Honoring Columbus

by Dave Walden

Here in Denver, as well as in other cities throughout America, Columbus has come under continuous attack.  An attack by the usual suspects for the usual reasons.

This attack manifests amidst criticisms of the celebrations annually conducted surrounding the numerous Columbus Day parades/festivities.  It does so as a thinly disguised attempt to intellectually and culturally assault America. More importantly, it represents an attack on the value and values of Western civilization.

From the perspective of intellectual and cultural content, Western civilization represents an understanding and acceptance of the following:

The laws of logic; the concept of causality and, consequently, of a universe ruled by natural laws intelligible to man (on these foundations rests the whole known body of physical laws surrounding mathematics and science);

Further, the individual’s self-responsibility based on his free will to choose between good and evil; the value of man above all other species on the basis of his unique possession of the power of reason; the value and competence of the individual human being and their logical corollary possession of individual rights – among them the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The need for limited government and for the individual’s freedom from the state.  On this foundation, rests the validity of capitalism, with its unprecedented and continuing economic progress in terms of the division of labor, technological development, capital accumulation, and rising living standards.

Finally, Western civilization represents the importance of visual arts and literature depicting man as capable of facing the world with confidence in his power to succeed; and in music featuring harmony and melody.

Synthesized from endless alternative or opposing values, values that more often than not are irreconcilably in conflict with those embodied by “western” culture, western values fundamentally represent intellectual and cultural achievements “chosen” from all manner of civilizations, past and present.  These values are not the product or property of any particular race, gender, tribe, or ethnicity.

Furthermore, Western civilization did not originate in the West.  It stands on the intellectual/cultural shoulders of Greece and Rome that in turn derived much of their knowledge of science, for example, from Egypt and Babylon.  When, during what are referred to as “The Dark Ages,” as much – if not all of western Europe reverted to fear, superstition, and virtual barbarism, people living in the Middle East and China made far greater contributions to what we now call western civilization than did anyone living in western Europe!

It was not until the Renaissance that the center of western civilization migrated to what we now consider western Europe.  Then, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, western civilization migrated west to America, where it reached its zenith. 

With the recent emergence of the Far East, triggered by its embrace of elements of reason, freedom, science, and capitalism (clearly “western” values), history may one day demonstrate that western civilization in fact became centered in Hong Kong, Singapore, or some as yet-to-be created culture/society.

The truth is that just as one does not have to be from France, for instance, to like French-Fried potatoes or from New York to like a New York steak, one does not have to have been born in Western Europe or be of West European decent to admire western civilization, or, indeed, even to help build it.  Western civilization is not a product of geography or ethnicity.  It is a body of knowledge and values.  It is not “Eurocentric” to embrace these values, as is now frequently asserted.  That assertion is, on its face, blatantly racist.

Therefore, it is on the basis of the preceding perspective that I honor the discoverer of the western hemisphere as being Columbus, rather than the very first human beings to arrive on the North American continent (probably across a land bridge from Asia), and rather than the Norwegian Leif Ericson.  I consider Columbus to be the discoverer not because of any such absurd reason as my preference for Europeans over Asiatic, Latin, African, American Indian, or some other group, but because it was Columbus who opened the western hemisphere to the civilization I have chosen to value above all others!

Columbus brought with him to these shores a set of values that in great measure I consider to be of superior merit (not all the values he brought to be sure but certainly elements of those identified earlier in my article – and most certainly ALL, when taken as a whole in comparison to the whole of those of any other civilization at that time or at present).

Cultures/societies are not equal.  If reason is your method and a successful life is your standard, the value and values of western civilization are demonstrably OBJECTIVELY SUPERIOR to whatever other examples you may cite.  It is no accident that the societies that embrace the values I listed earlier in my article, tend to become “westernized.”  By doing so they embark on the road to enjoyment of the greatest personal freedoms, the greatest standards of living, the longest life spans, the greatest security from hunger, disease, and the elements; they are compelled by reason to abolish all manner of tyranny (such as slavery), while their citizens have open to them personal choices that the rest of the world RELENTLESSLY tries to emulate or adopt – either within their own cultures or by emigrating to somewhere thought to be representative of the “west,” most notably, America!

Attacking Columbus and the culture that extols his achievement based on some fallacious conception of “Eurocentrism” – or any other alleged racially or ethnically based perverted justification, is a reflection of bitter malice, woeful ignorance, or both.

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