Saturday, February 1, 2014

Histronomics 401

- It's neither a small nor easy thing to take a stand against
your country.  In fact it's both terrifying and costly.
Most who resist pay dearly for the rest of their lives.
We're ferocious about our freedom to speak without fearing some government reprisal.  The public forum is where we work out the issues.  The government has no grounds for action against us when we speak out.  It's a basic human right.

Protest is part of the package.  Government malfeasance and lies; from the Tonkin Gulf to WMDs in Iraq to Wall Street.  We protested formally and en masse.  That's our right. The government has no grounds for action against us when we protest.  (Tell that to the Kent State kids or the Occupy Wall Street protester going to trial this month after the beating police gave her that put her in the hospital.  That sort of things happens when you protest.)

Resistance takes the form of refusal to cooperate, like Pete Seeger refusing to answer McCarthy's questions. He was found in contempt of Congress and sentenced to jail. Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man, and was arrested. Conscientious objectors went to prison rather than participating in the war in Vietnam; many left everything behind and fled the country. Resistance means I'm willing to pay the price for my convictions. Snowden faced such a decision. 

When the lives of our children are at stake, then we will risk our lives in the struggle against a tyrannical government. That was the thinking when the colonies rebelled against British colonial rule. The imposition of taxes became deadly. Colonial rulers taxed most trade, most production, and imposed mandatory labor requirements on most of the adult male population.  Britain's demonstrated intent was to extract wealth from their colony and its residents without providing any benefit in return, not even the agreed meager pay (about 35 cents/year) for the forced labor.  Folks who had lived peacefully for generations found themselves cripplingly oppressed and dying under a government whom they'd not chosen. Finally, with nothing more left to lose, they rose up and fought back.  It was a deadly disaster that lasted decades.  In Africa.

  • So began the conflicts in Africa against British, and later German, colonial invaders. Africans across the continent were swept up in the bloodbath.

Dress rehearsal for WWI and WWII
German officers with Namibian civilians.  Around 1905,
Shark Island, with its picturesque setting, was the site
of the world's first death camp  -  the German invention
that culminated in the Holocaust of World War II, the
greatest crime of the 20th century.

Three-and-a-half thousand innocent Africans were

murdered here by Germans, decades before the rise of
Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party.

Concentration camps in the colonies.

Few in the West are aware of the concentration camps that the British and Germans operated in their African colonies.  Long before Hitler, tens of thousands of civilians were herded into camps where many died from starvation, forced labor, or disease. At one period of conflict, there were more than forty concentration camps for whites and sixty for blacks scattered across the region.

Pursuit of commercial empire, especially after the discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886), was the sole purpose.

The Brits; when diamonds and gold became economically significant commodities in the Orange Free State and in Transvaal, the British simply moved in to occupy the region. London had become dependent on the gold trade. The British suffered a series of humiliating defeats but finally won that particular conflict.  It took four years and 22,000 casualties to do it.
Scorched Earth campaign by the British 
against Boer women and children.  A Boer 
family with a few belongings they were
allowed to save, watch as their home is
burnt down by the English. 

Before the end, the Brits had resorted to removing herds, burning homes and crops in a scorched earth effort, and rounding up civilians and relocating them in concentration camps. More Africans died in these camps from disease, abuse, and starvation than died in battle, we're told.

History driven by money, and indigenous Africans suffered the most. Between the upheavals of war, disease, and displacement, many white-on-white conflicts left half or more of the black population dead and the remainder disenfranchised. None of the colonial powers kept reasonable records of the dead blacks, just the whites. Estimates of black African deaths vary widely between 12 and 60 million. The Bantu, Xhosa, Zulu, the Nama and Herero ... it was a hundred years before they would again have a voice in their own countries. 

That hundred years, with world wars and holocausts, is the legacy of such governance. 
And it's our reason for dissent, for protest, for resistance, and rebellion.

'Manifest Destiny' turns out to have been arrogance, racism, greed, and murder. 'Lebensraum' (room to live) was a poorly disguised land-grab by Germany.  Japan's expansion into China and through the Pacific was exclusively for ownership and control of the raw materials they needed for survival and the growth of their superior culture.

Want a first-hand lecture on the subject? Ask a Masai. Now. He can tell you the truth now since Kenya's new constitution (2010) finally grants him the freedom to speak his mind without fear of being killed for criticizing those in power.  Ask apartheid's victims, the millions of them over more than 200 years.

Was there any alternative for the nations faced with increasing population and limited resources? Was there another approach that didn't require the extermination or enslavement of native peoples? Of course. History gives us examples of merging cultures and populations. Some were more easily transitioned than others, but their successes are instructive.

Contemporary globalization is our current opportunity, yet to date, the 'sole purpose' is unchanged. The world financial institutions backed by their governments continue the colonial era's example. Wall Street is today's British Empire, German Reich, and Japanese conquest.