January 08, 2018

Ethics and Empire, reappraising colonialism?

Shane O'Neill of Tyrone meets Queen Elizabeth of England
Ian d'Alton wrote:
"In 1916 Irish Protestants were looked upon, in the words of novelist Susanne Day, as ‘illegitimate children of an irregular union between Hibernia and John Bull’."
Hubert Butler wrote:
"We protestants of the Irish Republic are no longer very interesting to anyone but ourselves. A generation ago we were regarded dramatically as imperialistic blood-suckers... Our brothers in the north are still discussed in such colourful terms."
Erskine Childers wrote in ‘The Framework of Home Rule’ (1911):
"In natural humanity the colonists of Ireland and the colonists of America differed in no appreciable degree. They were the same men, with the same inherent virtues and defects, acting according to the pressure of environment. Danger, in proportionate degree, made both classes brutal and perfidious."
Nigel Biggar caused controversy with an article 'Don’t feel guilty about our colonial history'. The Regius professor of theology at Oxford is leading a five-year project entitled Ethics and Empire to reappraise colonialism.

A few weeks earlier Bruce Gilley, a political scientist at Portland State University, wrote an article entitled 'The Case for Colonialism' in the journal Third World Quarterly. Biggar wrote in his Times' article, "Bruce Gilley’s case for colonialism calls for us British to moderate our post-imperial guilt." He also wrote:
"For as we British read our past, so we understand ourselves; and as we understand ourselves, so we act in the future. If we believe what strident anti-colonialists tell us — namely, that our imperial past was one long, unbroken litany of oppression, exploitation and self-deception — then our guilt will make us vulnerable to wilful manipulation, and it will confirm us in the belief that the best way we can serve the world is by leaving it well alone. 
If on the other hand we recognise that the history of the British Empire was morally mixed, just like that of any nation state, then pride can temper shame. Pride at the Royal Navy’s century-long suppression of the Atlantic slave trade, for example, will not be entirely obscured by shame at the slaughter of innocents at Amritsar in 1919. And while we might well be moved to think with care about how to intervene abroad successfully, we won’tsimply abandon the world to its own devices.
Dozens of academics came together to condemn Biggar.

