Welcome to Versus, a bi-weekly section featuring two opposing opinions on the same matter. Since we know for a fact that you only read those articles that you know beforehand you are going to agree with, we have decided to spare you the trouble of sorting through massive amounts of information to find someone who shares your ideology, therefore validating your opinion and letting you sleep at night. Consider it an adult version of Choose Your Own Adventure. One in which no matter what you do, you always die in the end. Enjoy.
Historic legacy or remnants of colonialism?
By Mariana Belisario-Blaksley
Since the Castro Brothers took over the island, they have tried to turn the Cuban revolution into a franchise. Although the whole point of creating such a thing is to share a successful business model, they did have success at destroying everything they touch down to the foundations like some sort of reverse king Midas: instead of the golden touch they master the crappy touch. Seconded by their earnest disciple, Hugo Chávez in his time and by Nicolás Maduro ever since el comandante kicked the bucket, the Castro brothers’ got their tobacco stained claws on a number of countries whose presidents think it is still cool to wear Che Guevara’s t-shirts even though they spend their spare time in New York or Miami. What does this have to do with the Columbus monument controversy? I’ll get there, I promise, as much as I enjoy myself gratuitously trashing communism every time I’ve got the chance, this whole intro helps me make my case.
Since we are dramatically becoming Venezuela, which is dramatically becoming Cuba, I will share a short story with you. A few years ago Chávez renamed October 12th as “Indigenous Resistance Day” in an anti-Europe invective regretting the discovery of America. Next thing you know, a bunch of supporters knocked a Columbus statue down. The statue was recovered but never got back to its pedestal and the Paseo Colón was also renamed as Indigenous Resistance Avenue. Disturbing coincidence, isn’t it?
But what was Chávez trying to do and why is Cristina following his steps? None of them gave a flying fuck about the whole affair, although I have to admit their love for pointing fingers and creating hatred an division. But in this case, indulging their taste for polarization and social resentfulness comes as a bonus. These stunts are nothing but a chapter of the Castros’-Manual-for-Becoming-a-Dictator in 12 simple and practical steps called “Distracting Maneuvers.” And yes, they come in fascicles. The opposition? They fall for the gimmicks every goddamn time, in every goddamn country. This Castro brothers know what they are doing which is why they are so lethal.
It is no secret I dislike Macri. What is more, I think he does not even qualify as an straight up boludo, he is more of a boludón, if you will. He is the Cristinism’s willing stooge, an scapegoat with daddy issues. In my hometown people would say of him “le falta burdel” which is a peculiar term my gentlemen friends who are fond of cabarets shall find amusing, that means he lacks political savvy and malice. And regarding this whole Columbus nonsense, the youngsters from el PRO, did it again, they took the bait and, as they invariably do, helped the government deflect the attention from the important matters: corruption scandals, the democratization of justice and the October elections to name a few. Nicely done, you simpletons. They didn’t even come up with some sharp punchlines such as: “If the government is so concerned about the original peoples, why does Capitanich look away while the Qom communities are endangered?”, or “Why is the also Kirchnerite Gildo Infrán repressing Qom protesters in Formosa?” and yet another one: “If the President loves the native tribes so much why wouldn’t she meet the Qom representatives up at the Casa Rosada?”
Bottom line for the opposition: stop falling into the government’s traps and start acting like full grown up politicians and strategists as this moment is critical and Venezuela’s reality is getting closer and closer. Focus on the important stuff, do not get distracted. The Castro brothers are keen to export their franchise and let me tell you this: it is not the kind which will ask you if you’d like fries with that.
A few words with respect to the symbolism of these whole Columbus and colonialism affairs, as idiotic as I think they are. I shall never excuse or justify the domination and annihilation of those who are weaker. As much as the yearning for domination may be innate, so it is the reaction to defend whoever is vulnerable. As naive as this may sound. History is fraught with horror and injustice and the discovery and colonialism of America was not exempt from them. But bringing these issues back is simply ridiculous. A short reflection for those who hate others for historical reasons: if I fight or argue with my British and Spaniard friends because their ancestors conquered this continent and committed every possible crime against the original peoples, they would probably say “those were your British and Spaniard ancestors, mine stayed in Europe.”
Historic legacy or remnants of colonialism?
By Colin Docherty
Let me start this by saying: I’m not from this hemisphere. Although my country (Australia) is a former colony, we weren’t taught all that much about Columbus and his journey west, except a fact or two. Sure, he kicked off that whole ‘taking land from natives’ craze that swept Europe – a model of conquest that the British fine tuned and eventually exported down under. But Columbus was never linked to any of that. He was just an adventurer who wasn’t nice to the natives.
On closer examination, Columbus doesn’t have an intellectual legacy. He didn’t found a social movement, nor a philosophical awakening, or a revolutionary thought. He may have kicked off the whole ‘adventure and plunder’ movement, but I’ve never heard anyone argue that he was a trend-setter – that greed was a cultural inevitability. He was cruel to natives, sure, but viewing those from outside of Europe as sub-human wasn’t a quality unique to Columbus.
Therefore, the negative light cast on Columbus isn’t about the person he was, but like the host/virus relationship, he passed on a ‘disease’ from one place to another, both figuratively in a cultural sense (gold, gold, GOLD! at all costs) and in a literal sense (genetic resistance turned out to be important!). I think we can all agree on one thing: this continent never had a chance. Europe was a petri dish of flesh eating diseases that could barely co-exist with itself; exposure to any outside culture was unintended chemical warfare. Sure, Columbus was the transferrer – like rats carrying the plague – but that doesn’t make him culpable for the destruction that followed. He was oblivious to the implications of a native people in the Americas, but so was everyone at the time.
In Australia, we have our own controversies. Our national day, ‘Australia Day’, was the target of a campaign of Indigenous Australians. Their proposal: for it to be renamed to ‘Invasion Day’ – and for the record, they make a fair point. We celebrate Captain Cook and the first landing, the establishment of a colony that would then form part of Australia. To the native Aboriginals, this was the day when their land wasn’t just taken from them, it was declared to have never been theirs in the first place. The European way of doing things, faux-legitimization of acts through legal means was a rigged deck of cards – worse still, this framework still exists to this day and wasn’t challenge until the 1980’s with Mabo-Wick. Like some STDs, political legacy can stick around despite multiple treatment attempts, sadly.
Native Americans have good reason to hang Columbus up as the symbol of the destruction of their continent. Nonetheless, simultaneously Columbus also represents the single most powerful Western ideal: that we live in a world of endless possibilities. There are no boundaries that we cannot be overcome. Our bravery leads to discovery, adding more synergy to the powerful cogs of our civilization. It’s hard to see the renaissance happening without the resource glut that came from colonialism, much like it’s hard to see the original philosophers in Plato and Socrates being presented the opportunity to teach philosophy without the economic surplus that came from slave labor.
Colonialism and slavery were vile undertakings, and I really do understand why certain groups here are deeply offended by the glorification of Columbus. But if their goal is to change the people’s mentality, they should be more specific. Columbus represents both the worst and best qualities of our Western thinking, and to attack both indiscriminately will do little. If I were them, I’d take a leaf out of the Australian Aboriginal’s playbook: November 3, 1493 is a far better symbol than the name ‘Columbus’.