You know who I’m talking about. Every family has at least one…
There you are…at the latest family get-together, minding your own business when suddenly and for no good reason, you find yourself being verbally beaten about the head and shoulders by your sister-in-law…again. Suspiciously butch yet avowedly hetero-, politically Left-leaning, and Bernie Sanders loving Rhonda (or Ronnie as she prefers it) has you backed into a corner with her finger poking repeatedly into your chest, flecks of artichoke and cheese dip flying from her mouth, in full-blown pique about Western Imperialism and why the West owes it…just owes it…to the people of Asia, Latin America and Africa for the theft of their birth-right (1).
You have been here before; many times, in fact. You have found that if you don’t struggle much and nod your head in the right places, Ronnie won’t take long with her tirade and you can get on with other things. The mental adaptation you employ is learned helplessness. It involves…
– You’re not exactly sure what it is she’s talking about, so it doesn’t matter.
– Your sis-in-law regularly rim shoots around the basket-of-crazy with other issues, so why bother with this one.
– You can’t muster the interest in what happened decades or centuries ago on far away continents.
Yet, this time is different. You don’t want to exhibit your usual passiveness in the face of verbal onslaught. In fact, it’s starting to annoy you….seriously annoy you. What has changed, exactly, to lead to this change of attitude? What has changed that makes your sister-in-law’s periodic tantrum more grating than usual? You ponder this…. hmm…well…it could be….Yes!!! Donald Trump is president! That’s it! It’s the contrast between him and Barrack Obama; Trump, brash and unfiltered versus the cloying political correctness of his predecessor. Trump is not just un-politically correct, he’s anti-politically correct. While not the most oratorically gifted man, Mr. Trump does speak his mind and you have come to appreciate the man’s bluntness in that, unusually for a politician, he actually means what he says. If Trump can speak his mind and come out looking good, why can’t you? The answer is…you can! And you should, too.
As mentioned in the first installment of this series, your sister-in-law and those like her have adopted a vocabulary of cant phrases on a par with bumper sticker slogans and use them to verbally beat you into submission. But, really, they don’t actually know what they are talking about when it comes to European Colonialism. As a quick primer…
– There were two distinct periods of European colonialism. The first is the colonization of The Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries. The second is the colonization of Southeast Asia and all of Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries between 1870 and 1945. They are entirely different things with different motivations and policies applied, depending on the power doing the colonizing. The major factors distinguishing the two periods are the Industrial Revolution, the expansion of Free Market Capitalism and the growth of the United States as a world power. It is the latter period School of Vice will concentrate on in this series.
– Neocolonialism is a phrase used to describe the economic and political dynamic in Africa and Asia after decolonization took place and those countries given independence. It is a fabricated narrative meant to explain continued underdevelopment and social stagnation. School of Vice will take up neocolonialism in a later installment (click here).
– The prime motivator for late nineteenth century / early twentieth century colonialism was highly dependent on the country doing the colonizing and the lands being colonized. There was no one single reason; but collectively, they amounted to the usual reasons global powers seek to gain leverage over rivals…economic and military advantage. Without a full-blown history lesson, suffice it to say it seemed like the thing to do at the time for the British, French, Germans, Dutch, and Portuguese.
– Likewise, with the wars of decolonization in the 1950’s and 1960’s the reasons were quite varied as to why they happened.
Indeed, there was no overall organizing principal or common motivator for any of the European Powers to do what they did; and, it was a mixture of exploitation and beneficial development, again, depending on the power doing the colonizing. That last point is worth emphasizing again. In spite of what your sis-in-law and others like her believe, there was as much mutual benefit to colonization as there was exploitation. The British were decidedly benevolent in their approach. The French and Portuguese were a mixture of benevolent and exploitative. And the exploitation (things like corvée labor and prison labor) were not out of place per se either by historical or more importantly, by regional standards. But, more to the point, it wasn’t some vast conspiracy by White Europeans to keep the brown and black people of the world in chains, or retard their social or economic development.
– European industry produced economic excess, which the rich could not consume.
– The European poor could not afford to buy the over-production.
– European powers exported their excess capital to put it to better use.
That’s the Hobson part of the theory. Vladimir Lenin added to it by producing his Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism which did the shoe-horning into Marxism (3).
Why do that? So Lefties, particularly Third World Lefties, can rationalize a response. And what is the response? Leftist induced White Guilt. The guilt works at the personal level and at an institutional level. More on the personal versus institutional in a later installment.
The reality is the social and economic development of that part of the world was subpar to begin with compared to European states. After the colonial powers left, it was still subpar, and remains so to this day. And, more to the point, with the exception of South Africa (The Rand Gold Mines, De Beers), the Europeans got very little in return for their trouble (4). There were no great windfall profits to be had. Colonies were expensive to maintain and caused as many political problems back home as they did in the colonies themselves. Economically, most of them were a financial bust and caused wars amongst the Europeans themselves (The Boer War).
So the next time you are forced into going toe-to-toe with Ronnie your Leftist sister-in-law, your main points should be…
– No conspiracy by White European powers.
– No great wind-fall profits to be had.
– Goofy academic theorizing is the basis of Leftist inspired White Guilt and not what actually happened on the ground in Africa or SE Asia.
And, what Rhonda will really, really love to hear about next is…Third World Gangsterism.
To be continued with Part 3…Click Here.
1) The Norton Dictionary of Modern Thought; Bullock and Trombley, eds.; W.W. Norton and Company; New York; 1999*
2) Modern Times, The World from the Twenties to the Nineties; Johnson, Paul; Harper Collins; New York; 1991; p 152
3) Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism; Lenin, V.I.; Martino Fine Books; Eastford; 2011
4) Johnson op. cit., p 153
*Or as we like to call it: The Norton Compendium of Crackpotism, Insane Confabulatory Nonsense, and Marxist Inspired Drivel.