Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Christopher Columbus: The Map is Not the Territory

Whatever I do, I can do it better by understanding that the map is not the territory--being more objective and clearer about how I’m thinking about things. You, too. Where are our biases, prejudices and other tendencies not to see things as they are but as we expect or want them to be? Do our values and standards work for the general good now, not in the future, and enable us to contribute to a world that works for everyone and everything, not just some special group? If not, am I willing to take responsibility for my thinking, values, biases and prejudices and change them?  Here is another example General Semantics debunking a cherished American myth written by Martin H. Levinson: The Map: Christopher Columbus Discovered America. A review of the territory: A national American holiday and two centuries of school-history lessons have led many to believe as true that Christopher Columbus was the first to reach America. But most scholars thing Columbus actually landed in Cuba, Hispaniola and on an island in the Bahamas during his 1492 voyage. Archaeological evidence suggests that Norse sailors led by Leif Erickson reached North America five hundred years before Columbus, establishing a colony in Newfoundland around 1000 AD.


It is interesting to note that Columbus’s bravery, persistence, and seamanship have earned him a prominent place in American history. But many school-books gloss over the fact that in his obsessive quest for gold he enslave the local population. With other Spanish adventurers, as well as later European colonizers, Columbus opened as era of genocide that decimated the Native American population through warfare, forced labor and European diseases to which the Indians, a name Columbus bestowed on Native Americans, had no natural immunities.


Considering Columbus’s prominence in our nation’s history, one might ask, why don’t we live in the United States of Columbus? The answer is that Amerigo Vespucci, and Italian who captained four voyages to the ‘New World’ beginning in 1499, recognized that the New World, a term that he coined, was a landmass separate from Asia. To honor his revelation, Vespucci’s give name was placed on the first map of the region. While Columbus may have found the new world first, Vespucci understood that is was a new world. Columbus went to his grave thinking he had reached Asia.

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