone who disagrees with what the author of the article has to say, I agree (for the most part) with the statements made by you, the dissenting public. However, there are some important things to bear in mind when airing your dissatisfaction: 1. Try to avoid sounding like a complete fucking moron. I don't need to name names - you know who you are, you coy little devils. 2. I'm no stickler, but some semblance of proper grammar, spelling and fact-checking seems important when trying to participate in a group discussion like this.

kaylahAnonymouscolumbus discovered america?!
this is a whole bunch of bull..everybody should know that the taino indians were here before coumbus discovered it.heck thats one of the reasons columbus "discovered" it he was a about to die but the taino indians saved him :)

Muhammad Asyrafneonuk3_at_gmail.comColumbus..
Anybody knows what the Natives think Columbus had come from??

Jeffrey Andersonjdanders_at_colby.eduFACTS PLEASE
One of the contributions of "Western Civilization" is an informed, empirically based science known as anthropology. Berliner's portrayal of Native American pre-contact culture is wrong on every point and generalization with respect to the facts that science has to offer. Indeed, he himself presents a "pre-scientific" and "pre-modern" view of indigenous cultures. Maybe he should read something published in Western Civilization after 1800.

MaryAnonymoushate him
The only good thing Christopher Columbus ever did was get us a day off from school. Period.

i think that christopher was a liar, cheater, and down right dirty. He didn't discover America, everybody knows that the Native Americans founded it. Yes, he was the first one to claim it but not to set eyes on it. The Native Americans taught HIM how to farm, and plant there. They did nothing but bring disease over here: smallpox, enphazema, etc. Christopher was a greedy man. He would lie to his own crewmembers. He put them in some of the harshes enviroments. Don't even mention the Native Americans. When he went back to Spain, which by the way is not his homeland he automatically had the ideal of makings the Indians slaves. He was a pig!!!!!

DeborahAnonymousChristopher Colombus
Why do we continue to honor this man? If the Western Hemisphere was already populated when he discovered it, then it was not a discovery. Some agree that that he didn't discover it but brought it to the attention of the civilized world. Does ths mean that because the Indians lived there, it wasn't considered civilized? To teach our children history is to the real truth and not a colorful painted picture.

i hate chris colombus!!!!

VisitorAnonymousGeneral Comment
Why do you say that Columbus brought civilaztion to the U.S.? Just because the civilizations of the first Americans did not match the gross and conceited so-called civilization of Europe, does that necessarily mean that theirs was not a civilazation?

N Egstadeggysfan_at_hotmail.comIndians
You say that had the Europeans not come to America and brought western civilization with them that the Indians would be poorer if alive at all. What planet did you come from? The Indians all but did die because of the Europeans coming over here. When they came, they slaughtered the Indians by the thousands, took their land which was their homes and all but killed off their greatest source (the buffalo) of food, clothing and shelter. Had the Europeans not come here the Indians would in fact be stronger in number than they are today. They would have survived just as the tribes of many other countries are still trying to do today. You say that everyone is a soverign entity and should be treated as such. Hard to do when the so called greatness of western civilization is engulfing the world. There are tribes of people who have lived life on thier terms for hundreds and thousands of years. Living off of the land. But like the Indians, the Great Western Civilization monster is robbing them of their land and homes and forcing them to merge with the rest of the world. They have no where else to go! Western Civilization in it's promise of growth and wealth through technology, has robbed people of their ability to remain themselves. It has robbed and is still robbing people of their power of choice and independant judgement. When you rob people of their way of life, they sort of lose everything else.

PhilosorpheusAnonymousRe-Action & Equal Opposite Reaction
If Columbus "Discovered" America, then why is America named for the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci? Should the man be honored, or the accomplishment; should the collective effort of exploration be symbolized by one man, or is the namesake sufficiant representation? Although one can only speculate upon the motivating ideals and unseen factors that drive peoples, cultures, and nations to compartmentalize themselves under adopted titles created arbitrarily in removed spheres, we do know that similar "birth of a nation" myths exist world wide which typically incorporate the name of the founder father or archetypal visionary figure(whom embody moral attributes and admirable characteristics) into the collective history that they relate to and the title remains. Thus, these so-named entities owe much to courageous ancestors (Amerigo) with the curiosity to venture beyond conventional space and defy the wisdom of the age- (It was said of Early mariners whose vessels never returned to port that they had reached the end of the flat earth and tumbled into oblivion!) -the ambition of this true individuality during an era of dominant, monarchical rule constitutes our present standard of living and contributed to the progress of democracy.(In its purest, autonomous form.) Therefore, the process of discovery entails much more than merely planting a flag into a peak or ceremoniously claiming unmapped land for the mother country---intensive and arduous, exploration is a labor of the heart, and that should be comemorated, not the exclusive namesake of one, but the inclusive sacrifice of many. End result: October 13, 2003 will be the first offical Explorers Day, and each in succession.

