Tuesday, March 17, 2015
The Complaining About Colonialism
Merriam-Webster defines “colonialism” as “control by one country over another area and its people”. Obviously, by that definition, colonialism is something which almost everyone has engaged in at some point or another. Why does it seem that guilt and blame only seem to be focused in one general direction? At one time, almost the whole of Asia and half of Europe was controlled by the Mongols. Everyone seems to have gotten over that. In southern Africa, the Zulus under King Shaka were quite the colonial power as were the Aztecs in pre-Columbian Mexico. European history is filled to bursting with examples and yet Europe always seems to be held as the instigator of colonialism rather than being subject to it. For a very long time Greece was controlled by Turkey, most of Poland was controlled by Russia, for about 800 years most of Spain was under the control of foreign powers. Somehow though, no one expects modern-day Spain to be demanding reparations from modern-day Morocco. Does Russia send foreign aid to Finland, consumed by guilt over the years of Russian control over the Finns? European peoples have often been the colonial subjects of other European peoples and even non-European peoples such as the Moorish rule over Spain, the Turkish rule over the Balkans or Mongol rule over Russia. Europeans never had a monopoly on colonialism.
Perhaps one of the most infuriating things about empire-bashing, for me at least, when the perpetrator is a republican is how much rank hypocrisy is on display. For example, today Red China is very fond of bashing old style imperialism while ruling over Tibet, Manchuria, parts of old Mongolia and hoping for more. They influence the governments and exploit the resources of numerous African countries, have bought up land and influence in Latin America and have taken control of a huge chunk of Iran. All oil in that part of the country belongs to China, they police it, they decide who gets in or out and the Chinese have said that any attack on Iran (or at least that part -they were probably intentionally vague on that point) would be considered an attack on Chinese territory. They are an “empire” in all but name. Playing in a rather different ballpark, we have the United States, which has also often been quick to criticize colonialism while flirting with being a colonial power but usually being something that is not quite colonialism but often seems worse. The United States tends to refrain from ruling other peoples but reserves the right to smack them around if they do something Washington DC doesn’t like. Why not just rule the place themselves? Because they’re not “colonialists” of course, that’s un-American! Whatever one chooses to call this, it certainly has not been a beneficial policy, least of all for the U.S. itself. However, having to play pretend to keep up the anti-colonialism charade is common to a number of countries around the world.
Trying to deny that Japan was a colonial power is, of course, absurd and none of their arguments hold up for an instant. For example, some will claim that Korea was not *really* a colony of Japan because it was annexed to Japan as part of the empire, just like Honshu or Hokkaido. However, they cite Hawaii as an example of American colonialism even though Hawaii was annexed as well and became a state in the Union. France made Algeria a part of metropolitan France, just as French Guiana is today and no one would consider that this erases their status as colonial subjects, past or present. Were that true, Britain would today be a greater empire than the United States and I doubt anyone looking at a map would buy that argument. As mentioned before, Japan also claimed to be “liberating” the Philippines from American colonial rule which is rather at odds with the fact that Japan came to control Taiwan in exactly the same way that the United States came to control the Philippines. If the one is legitimate, the other must be as well. However, for those who do accept the reality that Japan was a colonial power there is also the argument that it was simply the only one which was humane and benevolent while all others were cruel and oppressive and thus deserving of being destroyed. This is popular with those who like having their egos massaged but of course it discourages monarchist solidarity in a big way. Sadly, it is far from uncommon.
The antagonistic attitude toward the German Empire was also not ultimately helpful either. Germany had, under Kaiser Wilhelm II, become the third leading colonial power in the world but World War I saw it all brought to ruin. In the aftermath, Britain reached its peak in imperial size but it also planted the seeds for the ruination of the British Empire as well. Now, before anyone starts to get any anti-British ideas about all of this, the British attitude was certainly understandable even if it was not beneficial. The British really were pretty darn good at the colonial empire game and if you were going to live in a colony, you had a much better chance of living well in a British colony or former colony than in any other. Looking at modern Taiwan and South Korea, one could say much the same about Japan (though few would care to as they are certainly not fair to their fellow colonial powers). The lists of the top economic powers by GDP invariably include the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Canada and Australia all of which were formerly part of the British Empire. No other colonial empire is so well represented. Smaller holdings such as Hong Kong and Singapore also have records of immense success on every level. That’s all true and it’s all great and it is something that the British and their former colonies can be proud of. Being proud of achievements, however, does not necessitate tearing down others in comparison! It also tends to make people look ridiculous when countries like Australia (because I’ve noticed they’re very good at it) bash Britain all the time. Look around you Aussies, you came out of the empire pretty well off.
That is one reason why I cannot bring myself to join the ‘condemn all colonialism’ crowd. There was certainly much in the old system that was bad, at times even horrific but I see nothing wrong and even much potential for benefit if people today would drop old prejudices and make new agreements openly and honestly. If a country requires protection or some sort of assistance, I see nothing wrong with coming to an agreement with another country to provide these things in exchange for something else, like an exclusive trade deal or use of some territory or something. However, my primary point here is that monarchists should really know better than to be “shooting inside the tent” on this subject and that everyone who likes to moan and groan and claim perpetual victim status for being a former colony should get over it and stop the pity party. You used to be ruled by someone else? Sorry, that doesn’t make you special. It’s happened to everybody and your people probably did it to some other people at some point so let’s all act like big boys and girls and stop trying to cash-in on past misfortunes. Is that too much to ask?