What I’m going to say may come as a shock to some of you: Columbus discovered America!
He did in a very real sense.
He connected the Western Hemisphere, which, for all intents and purposes, was an isolated cultural backwater, with the comparatively more open and advanced culture of the West. By doing so, he changed the course of human history.
I tend to relate the course of human progress with the expansion of networks. Westerners are credited – at least, they should be credited – with creating the densest and, consequently, the most generative network in human history. And many of thes achievements associated with the West stem from the courage and farsightedness of Christopher Columbus. By connecting the Americas with the West, he ensured that the connections already occurring within the comparatively free and open societies of western Europe would occur at significantly higher volumes and faster rates.
I posted a brief tribute to Columbus on my Facebook page today and a friend pointed out that modern animus towards him reflects a wider hatred for the legacy of the West. He’s right, of course.
All of this animus towards Columbus strikes me as nonsensical and even comedic. But for the efforts of Columbus and the comparative openness of the culture out of which he sprang, there would be very few prosperous and literate people around to critique the explorer’s legacy.
So, Happy Columbus Day, folks.