Sunday, August 2, 2009

Europeans Discover America

Europeans discover America is the title because as it has been pointed out, other cultural traditions, especially of those who already lived there, perceived these events differently. And the joke goes, "Columbus is remembered because he was the last one to discover America."

But my own education was infused with long European traditions in which I was immersed, and in that narrative I still have not received a good explanation of the discovery of America.

I have the mechanics of it, the Colon voyages. What is lacking is the story of the impact of the new knowledge that vast unknown lands were now known. Was there a sense of shock; were philosophers dumbstruck, fabulists confounded, teachers enthused, storytellers bemused, churchmen aroused? About the awesome revelation that the entire world's past know-it-alls had neglected to find two huge major continents, even after 7,000 years of recorded history?

In thin defense of Western tradition, I can point out that after the discovery of America, the East, i.e., China, as far as I know, exhibited no dumbstruck philosophers, or aroused churchmen, etc. either. In short, all of Eurasia seemed to issue a bored yawn, a "so what?" stance. But this added piece of evidence is barely enough that we can establish a likely new thesis: in those days, wilderness was so common it was regarded as completely and utterly worthless.

1 comment:

Jumper said...

That the European tradition wasn't as smart as it thought it was.