I thank ATS for providing the opportunity for this reflection, Hefficide for agreeing to the topic, and most of all everyone who chooses to read our discussion.
My opponent's opening frames this debate exactly as I would like it to be.
He started by sharing a connection to Native Americans, one which I was unaware of. We are clearly in agreement that the people indigenous to the land in the Western hemisphere were subjected in inexcusable crimes. This, of course will be a primary factor in my argument that Columbus had a negative impact on our world.
Also, I applaud Hefficide for expanding this discussion beyond Columbus as an individual. Columbus is the face of a broad movement of "exploration," and more significantly colonization and exploitation.
With my opponents permission, I will consider Columbus to serve as a symbol for the plethora of European explorers who dared the Atlantic crossing and had varying levels of influence upon the world. It is that idea, I feel, that this debate must be focused upon.
Permission granted. It is agreed that Columbus himself is not the only subject of the debate, but European expansion in general must be considered.
But before we delve into that, let's not forget the other side completely. Because now we are not just talking about the Taino's, and Native Americans that Columbus interacted with exclusively. We are considering the entire picture:
- Exact figures are uncertain, but Professor William Denevan estimates about 54 million indigenous lived in the Americas pre-Columbus. By 1650, there were less than 6 million. Genocide. link from UW
- Oppression against Native Americans continued overtly for a long time. Jackson instituted an Indian removal policy in 1830. The Wounded Knee massacre in 1893. Tribal land was seized continually. link.
- Still today, reservations are plagued by poverty. link.
Crimes of European activity in the New World do not end with Native genocide. There is also the issue of African slavery.
- It is estimated that about 12 million African slaves were brought to the New World. link
- Slavery existed in America until after the Civil War, overt discrimination until the mid 1960's at the earliest, and economic inequality continues to this day.
So, as these statistics outline, vast atrocities were committed in the process of European colonization. This started with Columbus.
They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features.... They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane... . They would make fine servants.... With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.quote by Columbus
So, my opponent is admittedly left with an awkward and uncomfortable position. He must provide evidence that the benefits from colonization exceed the obvious crimes. It is a position that would make Machiavelli proud.
But let's not assume that these crimes were essential to the globalization process. I agree that an increase in global knowledge is good for humanity. International relationships and trade are good for humanity.
What I take issue with was the process that created these benefits, and a lingering mind state that we as a species have yet to shake. In 1492 Columbus left looking for a trade route, looking for riches. His attitude toward the Natives upon arriving shows that oppressive tactics were always a part of the plan.
To this day, our economic patterns show that many are willing to put profit before human rights. We have factories in developing nations that border on slave labor, entire wars waged for economic reasons, and exploitative advertising.
All of this comes from the precedents set by the era of colonization, and continuing with imperialism.
I don''t buy the notion that humans in 1500 knew no better. Ethical philosophy was there for any to follow.
I think the world could have been explored, and international relationships could have been set up more peacefully under more humanitarian leadership. I agree that a more globalized world is better, but qualify by reminding that our global society can be vastly improved and our problems are rooted in the sinister motivations of those like Columbus.