Opinion: Columbus and Western culture

By Albert Shaw

This time of year people want to blame Columbus for everything that took place in what became North and South America and across the world.

What most of us lose track of is that Western Europe by the 1490s had the ability and means to sail across what became known as the Atlantic Ocean. There is strong indication that Cod Fisherman were on the Grand Banks of what today is Newfound Land and knew there was land to to the west, before Columbus sailed. This would have become “dock talk” in Europe and someone would have wanted to know what was there.

The Portuguese found the Northeast corner of what is Brazil in 1500 on their way around Africa. Thus, without Columbus things would have happened perhaps, differently, but who knows. The real item that helped Europe take over the America’s and some other parts of the world was disease. smallpox, influenza and others. Without disease it is highly unlikely it would have been possible to over run and conquer the Aztec and Inca Empires, both were well-organized governments. In the 1500s no one understood disease. So someone would have sailed west and run into the Americas. The real question is why did Western Culture and not Chinese, Indian or African culture take over most of the world? And would it be better off if it had? Notice, I use culture not race. Even today we have thousands of people from “failed countries” voting with their feet from Africa, the Middle East and Central and South America trying to get into Western culture in Europe and North America.

Yes we have problems and need to work on them to make the world a better place for all.

• Albert Shaw was born and raised in Juneau and has served on numerous boards. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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