Columbus Day: A Time to Celebrate

by | Oct 12, 2020 | History

Underlying the political collectivism of the anti-Columbus crowd is a racist view of human nature.

Columbus day approaches, but to the “politically correct” this is no cause for celebration. On the contrary, they view the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492 as 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’ 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 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 “Eurocentrism.” We should, they claim, replace our reverence for Western civilization with multi-culturalism, which regards all cultures 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. 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.

Copyright 2019 Ayn Rand Institute. All rights reserved.

45 Comments

  1. It’s true that deconstructionism sucks. That said, Columbus is an exception. Even for his time, the man was brutal and vile. Good things have come in the wake of evil many times throughout history. This is an example. America is (or rather, was, or can be) a shining beacon of rationality and civilization. But that doesn’t change the fact that Christopher Columbus was the very antithesis of rationality and civilization. Capitalism says that a person can profit without another person being harmed. Columbus disagreed.

  2. I get Berliners thrust, and I agree. I don’t totally agree that it’s a sham to preserve ones heritage, because there’s one heritage every person of reason can be proud of preserving.

    I’ve accused Americans of today of, not squandering their heritage, but of REJECTING their heritage, deliberately, in cold blood. The heritage I speak of is individual rights and, implicitly, egoism. That’s a heritage for any rational person to GLOM ONTO and to preserve with utmost pride, with guarding watchfulness, welcoming the explicit moral sanction. Those who reject that heritage and attack it, in action, rate in-kind response, from us. Mike Kevitt

  3. Every year, the politically correct decry the “genocide” that the Europeans allegedly placed on the Indians. At the heart of this, they merely support the primitive savagery of native American culture over Western Civilization. There is no comparison in any meaningful way.

  4. It is quite a statement about our own time when Columbus is considered a villain, but someone like, say, Yasser Arafat is considered a hero.

  5. That’s real nice politically correct fallacy. CAN WE PLEASE STOP F*UCKING CALLING PEOPLE RACIST FOR SIMPLY DISAGREEING WITH YOU? I don’t hold it against Columbus for exploiting savages, that’s the way a true hero acts. Frankly we should take inspiration from him at this point in our nations history.

  6. Nearly everything you claim about the North American natives is untrue. Before 1492, they had permanent settlements and agriculture. They were not primarily hunter gatherers, and they had less warfare than contemporary Europe. While it’s true that life remained largely unchanged for thousands of years, I don’t understand how that relates to their moral standing. Finally, North America was quite populated before the Europeans arrived, with population estimates ranging from 2 to 20 million. (Meanwhile the population of Europe was 80 million). Small pox alone, which spread faster than the Europeans themselves, nearly extinguished the native population and all of that changed. Hence the false impressions that we still carry today.

  7. He did not claim they did not have permanent settlements. He claimed they had “scant” permanent settlements. Many of them were hunter gatherers and had no sense of land ownership or permanency. I’m not sure how one claims they had less warfare. Certainly some tribes were less warlike than others. And you apparently consider 2 million people on a continent fo 9.6 million square miles as “quite populated.” You are not considering relevant factors of area and density because that’s just one person every 5 miles. Whereas Europe (based on your population number) is closer to 21 people per mile, or 100 times more populated.

  8. Yes, he does say scant, and that is untrue. The conquerers of North America saw a civilization that had been devastated by small pox and other illnesses. Depending on the area, between 50 and 90% of the natives were already dead when settlers arrived. With a handful of possible exceptions, it is a myth that diseases were spread on purpose – once introduced by accident they spread naturally like a wildfire. Thus, it is understandable that Europeans considered the land “underused”. As far as quantifying how underused it was in terms of population density, it was certainly less populated than Europe. On the other hand, except for the elite rich, European cities were deathtraps with negative population growth and would be much less populated without a constant influx of people from the surrounding countryside. This was one of the main driving forces that pushed people to the New World in the first place. As for warfare, it is difficult to say for certain because there are so few historical accounts, but it’s going to be difficult to argue that Native Americans were more brutish and warlike than Europeans. Natives waged war on each other when resources became scarce or in territorial disputes that couldn’t be settled politically. Meanwhile, people in western Europe waged simultaneous and horrific wars on themselves and people of other continents continuously for over 1000 years. The good news is that the History channel will never run out of content.

    In the end, morality isn’t a contest of who had more war, who had less disease, etc etc… you would be debating each point forever. Hence, where I strongly disagree with the author is that you can make a morality call on any of this in the first place. The conquest of North America was an emergent accident, driven by so many factors that were beyond the scope of human understanding at the time. Nor was this some quirk of history – this is what people have been doing since the beginning of time.

    Why do people like Berliner and Ayn Rand need to rationalize the actions of Columbus and other Europeans? Why do they need to argue that Native Americans were morally, socially, and politically inferior people? What if they weren’t and the English conquerers and settlers were evil and wrong? Should you or I or anyone living here today feel guilt? Wouldn’t this be the essence of historical collectivism? Columbus’ actions led to great progress for humanity – ultimately the founding of America and the blossoming of the ideals of the Enlightenment. I find it hard to believe that all those who denigrate Columbus do so because they hate humanity, hate the west, hate themselves, etc. Seems to me that criticizing Columbus might possibly stem from the belief that there is a better way for humans to strive for progress, resources, freedom and happiness than war, slavery and death.

