Destroying Statues and Loot Thy Neighbor Chimp Wars
We erect monuments to the men (almost always men) who have, according to the ruling powers, advanced their cause. Their cause has not always been honorable, it has, more likely, been selfish and they twist the story to fit their agenda. This is the ‘history’ we are taught and think is ‘true.’ We get a bit disgusted and outraged when we discover how twisted history has been, because nobody likes to be lied to.
So statues of Columbus are being attacked. When I was in school, we were taught Columbus was some sort of genius who knew a ship wouldn’t plunge off the edge of a flat earth and bravely set sail to discover new lands to civilize. Most of this tale came from a fiction work by Washington Irving in 1828. Why incorporate a hero tale into supposed history? Because the mundane facts don’t make as good a story and we humans love stories. We want a hero and a conflict and the hero overcomes the conflict. Yay.
Actually, people knew the world was round for thousands of years and Columbus basically wanted to get rich. Like all men of his imperialist era, he didn’t give a flip about any savages he might encounter along the way. He was looking for India, rich in resources to extract, which is why he called the natives Indians. He didn’t find it. He abused and enslaved the Caribe natives he met in various brutal ways common to his time.
So Columbus was the evil monster? The Caribes were the heroes? We seem to demand a hero and a villain. But truth resists simplicity, doesn’t it? The Caribes had previously invaded and slaughtered the inhabitants they had encountered. Does Columbus deserve a statue and even his own holiday? No, unless we want to continue to exalt state-sponsored armed robbers, which is really what these imperialist colonizers were. Yet we like memorials… Maybe we could erect one that just listed what happened here, without all the BS. But who gets to write the inscription?
If humanity is to advance beyond Loot Thy Neighbor Chimp Wars, we probably should reconsider whom we exalt as heroes. Alexander the Great? What is so great? ‘Great’ seems to be based on how cleverly and widely the great one Looted His Neighbors. Seriously.
I’d love to see us revere real heroes, with valuation of human life as the minimum criteria for statue-hood.