By POSTFATARESURGO for The Saker Blog
The World Thought Police (WTP) has included Cristoforo Colombo, a.k.a. Christopher Columbus, in his black list. He was a “bad” person, period. Details are not needed. WTP’s decision are not questionable, nor they can be subject to anyone’s appeal, scrutiny or disagreement. Once the WTP issues a red flag on anyone, past, present or future, scores of enforcers are ready, as they were waiting for a signal, to go into action. Even the most neutral observer of current events will have to admit that this ongoing heritage hate frenzy plays along well consolidated tactics, anything but “spontaneous”. Proof of that could easily come from asking participants in the hysteric toppling of statues around the US if they could correctly place dates and events related to the subject to be grounded: somebody has done that and all the answers he could receive were growls from a crowd of rabid Pavlov’s dogs who admit no questioning to their rage. After all a basic tenet of victimhood philosophy is that virtually everyone with problems, perceived problems, or a bad life situation, is a victim. Racial, sexual, age, ethnic, political, or whatever discrimination factor, outside one’s self, is to blame for one’s problems.
As for Americans of Italian heritage, the ultimate date to celebrate is the discovery of the new world by an Italian, Cristoforo Colombo on October 12th, 1492. But Colombo had no idea of being “Italian”, nor other prominent “Italian” navigators and explorers of the time, incidentally all of them working for national states such as Spain, France or England, simply because there was not a state called “Italy” that could have financed their costly voyages.
Therefore, Colombo always considered himself a Genoese, Vespucci and Verrazzano considered themselves Florentines, and Giovanni Caboto – although probably born in Gaeta – was sure to be Venetian. Giovanni da Verrazzano (whose correct spelling was only recently recognized by the state of New York) was in fact the first European to set foot in North America and Amerigo Vespucci unwillingly gave the name to the entire continent, courtesy of the German cartographer Waldseemüller.
As for Columbus, targeted by many as one of symbols representing a past that must be eradicated, there are indeed records and historical accounts that prove that he was not – by today’s standards – benevolent towards natives he came in contact with. Rather, he probably did not consider them any different than animals or objects, just like the Romans who considered – without any qualms of conscience – other human beings they had reduced to the status of slaves, just that: objects to be used for any labor necessities, whether by a private owner who had purchased them, or by the state for public works such as roads or public buildings such as arenas or aqueducts.
So, where do we go from here? It doesn’t take long to figure out that if we continue to examine history by todays’ “moral standards”, the path becomes endless. Soon there will be an endless list of human beings –under any denomination possible – demanding some sort of compensation for torts, damages, injustices, presumed violence, discrimination, unfair treatment, you name it.
Let’s get back to the Romans. They got their huge empire by conquering, that is by subjugating with violence other human beings, all over western Europe, northern Africa, and parts of Asia. Never mind that eventually those “barbarians” conquered themselves a crumbling Roman empire certainly not waging an olive branch. What about ancient peoples of the Italian peninsula? They were mostly peaceful populations who would have lived happily along the Romans, but the Romans waged war to their neighbors Etruscans, Sabines, Picenes, Ligures, Samnites, Lucani, Celts, Gauls just to name a few.
A possible lawsuit against the city of Rome by anyone claiming “suffering damages” enhanced by racial hatred in a past life is looming in the not so distant future, not to mention that statues of Roman emperors, the Colosseum and Roman arches of triumph are inevitably at risk.
What about the making of Italy as a nation? In 1861, the various states comprised in the Italian peninsula, including duchies and grand-duchies, decided to become all Italians and put aside almost two thousand years of differences and live happily together. At least that’s what history manuals have told us all along, right? Not quite.
Neapolitan philosopher Giovanbattista Vico stated that history invariably repeats itself. And one of the basic lessons of history is that it is written by the winners. The making of Italy was no exception to the rule as it was the annexation of a number of sovereign and independent states to another that simply had the military force to do so, because aided by foreign powers, namely France and Great Britain.
