Sunday, 16 May 2010

Reading A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE U.S by Howard Zinn (1)

Chapter 1 Columbus, the Indians, and human progress

I think it interesting that Zinn begins the US history from Columbus' discovery. Even though there has been history in America before the discovery, he takes this writing style that probably reveals Zinn's western-orientated view of the US history.

Zinn said that Spain sought gold, more useful than land because it could buy anything. But I wonder if gold was not got in the country at all. Zinn describes Columbus not as hero but as a heartless fellow. his second expenditure's aim was slaves and gold. Columbus couldn't find gold fields and put fifteen hundred men, women, and children in pens to send to Spain to sell there. Too many of the slaves died in captivity.

I think Columbus' cruel behavior was characteristic of the Christians in that time who regarded the infidel as not human. It is not until Levi Strauss(1908-2009) that this perceptions change dramatically. Levi Strauss showed the same social structure in the uncivilized societies as one in the western societies. He said that the "uncivilized societies" were not lagging behind the western societies because they have the same social structure.

Zinn said that to emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to deemphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice.  It serves unwittingly to justify what was done there.

I noticed the perceptional framework of heroes(Columbus) and their victims(Arawak) is only an aspect of a certain approach to the US history, in which the past is told from the point of view of government, conquerors, diplomats, and leaders.

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