  9. Every argument in this essay commits one or both of two fallacies: the strawman fallacy and/or the fallacy of poisoning the well.

    Strawman: instead of dealing with the accusation that Columbus was himself guilty of atrocities against the natives he encountered, it evades the accusation and changes the subject to the shortcomings of the civilization of his victims. But unless those civilizational shortcomings justified enslavement and murder-at-will, Berliner’s bringing them up is irrelevant to a positive verdict on Columbus. And if he thinks that someone’s being a member of a defective civilization marks that person out for enslavement and/or homicide, he is obliged to apply that claim to Africans who were enslaved in the triangular trade as well as the Taino Indians enslaved by Columbus. Like the Taino, the Africans belonged to a relatively primitive, defective civilization. Undeniably, African-Americans today are materially better off than most Africans in Africa. Does Berliner think that African-Americans should therefore celebrate their enslavement and set a day aside to honor the entrepreneurs of the slave trade–the men of bold initiative who brought them to a better life on these shores? If he thinks that, he should say it out loud. If not, he should explain how he manages to avoid the implication, consistent with what he’s said here.

    Poisoning the well: Instead of presuming that the accusations against Columbus are made by people who sincerely oppose atrocities and would like to correct the historical record, it asserts without argument that the accusers have some other ulterior motive based in envy, resentment, racism, or some similar motivation. But an insult is not an argument, and ineptly repeated insults don’t add up to one, either.

    If Michael Berliner wanted to illustrate fallacies worthy of the “find the fallacy” exercises in a logic textbook, he’s succeeded. Otherwise, this essay is a pathetic joke, and a picture-perfect exemplification of what’s wrong with the Objectivist movement and above all, its leadership. When non-Objectivists criticize Objectivism as a form of fascist immoralism, they may be wrong about Ayn Rand’s principles, but they are right about the actual beliefs and desires of the leading lights of the Objectivist movement. This article is Exhibit A for that claim.

  10. I just want to point out the reason there was no advancement for thousands of years in the Americas was that they had ZERO large draft animals. The East had horses, oxen, water buffalo, camels and even elephants to do work and travel long distances. The people of the West were just as intelligent as evidenced by the cities of the Maya, Aztecs and Inca.

  11. You say ” Seems to me that criticizing Columbus might possibly stem from the
    belief that there is a better way for humans to strive for progress,
    resources, freedom and happiness than war, slavery and death.” This is text book, vague, pie in the sky, idealistic, mumbo-jumbo, left-eze talk. Is this ‘better way’ trade? Of course not, since it’s not stated. Rather it’s ‘pass the wealth around’ Marxbama style. We see this today with a 18.4 trillion dollar federal debt, 200 trillion in internal debt, zero economic growth, real unemployment at 23%, two thirds of the work force earning about 16 and a half thousand dollars a year, etc etc. And not to mention all the moral hazard associated with a wealthfare state.

  12. Another point, understandingly not mentioned is Americas long term history. In the Book of Genesis, God promised national greatness to Abraham:
    Gen_35:11 ” And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;”
    The company of nations is the British empire, which Queen Victoria and her advisers correctly identified. The ‘nation’ is the United States of America. These promises were passed onto the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh – two of the twelve tribes of Israel. Meaning, America is the ancient tribe of Manasseh, the flagship of the twelve tribes of Israel. The right label for the ‘Israel:’ in the Middle East is in fact Judah.
    Columbus and America is the fulfillment of Gods promise to Abraham – a big reason for the expressed hatred.

  13. This rambling idiotic response speaks for itself.

  14. The lack of draft animals played a major role in the divergent paths of people in Europe and Asia vs Americas, but I take issue with the idea that there was “no advancement”. We are only now learning that the first Americans were far more sophisticated than ever realized, with advanced political systems, land management practices and a complex travel and trade network. They were not nomadic but had permanent structures and settlements and enjoyed a remarkably high quality of life with little of the disease, violence, oppression and general misery that drove the Europeans to flee here in the first place.

  15. I meant technological advancement, copper tools to bronze tools to iron tools, not inventing the wheel, etc. I do think the peoples subjugated by the Aztecs would disagree with you about the violence. The Olmecs were pretty harsh too. The Mayans were probably very miserable at the end. I did mention their cities. There was good and bad. That’s life.

  16. May you meet one of your true heros imminently.

  17. Ah yes, I agree. There was no way they could progress in that domain, so many limitations, ie lack of draft animals. Doesn’t mean they didn’t have other innovations to thrive. They aztes and Inca civilizations were violent, oppressed and enslaved their people, there is no question. I think in that Era it went hand in hand with city building and supporting elite political and intellectual classes. I am mostly considering the North American people, whose achievements are, I believe, under-appreciated.

