Indigenous Caribbean Network

This month people in various countries will be celebrating what is commonly called “Columbus Day” or “Dia de la Raza”; a day marked to celebrate the arrival of Columbus and his cronies crew onto the shores of “virgin” lands.

Many view this as an incredible event, worthy of celebration and joy. At a time when the planet was believed to be flat and only dangers and monsters awaited at the edge of the world, that a man had the audacity to take off into the vast unknown is nothing short of extraordinary! The Italians get to glorify one of their own, others celebrate escape from religious persecution, escape from famine, a place to begin life anew; some consider it was their god-given duty to bring Christianity and “civilization” to this “New World” and yet others, well, they just like the day off from work. But rarely does anyone stop to consider the flip side of the coin and are even surprised to hear that there are people out there who actually oppose celebration of this day as a holiday.

Well, to form an objective opinion one must have as much factual information as possible. I ask you to look at the other side of the coin, at least through this native’s eyes…

Before writing this essay, I sought the “pro” opinion; I needed an intelligent, objective and well constructed view in defense of the celebration of Columbus Day so that I may challenge it. I felt excited when I found Dr. Michael Berliner’s editorial on this controversy. I was feeling brave, figuring it would be a difficult ordeal to take on a PhD- in philosophy no less! But the more I read this article the more I realized that this whole essay was nothing but a collection of logical fallacies, arguments that are flawed in logic and deliberately(?) inaccurate, leading to a subjective conclusion that wasn’t supported by the information provided. Disappointing, really! Among the fallacies most often used are: red herrings, which distract one point for another, judgmental language, which insults the opposition personally as if that were the point of argument, composition, which makes something true that isn’t and non sequitur, a baseless conclusion. What I found surprising was that the author’s philosophy is not only Objectivism, which is supposed to be based purely on fact, but that Mr. Berliner is also the Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ayn Rand Institute. (Ayn Rand was the philosopher who created Objectivism.)

I guess a PhD doesn’t get you much these days.

The whole point of his piece is to argue in favor of the celebration of Columbus Day as the “discoverer of the New World”. The interesting detail here is that Berliner’s descriptions of natives, native life and history , on which he bases his “objective” opinion, are either erroneous or can very well be used to describe the Europeans themselves, if only because these points were facts of life in the 15th century. This essay will be dedicated to pointing out the fallacies used by Dr. Berliner as well as make corrections to the history he is basing his opinion on.

Magnesium vs. Gymnasium

One of the first claims Berliner states is that the attack on Columbus is an attack on Western Civilization. This is what is called a red herring fallacy. An argument thrown in to intentionally mislead or distract the other party from the original topic or subject, a digression. It distracts the listener or the reader into an unrelated topic and loses them in “yadda, yadda”. Then they come back to the original subject and viola! Because a lot has been written or said, you have a “convincing” argument.

But, not if you are paying attention…

The attack on celebrating Columbus has nothing to do with Western Civilization; apples and oranges. That native peoples have a bone to pick with western civilization as well is not a big secret, but it is a separate topic. I will touch on both topics separately, as it should be; and since “discovery” is the main topic, as well as the easiest one to dismiss, we will focus on that one first.

Discovery

I was always taught that the word discovery implied finding of a new thing, to reveal or expose something that was not known before; like when they discovered DNA, or new insects or new uses for organic materials that have never been thought of before, those are true discoveries. I only have three dictionaries and they all seem to agree with this definition. However, in support of Mr. Berliner’s point, we could say that Columbus effectively, as he says “brought America to the attention of…Western Europe” since he did uncover a land that was unknown to them at the time. But does this mean that Columbus discovered America in “every important respect”, as he claims? The only argument he has is that the Europeans didn’t know about America so he discovered it for THEM, but this is not a true discovery, is it?

I have never been to Europe. If I get on a plane, fly over there and explore the cities I am literally discovering the area. But there are folks that live there already. Say my little imaginary trip is over, I come home and tell my family about it; could I claim discovery for anyone other than myself?

