Colonialism: Myths and Realities

My only claim to fame in regards to colonial scholarship rests on a paper I wrote for an Honors course in Western Civilization as an undergraduate. The paper won a spot at an Honors consortium held at Stanford, so I was able to do even more research on the subject. The following post is a summation of my research in blog form.

The first task I have is to explain what colonialism is not. Colonialism is not a European invention or concept designed specifically to keep non-white people down. The myth of the evil white colonialist is one of the most pernicious myths espoused today, and for a couple of big reasons. The first reason is that colonialism has been around for a long time. Today, the Han practice colonialism through the fascist Chinese state. In the 19th century, the Ashanti practiced colonialism throughout their slave-trading empire. The Ottoman Turks practiced colonialism until their empire collapsed in 1923 (and with it a 600 year period of colonialism). The theocratic Javanese state of Mataram practiced colonialism until its demise in the 17th century. The Incan state was also well-versed in colonial practices.

It is important to remind readers of colonialism’s history because of a lack of criticality on society’s part. This lack of critical thinking skills stems from the condescending view of non-Western societies that the modern Western citizen has adopted. As co-blogger Jacques Delacroix so eloquently states:

Liberals profess to reject American military intervention abroad because of a strong myth of people of color’s virtuousness. According to this liberal myth, people of color, non-whites, seldom ever do anything wrong by any standard. When they do, as when they eat their neighbors, for example, it’s always somehow because of something or other that Westerners, Whites, usually Americans have done to them, or to someone else. Or something. And then, of course, you shouldn’t do anything to them or in connection with them.

The idea that Western civilization is somehow responsible for inventing and propagating colonialism is actually a condescending one, and, conveniently enough, permits me to segue into reason number two for combating the pernicious myth that White European society is to blame for all the world’s problems: the myth doesn’t allow for any intrigue or guile or cunning or Realpolitik on the part of colonized societies. Continue reading