To begin my closing statement, I will summarize my opponents argument:
Columbus, and those like him, made significant contributions in building a better world. Our modern technology, comfort, increased knowledge, etc. are
all directly related to these initial explorations. The way of life in the 21st century is an incredible improvement over that in the 15th. The
atrocities committed on this path were a necessary evil, unavoidable, and ultimately overshadowed by the parallel advancements.
It will be up to the judges and readers to decide for themselves, if this is the proper interpretation. Before an opinion is formed, let's consider
the opposing evidence.
First, the stance that conflict was unavoidable in the process of exploring and developing an accurate picture of the planet.
There was an explorer before Columbus, from China, that made an equally impressive journey without falling into the trap of exploitation and
colonization. Zheng He
. He did possess a military, but did not choose to take over foreign lands.
There is some evidence
that the Chinese admiral even made it to America as
early as the 1420's.
China, where guns and steel existed before Europe, chose not to colonize the world.
(Note: Not to say China is free of expansion crimes, just to point out that superior weapons and navy did not leave no other options but taking over
It is not unreasonable to think European explorers could have chosen to explore for purely scientific reasons, and set up peaceful trading
partnerships. This type of policy would have certainly been more in line with the teaching of Jesus.
But, the fact is that economics is what primarily drove the age of exploration. Originally seeking Asian spices, then moving to land, crops, gold,
slaves. Any virtuous intent was secondary.
And this is what I'd like us to focus on. Why
was Columbus doing what he was doing? Why
did these people leave their home shores on
Because there was a chance they would get rich.
Get rich, they did. The entire Western World did. And in fact, my opponent is correct that the globalizing effect is a positive legacy of Columbus.
This debate is inevitably not one that comes down to facts, but values and ethic. So much is hypothetical. What if Columbus hadn't made the trip?
What if all Europeans stayed home? Where would the world be now?
I can not answer these questions concretely. I can propose that humanity could have found itself in a state of similar material wealth and quality of
life without the legacy of oppression, but I can offer no proof for this.
What we have is really the ultimate ethical debate. This age of exploration gave us so much of the good things that we know today, but it was
accomplished by a mindset that plagues us with many of our problems.
By my thinking, though, this debate can be solved. The things gained by Columbus are little compared to what we sacrifice. Materials can only get us
so far in life. We now have all of this stuff, but we are still left slacking in the truly important.
The driving force of our economic expansion is greed. To this day, we see a society rank with an insatiable lust to have more stuff, the best stuff,
and show it off. It doesn't matter if others lose in the process of becoming wealthy, "I'm gonna get mine."
A disproportionate focus on hoarding wealth haunted Columbus and those that financed him. People became commodities and consumers to the wealthy
class. A sentiment which continues to linger.
To anyone seeking a higher virtue, it is a simple debate. Material wealth brings little happiness when compared to the mental wealth of a high ethic.
Lasting happiness comes as the result of a clear conscious and a satisfied self. Only temporary happiness can be found in a plate of delicious meat at
Happiness is a state of mind, not a state of action. Until we choose to accept a more virtuous ethic our desires can not be fulfilled.
A reason I wanted to take on this debate was to try and explain that the negative influence of Columbus is not only measured in dead bodies or stolen
acres, but in the loose morality involved in accepting uncountable crimes in exchange for better stuff
Globalization is positive for the world in some ways, but until we start interacting with a common respect for each other and holding oppressors
accountable, I'm afraid we will be left in the same predicament of a largely unjust world.
Paying off the American debt would be positive in itself. But would we be willing to invade Mexico, kill a few million, and claim all of their
resources to do it?
Thank you to Hefficide and everyone who took the time to read our discussion.