Monday, October 10, 2016

Columbus Day

So it's Columbus Day again.

If you don't hate this holiday, then you aren't paying attention. Maybe you just decided to accept the paid day off from your employer and enjoy it without thinking. That's genius. Keep doing that. Really, close this page and for the love of God don't listen to anything anyone has to say about Columbus.

To those who are paying attention, it's a glorious day to be reminded that who we are as a nation was built on a foundation of theft, brutality, and murder. Appropriately, it's always on a Monday.

Almost every article published about the holiday today was a reminder that support is growing for a new holiday, Indigenous People's Day, which has already been passed by about forty local governments and a few states. This way, we can be reminded that European white society is the aggressor and non-white societies are the victims, now with 20% more self-righteousness! 

Nothing new here. In this surprisingly good article from the Atlantic, you can see that the holiday was politicized for the sake of racial and nationalistic interests from the beginning. But in the last century, the minorities were looking for pride in themselves instead of shame to throw on others. Now, it's different: Columbus has come to represent a certain historical perspective that absolutely relishes in telling people that European culture is morally illegitimate, and will not abide any telling of history in which it isn't drawn in the most reprehensible light possible. 

And by European moral standards, there's plenty of that reprehensible history to be had. Yes, we took the continent when we ran into it. Yes, we enslaved or killed people who were already living here. Yes, the body count is high, exactly how high we're not sure, just on the disease vector problem alone. And yes, the cultures of those people lost influence after we made contact, often because Europeans with power actively suppressed them.

I've been exposed to this perspective my entire life, and after thinking it through, my personal point of view is simple:

I don't care. 

I'm white, English speaking, and irrevocably the product of a liberal culture. Back in the day, there was a conflict of interests, and the society that is responsible for my existence won. You want me to feel guilty about it? Fuck right off, buddy. Hell, I'm going the other direction: the moral perspective which lead us to so much guilt is repulsive and stupid.

You can see this throughout the blog you're reading. It's pretty much what I do.

I don't reject European violence and power, and I see no reason to, given that every society on earth has its roots in aggression and war. Instead, I reject self-flagellation for the winning side based on morally universalist principle, which has roots in Western religious thought. It's pointless, self-loathing, and deeply irrational. No sensible historian could imagine, say, Romans feeling guilt like this after taking over a new territory. It's a completely Judeo-Christian, slave-morality attitude.

At the very least, Western morality needs to be understood as something that applies to your in-group, and extending it to those outside the group is a decision, not an obligation. Being good to outsiders frequently works out well, but strategically, if inclusion means that your society ends up disempowered, then it's perfectly rational to reject it.

This is the perspective of a powerful society. Which we are. You can embrace it without celebrating brutality for its own sake. And if you want to live in a society that's considered legitimate and good, then you don't have much of a choice anyway, because no society has ever thrived on guilt alone.

Now, I'm going to grab something to eat and go to work, which is near-pointless since all the banks are closed and I can't make orders or deposits. Fucking Columbus...

No comments:

Post a Comment