Human Progress

30 10 2009

A provacative title to this shocking chapter.  As you read through this chapter, the author uses blunt, simple statements to get the point across: Columbus “conquering of the Americas” was nothing more than a savage exploitation of people.  Upon arriving on the Bahama Islands, Columbus was greeted with unending hospitality and kindness.  With this foundation a great peace and alive could have been formed between these people.  Instead, two things took over: gold and slaves.  Columbus journey, although often glorified in American History, was instead a very bloody and savage conquest.  Indians were taken as slaves and ordered to find a certain quota of gold; if they did not fulfill this quota, then they would be cut and bled.


Reading this chapter made me wonder about wealth and its capacity to change human beings.  Clearly most people would classify the Indians as primitive and uneducated.  The Spaniards during global expansion would clearly be seen as the sophisticated, knowing kind.  Yet upon first interactions, the Indians offered peace, respect, and a willingness to learn from their new encounters.  The Spaniards instead dismissed all this, focusing only on gold and slaves.  Something we put monetary value for, such as gold, would seem trivial in comparison to friendship, peace, and the lives of other people.  Yet the supposedly sophisticated and educated group easily valued gold over all this.  It seems that knowledge, in this case, spawned greed.  This greed causes people to do the horrendous things we read about in this chapter.  After reading this chapter, we reconsider celebrating Columbus and all that he has done.  Perhaps it is not something we should be celebrating, but instead re-evaluating to see the effects of human nature.


Greed seems to bring out the worst in people, but is this greed part of human nature?  I once heard that human beings have a great capacity to adjust to their lives.  For example, once we become CEOs and make six figure paychecks, we are not satisfied.  We want more and continue to work for more.  It does not matter that we make billions, we can do better.  I tend to agree with this.  When something good happens to me, I tend to overlook it and try to move onto something new.  Yet when something bad happens, I dwell on it and make it a big deal.  It seems to me that people are constantly wanting more, hence more greed.  This never-ending desire makes competition, leading to conflict, which we have seen in this chapter leads to death and exploitation.   Of course, desire for more does not necessarily need to be for gold or slaves, it too can the desire to do good.   Deep down I think that we all are good and want good things, but when “civilization” comes, sometimes we end up like Columbus and desire the gold, and are willing to do anything to get it.

~Ray Rebong



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