    While it doesn’t justify the Spanish looting and genocide, evidence strongly suggests that the aztecs and incas were in serious decline prior to the arrival of Europeans. I think it’s believed that they had experienced a repeating cycle of prosperity and decline that occurred about every 500 years as they would expand, run out of people to enslave, overuse the land, etc.

  18. Well said. It is amazing to me the fact-bending and denial required of Columbus’ defenders. The most reasonable will say something along the lines of he can’t be held responsible for subsequent genocide committed by Europeans, he was just this innocent, hero-explorer etc etc. Meanwhile his express intent, evidenced in his diaries was to find people with wealth and take it by force for the glory of himself and his patron, the Queen of Spain. Nothing about him or his mission exudes even a whiff of a Randian, capitalist, libertarian, etc ideal. The similarities to Hitler or Stalin are strong however.

  19. Why don’t you put your money where your cocksucker is coward, and try? I wont hesitate to butcher you, just like all the real Americans who slaughtered you’re backward, useless savage buddies.

    But you wont, a brave keyboard warrior like yourself wont do anything. You will just go back to wetting yourself and complaining over your victimization complex.

  20. …and you are a limp wrested queer, so which ones worse?

  21. Game, set, match.

  22. Ain’t it funny that they now have all this access to draft animals and they haven’t progressed from their stupid, brutal, unambitious “existence” that they have had since time immemorial?

  23. No, because it’s the been the work of the federal government and it’s socialistic policies towards them that have kept them down, just like the blacks. BTW, you do know many tribes are killing it in the casino game and are moving into the realm of cannabis. In fact a tribe in South Datoka is opening the countries first adult cannabis resort on New Years.

  24. I don’t normally feed juvenile trolls but I’ll say this: North American natives became the greatest horsemen on the planet after the Spanish introduced the animals here.

  25. The only thing we will ever agree on [email protected]

  26. It’s not alleged, it’s proven fact. No rational person can claim there wasn’t a genocide.

  27. Pretty sure the heritage you speak of had absolutely nothing to do with Columbus.

  28. I don’t know what world you are living in, but African-“Americans” celebrate their own exploitation all the time. its their sole defining accomplishment since arriving here.

  29. I’m living in the “world” where it’s taken for granted that chattel slavery and racism are immoral. I realize that there are people like you, who inhabit a different “world.” Even so, the principles of logic apply equally to both of us. One of those principles is that fallacious arguments fail, and that comments like yours merely compound the failure. Those various failures underscore the fact that unfortunately, metaphors aside, we live in the same world. I wish we didn’t, but I can’t wish away the fact that we do.

  30. And you still don’t acknowledge the fact that African-Barbarians revel in their own victimization.

  31. Yeah, I do know this, the “socialist” government doesn’t all whites the same liberties in building casinos, pot, and tobacco as the Indians and you bring up their success as something notable.

    Of course you will tell me that they will have the same success if they had competition from whites in a free market.

  32. But I’m glad that you did.

    Explain to me why they never did anything productive with these horses instead of warfare?

  33. If this had been a capitalist country from the start they would have just integrated into society and none of the bad things that happened to them would have happened and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

  34. I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

  35. What a brave keyboard warrior you are, you will never pass the SJW final exam with an attitude like that.

  36. Translation,”Blaming Socialism is just a convenient crutch to excuse failure”.

    “SOCIALISM made them underachieving brutes by taking them away from the collectivist society they had for a millennium.”

    And what is this nonsense,

    “If this had been a capitalist country from the start”

    WTF is that supposed to mean?- that this wasn’t a capitalist country at its founding?

    So all the growth this country experienced, the industrialization, trade, the prosperity that made this the greatist nation on earth with highest standard of living, was actually…Socialism!?

    That’s a stinging indictment.

  37. I’m pretty sure slavery and genocide are not tenants of capitalism.

  38. So no, this was never a Capitalist society, and we have socialism to thank for all the benefits we take for granted.

  39. You mean benefits like Social Security, welfare, Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, the War on Drugs, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Yemen, the war in Syria?

  40. And you think they were there from the beginning?-you are really up on things.

  41. You said “and we have socialism to thank for all the benefits we take for granted.” That statement includes recent history.

  42. Thank you for the advice and good luck with all your problems.

  43. Go f_ck yourself.

  44. Maybe not, but so what? The heritage I speak of didn’t start until long after Columbus, although its seeds go back to the Magna Charta. Although Columbus didn’t know it, he broke ground for the start of that heritage of inalienable individual rights and capitalism (the Vikings didn’t). That’s the thing that followed Columbus that we should look at most, not all the bad stuff. The good eventually overrode the bad. There’s no excuse for rejecting that good. There’s no excuse for rejecting that heritage, no matter what Columbus’s motives were. Mike Kevitt

  45. Who’s the collectivist racist? Someone who defends Native Americans’ rights and lives? Or someone who says since Native Americans aren’t part of Western civilization they don’t count?

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Dr. Berliner is the senior advisor to the Ayn Rand Archives. He was the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute from its founding to January 2000.

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