Monday, October 13, 2014

Essential Listening for Columbus Day

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In addition to the atrocities visited upon the peoples of the Americas in the wake of the "discovery" of the "New World" by Christopher Columbus (ostensibly for the first time on October 12, 1492 as discussed in "Essential Reading for Columbus Day"), the official disclosure in Europe of the existence of the Americas led directly to the massive kidnaping and transportation of men and women from Africa to the Americas to serve as slave labor, in a centuries-long system of intergenerational slavery (in which children of those illegally kidnaped and held as slaves were also considered to be slaves themselves and raised as such).

Huge numbers of these kidnaped men and women were brought through the islands of the Caribbean, including Jamaica, where some of them were forced to remain as slaves and provide slave labor in the oppressively hot and humid conditions found in that part of the globe. Jamaica was originally claimed as a Spanish possession by Christopher Columbus, who landed there in 1494, but was later forcibly taken over by the British.

It should be noted that the systematic kidnaping, brutalization, torture, murder, and destruction of culture (for instance through the forced imposition of new languages and the indoctrination into different religious systems, primarily the literalist forms of Christianity) employed against the men and women of the Americas and the men and women of Africa in both cases clearly fit the definitions of genocide proposed after the Second World War.

It should be obvious that the enslavement of another man or woman and the treating of them (and their children) as property is a heinous violation of what nineteenth-century abolitionist and political philosopher Lysander Spooner called "natural law" (as opposed to "artificial law"); one of Spooner's most important published treatises (from 1850, prior to the abolition of legal slavery in the United States) was an argument that the Fugitive Slave Act signed by President George Washington in its first version and President Millard Fillmore in its second and updated version was actually no law at all and should have been opposed and disobeyed by all men and women.

This raises the uncomfortable question of the degree to which the tacit support or silent non-opposition of the masses of the people in any country or nation are necessary to enable the imposition of illegal, criminal, or even genocidal systems or institutional actions by that country, and the carrying out of those criminal deeds, even if the people themselves do not agree with what is going on. It also raises the even more uncomfortable question of how people who should know better come to actually agree with what is going on, or at least to excuse it and justify it to themselves and others through some belief system which is used to condone such behavior or cast a "veil of legitimacy" over what is actually illegitimate and criminal (this involves the concept of what could be called mind control).

Understandably, the descendants of those forcibly kidnaped from Africa and made to provide slave labor in Jamaica and elsewhere have a different perspective on Christopher Columbus and his "discovery" than the one that has often been taught in the public school system, for example.

Below are three songs which might be offered as "essential listening" on Columbus Day, two of which mention Columbus explicitly and the third of which discusses the ongoing systems of oppression which did not disappear even after formal slavery was abolished in the 1800s. They are "Still rest my heart" by Culture, "Here comes the judge," by Peter Tosh, and "400 years," by Bob Marley & The Wailers (sung by Peter Tosh).