This is another logical fallacy called the fallacy of composition; if it’s a little bit true then it’s all true. Columbus discovered America for himself and the Europeans only, not the World. By implying that Europe was “The World” at the time, you devalue the people living everywhere else on the planet as “less than”, which is not only racist and ethnocentric, but also gives you an attitude of superiority. This attitude of superiority and thinly veiled supremacism is the same that supported the cruel and barbarous acts committed against the Natives, the same attitude that supported Hitler!

Civilized? I don’t think so. But it may be why these two different topics are so often blended together.

I am getting ahead of myself, but it is a nice little segue into my next topic. However before we move on I would like to end the topic of discovery with the comment that Columbus’ finding of the Americas was not discovery as much as it was a serendipitous finding, an accident. He was not out looking for America, he was looking for India and found America instead.

This is how the Caribbean People became the First American Indians.

Western Civilization

I found my dictionaries to be somewhat vague here so we will look at the facts and come to a logical conclusion. These dictionaries define civilization as being an advanced state of society with a high level of culture, science and government; a culture or society of a particular time and place and a populated area as opposed to a wilderness.

I also looked up civil, since a civilization is supposed to be constructed by and for civil people. Besides the definitions of citizenship as opposed to military life, they define civil as: not rude, acting in accordance to polite social interactions and a condition of social order and organized government.

These definitions can be applied to ANY civilization at ANY point in time. The Romans were the epitome of civilization in their time and their Superbowl was pitting people against lions to see who won! Not something we would do today because it’s “uncivilized”. During the Renaissance, people wore perfumes to mask body odor because they didn’t bathe on a regular basis. With a few exceptions, in this day and age we bathe daily. At one point in time doctors didn’t wash their hands from one patient to the next and it was only the other day that we stopped smoking in places like hospitals and doctor’s offices. Anything living and thriving will grow and change, civilization is no different. To say that one is better than the other is subjective- it really all depends on who you are asking.

Because once people congregate, make homes and have a governing body they are considered a civilization, I understand then, that Berliner was using the “uncivilized” argument as a Judgmental Language fallacy. This is a fallacy used when you don’t have a logical argument; so you use insults and derogatory language to put down the opposing party instead. A quick example would be “He thinks the movie is cool, but he’s an idiot anyway”.

You see it a lot in schools and playgrounds. And it’s, again, subjective.

Berliner goes on using this inflammatory language, putting down the civilizations that existed in the Americas as lesser than the civilization the Europeans had, even to the point of claiming that this Nation was founded on European ideas!

Fact: The Europeans had no clue on how to run a democracy. They came from a society governed by a Monarchy who claimed authority to rule as a god given right. It wasn’t working in Europe, it’s one of the many reasons they came to the Americas. And when they finally became independent from British rule, they were lost as to how to unite 13 colonies as one when they were supposed to be independent. USA democracy is based not on any roman ideal, it’s based on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, The Iroquois League, the Six Nations of the North who are the oldest participatory democracy on Earth. We have a governing system that was worthy of imitation! Benjamin Franklin’s first diplomatic job in the 1700’s was as Pennsylvania’s Indian Commissioner and during that time he became intimate with the ins and outs of Indian diplomacy and insisted that the US adopt this way of thinking to run the USA.

He speaks of the land and peoples of the USA in 1492, when Columbus had nothing to do with the lands that became the USA at the time. (Non sequitur Alert!)

Fact: Columbus’ first voyage landed in the Bahamas, after which he explored Cuba and then Espanola. The Spanish didn’t come to Florida until 20 years later.

Berliner goes on to describe the native peoples in a way that makes you think of neanderthals, and perhaps that is his opinion. However, he needed to do more research and based his opinion on fact, like Ayn Rand would have done. Berliner states: “The inhabitants were primarily hunter-gatherers…living from hand-to- mouth and day-to-day” and they had “little agriculture and scant permanent settlement”.

