It is always so delightful to come across a paragraph in a book, or an article, that encapsulates our exact thoughts, or feelings, in a way that we couldn’t have said, written, or articulated better. Amitav Ghosh, in his book: Sea of Poppies (must reading!), published in 2008, evoked that delicious reaction in me. Here is the passage that one of the characters, Captain Chillingworth, expressed after learning that the British Government was about to start a war (actually, it was two wars) with China during the mid 19th Century:
“I am sure it will do a great deal of good for some of us. But I doubt I’ll be of that number, or that many Chinamen will. The truth is, sir, that men do what their power permits them to do. We are no different from the Pharaohs or the Mongols; the difference is only that when we kill people we feel compelled to pretend that is for some higher cause. It is this pretence of virtue, I promise you, that will never be forgiven by history.”
Indeed! And, in this respect, the Colonialism of the 16th to this 21st century stands out as one of the darkest, most racist, bloodiest periods on our planet; a period that history has not forgiven as we are witnessing its sordid aftermaths still reverberating across our globe today. As with the British War on China – also called: The Opium Wars – whose objectives were purely mercantile and exploitative, the Western World colonists choose to sell all their wars as their noble effort to civilize the natives, educate, democratize and “globalize” them for their own good. This is precisely why those of us who are aware of, and have been subjected to, that “noble” cause realize all too well that the Western Powers have learned nothing from their wretched history. Nor does their enlightenment seem as if it is going to happen any time soon, either!
Sadly, most people in the West, especially those who were born from the seventies on, have no idea of the culpability of their governments in these blood-thirsty crimes. Nothing in their sanitized curricula informs them of these atrocities. Ergo, most are buying the fabricated tales of Western Supremacy that they are being fed.
However, this is being said and written about by the many honest writers, investigative journalists and first-hand accounts of people who have lived that colonialism redux which has been going on, specifically, throughout the latter part of the twentieth century and up to today and, that is being fuelled by corrupt politicians, their unethical mainstream media choir and the willfully blind citizens of the Western World who can pretend empathy with disasters, but who will continue to support the propaganda of their war-mongering governments, its conjured up enemies and fabricated threats to “our way of life” lest – God forbid! – they should lose the freedom of a trip to the mall!
The same day that I read Ghosh’s passage, I was reading the latest news on how Germany was nearing a deal on reparations to Namibia (known then as South-West Africa) for the genocide it caused in that country during the early 20th century. Over 100,000 Namibians were shot, hung from trees, placed in concentration camps where they starved to death, fled and died in the desert, and many of the survivors were simply executed, or taken as prisoners. The ultimate goal for taking prisoners was to subject them to: medical experiments and their illnesses or recoveries were used for research (Wikipedia: Herero & Namaqua genocide). Totally nauseating! That same ultimate goal was then used by Nazi Germany with innocent Jews as the horrific subjects of this medical experimentation, and to this day is being used by the Israelis with Palestinians as their lab rats. Sickening!
In fact, all across Africa, Asia and Latin America colonialism marched in ransacking the precious resources while leaving millions of murdered in their racist, arrogant wake. And, although some historians claim that the colonist era was over by the mid twentieth century, the facts tell us different.
Across the world, unfairness, injustice and the abuse of human rights – let alone civil and legal rights – are being practiced and applied with no regard to anything but to ensuring the supremacy of the Western World and its economies at the expense of any and all else.
Should we only look deeper into uprisings such as the so called Arab Spring – more like the Arab Winter, if you ask me – we will realize that colonialism is at its root cause. There is not one country in the entire Far or Middle East, in North Africa or in the Arabian Peninsula that has ever been Free of Western Occupation during the past almost century. Maybe there are no occupying armies per se – except in Palestine – on those lands, however, the Western Powers are the real dictators, usurpers, occupiers and war-mongers of this vast landscape. They have made the most use of the natural resources, and they have dictated who the rulers of these countries should be with no regard to the welfare of the citizens concerned.
However, the ghosts of the innocent citizens that we have murdered, the hundreds of thousands of migrants streaming out of the war zones and burnt landscapes across the planet, as well as the internally displaced, the refugees, the maimed, the frustrated and the furiously angry will not simply go away because we so wish or dictate. Unless the Western Powers change course and begin dealing with human beings, their lands, their resources and their aspirations with civility, humanity, respect, justice and cooperation, we will be reaping the harsh realities of our disgusting behavior in gorier ways than we are yet even aware of, and subjecting this planet to a very dismal and turbulent future simply to satisfy our voracity, our conceit and our insatiable appetite for power.
No, history does not forgive. And, while most of humanity has elected to develop convenient amnesia and forget it, it refuses to be forgotten. It will continue to repeat itself at the expense of the millions of innocent people as is happening right now, because, at the end of the day, while I am allowed my stupid mistakes and decisions, politicians and world leaders cannot be afforded that luxuriant privilege! Yet, every day, world leaders are proving that their stupid mistakes and decisions are playing Russian roulette with the planet and its inhabitants. The dirty and dangerous games playing out in Washington, DC today between the surveillance/military industrial complex and the politicians are a clear indication of that steep slide into a future that threatens all of us.
Isn’t it really time for a genuine Re-Set of all our priorities? There are no indications that this will occur any time soon despite the fact that more and more people are becoming aware of that “pretence of virtue” with which we wrap all our sordid policies – domestic, as well as international.
There ARE clear alternatives!
1 thought on “Colonialism Redux”
As always, Hala: well considered and articulated. However, as your friend, I hope that your passion for justice does not affect your sense of well-being. It is hard enough to “just be” when we are bombarded by investigative reports that just poison our world view and any sense of well being we might have.
However, it is a worthwhile fight and you certainly do it well…