Saturday, August 2, 2008

Blasts from the past

First from Lenin's Tomb a little reminder of the imperialist mindset (which remains well intact in our current neoliberal era):
"So far as the underlying spirit of Imperialism is a frank acceptance of national duty exercised beyond the nation's political frontiers, so far as it is a claim that a righteous nation is by its nature restless to embark upon crusades of righteousness wherever the world appeals for help, the spirit of Imperialism cannot be condemned. Morality is universal ... I want to make it clear that however successful designing men may be in prostituting the high purposes of the nations to their own ends, or however imperfectly the nations themselves interpret their ideals in their political policies, the compulsion to expand and to assume world responsibility is worthy at its origin." (J Ramsay MacDonald, 'The Propaganda of Civilization', 1901, quoted in Bernard Porter, Critics of Empire, 1968, pp 185-6)
Next from the comments to that particular post, someone by the handle oxus:
[I]n the case of American Indians we are used to think[ing] that their sad fate was linked with their technical backwardness, but in the case of India itself its backwardness was imposed by “British” colonisers. To quote Lord Macaulay’s historic speech in the British Parliament in 1832, commonly referred to as The Minutes: “I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation.
Anglo-European-American mythology tends to propagate a lot of ideas about the American Indian cultures, including the notion of alleged indigenous technological "backwardness" (don't get me started today), but the rest of the passage is revealing for what it says about the genocidal mindset of the empires. Again let's go back to Raphael Lemkin:
Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups. Genocide is directed against the national group as an entity, and the actions involved are directed against individuals, not in their individual capacity, but as members of the national group.
And that of course is precisely what Lord Macaulay’s 1832 speech was driving at doing. The objective was largely accomplished through the use of various forms of violence, from the very brutal interpersonal violence of the British military to the more structural forms of violence imposed in India in the form of economic and cultural disparity. In kind, this was no different from what the American and Canadian governments accomplished with their own colonized peoples, what Israel has been accomplishing with regard to indigenous Palestinian Arab Muslims and Christians, what the US is doing currently to the Iraqis, and the US government in conjunction with organizations such as IMF have been doing to peoples all over the planet in the name of "free market" orthodoxy.

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