Lately we hear of a caravan of Central Americans trekking to our southern border aching to enjoy our “racist” society. How badly must the outside world be that it beats an illegal path to our door? They are escaping every culture and continent to seek asylum here and in Europe. They claim their own independent nations are corrupt, violent, and impoverished. All, no doubt, receive Western and UN aid, as well as billions from Western charities.
We were always taught that colonialism was one of the great sins of European civilization. It was synonymous with slavery, exploitation, and racism. With great fanfare colonial nations were freed from racist Europe after the Second World War only to stumble into poverty, political upheavals, tribal warfare, or religious butchery. All the blame reverted to previous White colonial rule. Nothing was the responsibility of the indigenous peoples.
Was there a good side of colonialism?
Many “developing” nations never seem to develop fully. They blame their problems on a lack natural resources or foreign exploitation, never themselves. Countries large enough to handle an internal migration from one depressed province to a viable province are unable to accommodate their own people. Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua are each as large as Ohio, Virginia, or Tennessee yet gladly watch their population illegally stream across borders rather than relocate within them. In contrast, after World War II, millions of poor southern Italians relocated to their industrial north to survive as well as legally immigrating.
Granted, some nations will always be destitute and need continuous aid from the outside world. But, aside from skyrocketing overpopulation fostered by Western medicine, the homegrown poison in Africa and Latin-America is corruption. Much aid money just disappears.
I wonder if there is some nostalgia for colonialism among many in these desperate nations disgusted with corrupt governments, rampant crime, and tribal conflicts. (Recall that the Party of Reconstruction in war-torn Sicily wanted it to become an American “state” in 1944.)
Colonialism was once called “The White Man’s Burden,” a phrase coined by English poet Rudyard Kipling in 1899. It was written during the Spanish American War to urge American victors to accept the captured Philippines as a colony. We did just that.
There is one telling stanza in the poem that urges the West to fight the “wars of peace” – hunger, disease, etc. But, the poem warns: watch all your efforts erased by the very people you helped.
“Take up the White Man’s burden — The savage wars of peace — Fill full the mouth of Famine and bid the Sickness cease; and when your goal is nearest, the end for others sought, watch Sloth and heathen Folly bring all your hopes to Nought.”
Kipling took his inspiration from the Italic poet Virgil, whose call to ancient Italians gave a divine mission to their military efforts:
“But thou, oh Roman, must the peoples rule. Thine arts shall be to teach the ways of peace, to spare the defeated, and suppress the divisive.”
Notwithstanding our grievous faults, the West ultimately elevated the human condition around the globe through colonialism and commerce. Like Rome’s, our expansion nurtured the mind as well as the body – from medicine to agriculture, from capitalism to technology, from scholarship to government – we are still the best alternative on the planet. Our borders bear witness to this.
But, there is a new colonialism. Red China has embarked on its “Belt & Road Initiative” in sixty Asian, African, and East European countries funded with $1 trillion. Want a new port facility or railroad? China funds and directs the work, leaving poor nations deeper in debt. If they can’t pay, they may host a Chinese naval base or become a Chinese client state. The old British colony of Kenya is getting a new railway system and a Chinese influx to oversee it. Racist Chinese supervisors often call Kenyan workers “monkeys,” to their face.
Beware Asians bearing gifts! –JLM