Val Karievalkarie123@aol.comColumbus Day
The way this whole site is laid out reflects a linear kind of thinking. Things are either one way or another. You either love "globalization" or you hate it. You either champion "western" culture are you outright oppose it. Why not seek more nuanced definitions of what you are talking about. And why not admit what is historically accurate? Globalization is happening and we do not need unelected trade bodies like the WTO to make it so. Likewise, why can't we simply point out the historical fact that Columbus did "discover" America. How can you say you discovered something that is already populated with people. If you insist on saying that you discovered the place, after you realize that there are other humans here, then you are either racist (not even recognizing the humanity of the people here) or you are puffing yourself up out of self-interest and you don't mind revising history to do so. The fact that people want to maintain this myth only reveals their arrogance, their willing to remain revisionist in their view of history and their racism (indigenous people don't count - and Europeans are great and brought them all this cool stuff.) It seems we haven't come that far as a culture. Where is the reasoned dialogue? Not a "western guilt complex," just an acknowledgement that our European ancestors did in fact commit some trangressions when they first arrived here and that they were here because the Crusades had ended and the warrior christian class in Europe had to find new endeavors in order to justify their lavish lifestyles before their respective courts. The "heatherns" in the "new" lands were treated much as the Muslims of North Africa were treated. They were viewed as less than human. Read the statements of the men who came here themselves. Their is no ambiguity about this. Stop being all whiney and revisionist. Go and wipe your snivelling white noses and learn how to share and get along with others. The hour is getting late.

i do not no what wre talking about

wow. that is all i gotta say. wow. Hitler is symbolic of German industriousness and the can-do attitude. Though he did murder millions of men women and children to attack him is to attack the German people and their culture. So we should not attack him because to do so is to attack them. Incredible. So what do you say to all us Aboriginal people who are not just being "politically correct" hm? What do you say to all those jews who have a holocaust memorial? Whatta loser u are dude. nehi

theadare_mistress@hotmail.comcolumbus did not dis cover america
columbus did not discover america he may have opened america up to the world but he did wrong in killing innocent lives(indians) he invaded, trespassed. when something belongs to some one and you take over it is invading dominating tresspassing and that is exactly what columbus did he took over land that belonged to indians.he was the person who created a huge genocide. i as a 14 feel stongly about this it is what we are discussing at present time in my history class. thea-- ps i agree columbus day should not be celebrated if you want to remember it remember it in a mournful way remember innocent civvillians taken a way from families turned in to slaves treated like merchendise being shipped around or the people killed and populations that died out in columbus' genocide.

theadare_mistress@hotmail.comcolumbus did not dis cover america
columbus did not discover america he may have opened america up to the world but he did wrong in killing innocent lives(indians) he invaded, trespassed. when something belongs to some one and you take over it is invading dominating tresspassing and that is exactly what columbus did he took over land that belonged to indians.he was the person who created a huge genocide. i as a 14 feel stongly about this it is what we are discussing at present time in my history class. thea-- ps i agree columbus day should not be celebrated if you want to remember it remember it in a mournful way remember innocent civvillians taken a way from families turned in to slaves treated like merchendise being shipped around or the people killed and populations that died out in columbus' genocide.

VisitorAnonymousGeneral Comment
you people are not being realistic.

Katharinesailormercury186@aol.comColumbus Day
I disagree woth you, Berliner. How can you say that we should honor Columbus when he enslaved the Taino Indians of the Caribbean? The Taino greeted him kindess and in return he used the encomienda system on them. This man was vile, he should not have a holiday. The Native Americans have every right to protest about Columbus Day. To them, it is the day that their culture ended.