Fact: The Taino, the nation that Columbus first met, used a farming method they called conucos, which was a farming method taught to the colonies who used it until the 1930’s. We would put corn, yuca, beans, and squash all in this conuco and not only did the plants protect each other from the sun, but they also protected each other by attracting insects that ate the pests that ate the plants. They also nurtured each other, since the wastes of one plant was the food of another; and the conuco itself, by it’s very construction, prevented erosion. Another thing the Taino did was farm by cuttings, as opposed to seeds. That’s advanced farming, my friend, not some fly by your seat, let’s-see-if-it’s-edible kind of existence. And that was just the Taino! The peoples in mainland Americas were cross pollinating corn to create corn hybrids that filled their needs. Present “civilization” is only starting to touch this kind of technology! The Taino lived in villages, had plazas, music and art, had a religious cosmology with priests and healers, a governmental heirarchy and we shared community ceremonies and celebrations…much like society today. And as far as “permanent settlements”, what are the ruins of the Maya, Aztec and Inca civilization if not permanent? People lived there! And they were so well constructed that to date, they are STILL standing! These are facts.

As for life being “nasty, brutish and short” that is pretty much describing life ANYWHERE on the planet in the 15th century. And he was absolutely right about the warfare of the times!

Fact: The Inquisition, the Hundred Year’s War, The Expulsion of the Muslims and the Jews from Spain and Portugal, civil upheaval in England, Wars in France, Wars in Italy- just google 15th century! All this and more was happening in Europe, in Berliner’s “superior culture” at the time- “endless, bloody wars.” Yes, the natives warred against each other but we didn’t commit genocide, rarely did people die. It was more honorable to “count coup”, to touch an enemy without killing him or being killed was admired, and to avoid inbreeding, women were taken from neighboring tribes. The Europeans were used to attacking to kill; European civilization did not bring us peace. These are facts.

To state that western civilization brought an improvement for the people in the Americas, without which we could not have survived into this century is a formal fallacy called appeal to probability. There is no way of knowing how things would have turned out. That comment is pure speculation and far from being objective. It also reflects Berliner’s inflamed ego and sense of superiority when he suggests western civilization was our saving grace. Just looking at the details we have gone over so far, we were doing pretty good without western intervention! You might even say better than the Europeans were doing, since they ended up running away from Europe! How do you factor that in?

Berliner then goes on to prattle about how those against Columbus Day are actually out to get western civilization; talk about chasing your tail! I guess a PhD allows you to publish your own conspiracy theories.

I found it incredibly ironic when he argues that not all cultures are morally equal and dares say: “a free society is better than slavery; reason is better than brute force as a way to deal with other men”. This is , almost word for word, the stand of Objective philosophy, however it was not quite what western civilization brought to us, the native peoples of this land. We were enslaved; raped in body and mind, brutalized. Barolome’ de las Casas, a Spanish priest who came with Columbus wrote that the Spaniards:

made bets as to who would slit a man in two, or cut off his head at one blow; or they opened up his bowels. They tore the babes from their mothers breast by their feet, and dashed their heads against the rocks…they spitted the bodies of other babes, together with their mothers and all who were before them, on their swords….and by thirteens, in honor and reveraece for our Redeemer and the twelve Apostles they put wood underneath and, with fire, they burned the Indians alive

This is the civilization Columbus brought with him. This is not propaganda, this is history.

It was surprising to read Berliner’s claim that western civilization stands “for man at his best”, since his PhD is supposed to be in philosophy. He must have missed a couple of days of school. A far as I am aware, Sir Thomas More’s Utopia was based on the information coming into Europe about the native’s way of life in the Americas. It was from there that the rest of Europe began thinking of a life free from monarchic rule. They knew no other way of life, they learned about freedom from the native peoples! Even Ayn Rand looked to America as a model of what free men could be!!
Apples and Oranges

Berliner does touch on something intrinsic to native society, the Collectivistic philosophy we lived by. This way of thinking supports the idea that is presently being proven by physics, we are all connected. All living things are interdependent and what affects one will eventually affect the rest, so decisions were made with thought on how it would affect people seven generations into the future. Within this philosophy of life, however, it was understood that the collective was made up of individuals and these individuals were free to do as they pleased. Berliner’s rhetoric is all based on the debate between the philosophies of Individualism and Collectivism. This is not a difference of right or wrong nor better or worse, unless, like Berliner, you make it that way. It’s merely a difference of perspective, much like measuring in feet and yards as opposed to using the metric system.