Giovanni Giolitti, the Italian statesman who ruled Italy for decades before Mussolini seized power in 1922, used to repeat that after all the Risorgimento was a fairytale, but a useful one, and as such it should be left untouched. In essence, the making of Italy caused for most Italians, especially from the south, suffering and despair, due to an unbearable worsening of their livelihoods, so bad in fact that millions were forced to emigrate to both North and South America. It was, once again since the beginning of recorded history, one organized elite who prevailed upon innocent populations who lived peaceful lives under their respective Kings and Dukes, which –incidentally – had not declared nor sought any conflict whatsoever with Piedmont or any other Italian state.
Ironically, the Kingdom of Piedmont (also called Kingdom of Sardinia as the island was part of it) was by all accounts the least “Italian” of all other Italian states. In fact the common language used in Piedmont was French, and the opening declaration of the Kingdom of Italy, pronounced on March 17th, 1861 by Camillo Benso di Cavour were in fact pronounced in French: “Le Royaume d’Italie est aujourd’hui un fait. Le Roi, notre auguste souverain prend pour lui-même et pour ses successeurs le titre de Roi d’Italie”. (The Kingdom of Italy is today accomplished. The King, our august sovereign, assumes for himself and his successors the title of King of Italy)
That the opening statement of the new nation was pronounced in French is one of the many details historians failed to describe or deleted altogether because inconvenient to the official narrative of the making of Italy. Neither Cavour nor the new king himself, Victor Emmanuel II, really knew how to express themselves in Italian, as the common language was the local dialect or, in more official occasions, French. Even after 1861 French was kept in use for most official acts of the new government as most employees and representatives came from Piedmont and had therefore no knowledge of Italian, which was used by no more than 2-3% of the populations of the Italian peninsula. The rest was simply other dialects, or other languages like Neapolitan.
Every basic manual of Italian history will tell you that Italy has its “founding fathers” and incidentally they all came from the Kingdom of Piedmont: Mazzini, the political father, ideologue and mastermind. Cavour, the discreet strategist and diplomat. The first King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II, who preferred to be named in continuity with the dynastic line of Savoy, instead of becoming what should have been Victor Emmanuel I of Italy. And the quintessential Italian hero, Garibaldi.
Garibaldi enjoys a statue in every Italian city, village or hamlet. Universally recognized as the man who singlehandedly defeated all the enemies of Italian populations longing for liberty under one state, he also spent quite some time in South America, where he had to make a living, somehow. In 1852, in Lima, he decided to assume Peruvian citizenship in order to be named captain of a vessel that was to offer regular service from Lima to China with a cargo of guamo fertilizer, and sail back from Canton with a cargo of coolies, chinese peasants of the lowest class, who were practically brought to Peru by force to extract Guamo as slave labor force for a job not even the poorest Peruvians wanted to do.
So we have a problem here. Even a champion of liberty as Garibaldi could come under scrutiny as a slave trader and his statues soon could come down as symbols of a past that must be eradicated. Soon a worldwide ban on Garibaldi’s symbols could be enacted by the WTP and his statues – worldwide, but especially in Italy – singled out for immediate demolition.
But Colombo and Garibaldi were simply men of their times who were not burdened by the moral dilemmas of the 21st century. We should know better than judging with today’s standards men of the past, despite all their flaws. After all we should know that men of the future will judge many of today’s standards with inevitable different ones.
Italian Americans – regardless of their political affiliation – should see Colombo as one “Italian” who embodied one of quintessential American qualities: don’t take the word “impossible” for granted. Most seamen of his time believed that the discovery of another part of the world sailing westward was “impossible” as – in their beliefs – the ocean was simply an endless body of water no human being should dare to challenge.
The making of Italy inevitably caused emigration and suffering to millions of people, just as Garibaldi or Colombo did cause suffering to other fellow human beings, thinking they were doing “the right thing”. That has happened in every country or civilization of the past, and it will happen inevitably again. But statues, or symbols, are essential: they help us remember, no matter what.
Destroying statues is a complete useless damnatio memoriae which serves no one. Neither the perpetrators, who should be remembered and judged for their deeds, good or bad, nor the victims, which will be completely forgotten. But it does serve the same old movers and shakers who are acting – and funding – behind the scenes this wave of hysteria in order to eradicate our symbols, and therefore our memory.