Ashleigh ashleigh@hotmail.comChristopher Collumbes
I can not agree more with Mr. Berliner. One I must say is that western man should have stayed in Europe. Reason-the chances are that there would have been nobody left in the Americas if we had only discovered it now. I live in Africa and everything that goes wrong gets laid at the hand and feet of colonialism. After 1994 I have became a bigger racist because things get forced down whites' throats. When blacks kill blacks by the millions nothing is said or done but when europeans colonialise Africa and to be honest take their land kill thousands, then it is horrific. Nevermind the millions that got killed by their own. Must be the fault of Apartheid. Africa will never free itself. The western world rape Africa because Africa lack the intelect of the western world. If Africans had more brainpower it would have outwhit and outsmart the Western world People might think I am a racist but believe me I became a bigger racist post 1994. I am truely sorry that I am white it is realy not my fault. If I were black I would have been proud to be black and not blame everything on colonialism. Africans hate Europeans although not all will say it out loud, but they like to drive a BMW, Mercedes and use a cell-phone etc. There is a lot of things the western world has done wrong but give credit where credit is due there is a lot of things that they have done right and that is why I am proud to be of European decent Where are the balck Einstein's, Beethhowen's, Newton's. They will always make excuses and say it is because of colonialism etc that there are no I repeat no GREAT GENIUS' among them. Reason evolution lag. They got left behind. There own leaders rape their countries but year after year they will still vote for them. I will never kill or rape anyone balck or white it is wrong. But it seems to me when they kill each other it is right. My great grand father shoul have never come to Africa he should have stayed where he was because I am so tired of hearing excuses and people blaming apartheid for everything. Why do you think South Africa is the richest country (although poor by US standards) in Africa? Simple- there is more whites here then in any African country. Unfortunately for the US they will not be a super power for very long-why inter breeding between different races in the US. The US' human stock is is getting more and more inferior to say Germany, Japan etc. mark my words. Tell me I am a racist I will tell you I am a REALIST.

evelyn dye-garciaedyega6722@aol.comColumbus Day
It's not out of a feeling of "political correctness" that I write this or feel as I do, it's from a heartfelt belief that it is incorrect to honor a man who INVADED not "discovered" the Americas. What he did to their civilization is unforgivable. When Queen Isabella, who funded his voyage, found out how he had treated the people there, he was stripped of his titles, and later died destitute. Yet, somehow, with time dimming the memory, the ugly truth is too ugly to be seen, so it is hidden away & repackaged all happy & clean and this is how our schools now present it to our schoolchildren and it barely resembles the truth. It is an outrage that one of our 8 federal holidays is set aside for a man whose legacy is so despicable. Seventeen states refuse to acknowledge this day -- shouldn't that tell you something!?!

Daniel Marquezdaniel.marquez@wcom.comColumbus Day
Berliner, All we ask is that you teach the children the truth about Christopher Columbus and let them decide whether or not this was a honorable man. For you to say “that Columbus brought America to the attention of the civilized world” is a perpetuation of racist assumptions that the Americas were a wasteland cluttered with dark skin savages awaiting the blessings of European "civilization." Throughout this hemisphere, educational systems and the popular media perpetuate the myth that indigenous peoples have contributed nothing to the world, and, consequently, we should be grateful for our colonization, our dispossession, and our microwave ovens. The racist Columbus legacy enables every country in this hemisphere, including the United States to continue its destruction of Indian peoples, from the jungles of Brazil to the highlands of Guatemala from the Chaco of Paraguay to the Western Shoshone Nation in Nevada. Indian people remain in a perpetual state of danger from the system begun by Columbus in 1492. The Columbus legacy throughout the Americas keeps Indian people at the bottom of every souci-economic indicator. We are under continuing physical, legal and political attack, and are afforded the least access to political and legal remedies. Nevertheless we continue to resist and we refuse to surrender our spirituality, to assimilate, or to disappear into Hollywood's romantic sunset. To dignify Columbus and his legacy with parades, holidays and other celebrations is repugnant. As the original peoples of this land, we cannot, and we will not, tolerate social and political festivities that celebrate our genocide. We are committed to the active, open, and public rejection of disrespect and racism in its various forms--including Columbus Day and Columbus Day parades. Dan

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