Equality campaigner Trevor Phillips stood up for Biggar and criticised the academics, saying that it was important to look at the full picture:
"I have no reason to defend colonialism. But we should constantly reappraise its consequences, one of which is today’s multi-ethnic Britain,” he said in a letter to The Times. “It may be that the 58 Oxford academics would prefer to inhabit the largely mono-ethnic, pre-Windrush Britain (a population mix somewhat preserved in their own university) but it is a fact that we are only here because you were there."
Irish author Mary Kenny also defended Biggar. She said that colonialism often brought progressive measures for women. Irish missionaries, working under the aegis of the British Empire, campaigned against foot-binding in China in the 1900s, she said in a second letter. The Church of Scotland attempted to end female genital mutilation in Africa from the 1920s, which Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, denounced as imperialist “meddling”. She also tweeted:
"There was a downside! But seldom acknowledge benefits!"
Cormac Lucey wrote:
"Over the past century, Ireland — or the bulk of it, anyway — has been affiliated with three supranational realms. The whole island was part of the British Empire until national independence in 1922. The resulting state was legally independent but also, ideologically and theologically, a vassal of Rome. In recent decades, the Catholic Church’s hold over the state has largely dissolved. Since 1973, the nation has been a devoted member of the European Economic Community, European Community and latterly the European Union (EU). 
As a small country on the edge of Europe, it makes sense for Ireland to seek external allies. We are too small to prosper on our own in the absence of international rules and treaties that let us trade on an equal basis with larger and more powerful states. And whereas the Irish economics experiment with national independence failed prior to 1973, it has been triumphant since."
Rev Jules Gomes also stood up for Biggar and against what he called 'the self-flagellating, self-loathing, British Empire-hating, West is worst, I’ve got a bee stinging my imperial backside brigade'. He wrote:
"Their entire educational system had indoctrinated them to believe that Rule Britannia was the supreme avatar of evil since Columbus introduced tobacco to Europe. Their ‘edjukayshun’ had also brainwashed the juvenile sponges into believing that all cultures are equal. So for Governor-General Lord Bentinck to abolish this charming indigenous practice through the Bengal Sati Regulation Act of 1829 was colonial, racist and white supremacist."
He also raised a very important question:
"Of course, British colonial rule was on occasion harsh and oppressive. But in that case why bash only Western colonialism? The British Raj was around for a couple of hundred years in India while Islamic imperialism existed for centuries. 
Francois Gautier in his book Rewriting Indian History says: ‘The massacres perpetuated by Muslims in India are unparalleled in history, bigger than the Holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis; or the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks; more extensive even than the slaughter of the South American native populations by the invading Spanish and Portuguese.’ 
Even ‘tolerant’ emperors such as Babur (1483-1530) and Akbar (1556-1605) and other more militant Muslim rulers ruthlessly stamped Islamic imperialism on the Indian subcontinent by destroying thousands of temples and building mosques on their foundations. The British, on the other hand, actually paid for the upkeep and refurbishment of thousands of Hindu temples and for a very long time refused to send Christian missionaries to India (even as chaplains)! 
‘Contrary to the conventional wisdom, it is the Middle East where the institution of empire not only originated (for example, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Iran, and so on) but where its spirit has also outlived its European counterpart,’ writes Professor Efraim Karsh in his book Islamic Imperialism: A History. 
But Middle Easterners or Muslims feel no post-colonial guilt for the Ottoman or Mughal empires. Only Western liberals derive perverse pleasure from the sport of post-colonial masochism. Western liberals are blind to Islamic imperialism (or Soviet or Communist imperialism). I think I know why they are incurably infected with this fake post-colonial guilt. Because they are the real racists! 
Post-colonial guilt is a subtle form of racism and white supremacy. The premise is simple. The poor benighted black or brown subjugated peoples were subjects. The white colonial rulers were the actors and the agents. The colonised were helpless and continue to be helpless because of ‘us’ (Western white liberals). It is all about ‘us’ because we conquered you and only we can make a difference to you today and we will make that difference by whipping ourselves until we finally descend to your level – where you poor things have existed and will continue to exist if we don’t step in and save you. As it was in the beginning, is now and forever shall be. Amen."
Scott Bade who studied history at Stanford University and is an international security analyst asked, "why didn’t the other white colonies rebel like the Americans did?" He also wrote:
"For the other territories, there are several answers for the lack of rebellion. First is that broadly speaking there was no real reason to do so. Canada after the American Revolution was half French and half Loyalists who had fled from the 13 Colonies. They, like their Caribbean cousins, had their chance to join the Americans and didn’t. Moreover, until the Oregon Treaty in 1846, Canadians feared their southern neighbors, who had invaded during the War of Independence and would invade again during the War of 1812. They relied on the British to defend them against the ever-expanding American nation. (In fact tensions remained until the Oregon Treaty.) 
Australia and New Zealand, meanwhile, were relatively young—Captain Cook reached Australasia in 1770, just as the American Colonies were starting to rebel. More importantly, the British learned their lessons from the American Revolution and gave white colonists domestic powers that would probably have satisfied the demands of American Colonists at the beginning of their crisis. Canada started down the path to home rule as early as 1840. Australia had responsible government in certain provinces in the 1850s. In Canada, Dominion status followed in 1867. Dominion status allowed for enough self-government (with fealty to the empire and British supervision) to serve as a kind of pressure-release valve on any discontent. The British used the Canadian model for Australia (1901), New Zealand (1907), Newfoundland (1907), South Africa (1910), and Ireland (1922), as well as India, Pakistan, and Ceylon. The Dominions also allowed for a sort of “soft” independence that made the formal break much easier and helped Britain remain a privileged ally rather than France, whose decolonization efforts were much more traumatic. 
By the time most of Second Empire’s colonies became developed enough to be independent “countries,” they were so entrenched in the British imperial system that it made little sense to leave and, after all, they already had Dominion status. Not until the decolonization era after World War II was there real pressure for independence. Even then, given the shifting climate, there was never any serious risk of rebellion. South Africa did declare itself a republic in 1961, a rebellion of sorts, but given the tide of decolonization, Britain had no intention (or legitimate way) of opposing that."
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