Mr. Berliner seems to have a passion for teaching and a desire to be of service in a way that focuses on the freedom of the people of this great country of ours. I would suggest he refocus on issues that affect the country on a grander scale; perhaps apply Ms. Rand’s objectivistic philosophy on the slave work that lines the pockets of so many American companies, the forced (and illegal) removal of native peoples from their lands for the benefit of American Companies as well as the poisoning of our environment by yet other American industries and the way this affects the local human populations down to their very DNA. These actions would best serve the country as well as fall well within the objective philosophical view of laissez-faire capitalism.

Then he’ll be doing Ms. Rand proud!

(c)Anita Pagan

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Comment by Arenahi on October 16, 2008 at 11:50pm
That "In Dios" meant "in God" is a myth. Even if it was called Hindustan, "h" is not pronounced in Spanish, and India was the name that others called.
Comment by Juan Almonte on October 14, 2008 at 1:10am
Nanu, I tip my hat off to you. You did some research there. I am sure your right about the "en dio" thing, makes sense. That is very interesting. That is what damon probably meant. I didn’t want to type the whole forward page. As it is work that is copy written and is just not right. But I will read it again.

Talking about Mayan words. There is a movie called the end of spears. There is a taino from kiskeya in that movie. Jorge Estevez told me he knew him. The Taino plays the head chief of an Ecuadorian Indians. I think they were called waodani. In the part that they are speaking waodani I heard a few words that sounded familiar. In the subtitles they meant the same too. So I am thinking that these folks also spoke an Arawak language or maybe a Mayan and therefore some of there words sounded Taino.

I think that the religion that Damon was talking about had to do with cemis praying, and other spiritual practices. That columbus saw I am sure that Columbus saw this as a religion and then made his comment, on his journal. I mean even an atheist is religious if you think about it. But what I find intersting is that India wasn’t called that back then.


Nanu wrote "Just for fun, I would like to share this debate I found on Columbus! He is supposed to be Portuguese, who took on an Italian persona to escape the Portuguese government."

I actually heard many different nationalities for Columbus. I heard that he could have been Greek. For all we know Italy claims him and he may not even be Italian.

Tainray; compai I agree with you. But these statue’s need to come down. Also the Columbus Day parades have to come to an end. Italians have other holidays that they can celebrate. They don’t need this one. It a racist one.
Comment by Caracoli on October 13, 2008 at 11:41pm
Good bye Christopher Columbus, I no longer dwell on you and your colonizing ways. I have put you in the trashcan where you belong.
Comment by Anita Pagan on October 13, 2008 at 5:05pm
I shall make the correction- he was actually trying to reach the East Indies, South East Asia and adjacent Islands... This does include India, if only as part of southern Asia. In the 1500 the Spanish were trying to get there, which is why the islands were called West Indies as opposed to East Indies- once they realized they weren't where they thought they were.

I looked in a couple of Latin dictionaries and found this:

Inda : Cornelism / Anster.
indagatio : investigation.
inde : thence, from there, for that reas...


# indicium : data, information, evidence, indication, pointer.
# indi...


These are just two of the few I looked up and they all pretty much looked the same. I even found a translator but it did not find the word indio. I am a big believer in self research and I cannot find where Indio means "with God" in Latin- on line, at least.

I believe that Mr. Corris may have gotten his information in the same place Russell Means did. He claims "indian" came from "en dio" which is supposed to mean "in god" in Spanish. In Latin it means "Behold Divinity!". I wasn;t there to nit pick the details, but being that they were trying to get to the Indies, it seems to make more sense that way. Also, it was said the natives had no religion, so I doubt they would be calling the natives as beings that are "In God", although it does sound good.

This is a translation of Columbus' log. If you notice on Oct 10 he speaks of going to the Indies and towards the end of Oct 11th he speaks of the people that met him.

I have looked at many of the taino designs and found them similar if not the same as Mayan. That is very interesting. I didn't know they replaced whole words, though!

Just for fun, I would like to share this debate I found on Columbus! He is supposed to be Portuguese, who took on an Italian persona to escape the Portuguese government.
Comment by Juan Almonte on October 13, 2008 at 3:10pm
Jesus, I forget to spell check. But I am sure you guys can understand.
Comment by Juan Almonte on October 13, 2008 at 3:08pm
Nanu, I didn't mention gold and silver as it is evident. This is why our people were slaves in the Caribbean.


I reread you essay. I think you will find the below very interesting.

I have Damon Gerard Corrie "An English to arawak dictionary" In the foreword section he wrote.

You should also note the fact that Columbus did not call us "Indians" because he thought that he had reached India- which is utter nonsense seeing as the the country now known as "India" was historically known as Hindustan (land of the Hindus) in Columbus’s day, only since the British conquest in the 1800'S did the name India appear on the map. Columbus was an Italian from Genoa, and Indio (which is what the Spanish speaker call all American indians/ameridians- in Latin (the scholarrly language of the day) means "with god"

Whom he described in his journals as being "the most christainlike people in all the world" just before he added "they would make excellent slaves"


Damon Gerard Corris is from the lokono tribe. We use to email eachother. Very nice guy. I learned from him that our Taino ancestors traded with other Indians especially the Mayan. And that our ancestors also dropped Arawak words and replaced them with Mayan words.


If you every read Ayn Rand work. I recommend you read the fountain head. Very good book. The lead character basically embodies her objective philosophy. Really good read. They made it into a movie. But the movie is not even close to how good the book was.
Comment by Anita Pagan on October 13, 2008 at 8:03am
BTW, Ruben

You are correct. That and more!!
Comment by Anita Pagan on October 13, 2008 at 8:03am
Juan,

You are quite right in what you say. I would like to add that many of the riches in gold and silver that line the crowns of Spain, France and England came from the Americas. This is besides the cotton, food and new ideas of freedom that were exported.

As for Ayn Rand, I had not quite heard of her until I started looking into this @$$H@!#. In the original post, which is on my blog site, there are links to Berliner's bio and the particular essay I was working from, as well as Rand bio and her principles of objectivism. I am sorry not to have noticed that the links didn't translate to this post, but if you are interested, here is my site...

www.tainowoman.wordpress.com
Comment by Juan Almonte on October 13, 2008 at 12:28am
Nanu, I was very interested that you mentioned Ayn Rand. Have you read any of her, books, novels? My favorite's is the fountain head and we the living. I also like her philosophy books. Especially introduction to epistemology.


P.S. I hit the post button with out checking for bad spelling and obviously my bad grammar.
Comment by Juan Almonte on October 13, 2008 at 12:24am
I agree, I am compleatly against honoring this pig. Its a slap on every person of indigenous deccent, even if they themselfs still dont know they are. Espeacially on the tainos, caribs and central and south american indians. We lost more of our tribal identity cause this so called discovery happened from south to north.

Who know's what our ancestors and other indigenous people would have achevied if there was no contact. Or even if there was contact. But with out the mentality to conquerer and inslave. Two worlds could have learn from each other.

I hope this doesnt come out anti-europe.Cause I dont belive in blaming people who they themslelf are not even deccendants of these criminals. But if it wasnt for this continent europe would not be as rich as it is now. I mean just look at there food. Tomatoe was not indignous to europe. What would a chiken parmigan be without the sauce. Or the typical irish plate of cabage and potatoe. Potatoe is also not native to europe. We have contirbuted to europe in a way that many of us still dont know. Almost every country in europe has a dish that repesent them that has a food that actually comes from the american continet.

There is alot of history that is not told about indigenous people. There is proof that in south america they had hot air ballons, also the mayans had minature airplanes. That actually flew. There is even evidence that certain tribes ( I belive from argentia) performed brain surgery and the survival rate was better than was presently done in the states at the time I saw the documenty on pbs. There patients actually lived to be very old. Many of the first european actually distroyed many of these things and or took credit for them. I mean look at chocolate. A aztec king drank about 30 cups of it a day. But the switz added sugar to it and now it became european.

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