Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Histronomics - 402

Global Thinking

'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.

Colonial intrusion into Africa was equally devastating.  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. 

Want a first-hand lecture on the subject? Ask a Masai today. Only now he can tell you the truth 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.

Some recommended reading:
Cultures Merging: A Historical and Economic
Critique of Culture
Eric L. Jones

A Biography of the Continent Africa

John Reader

Attempts to conclude the colonial era with acknowledgement by the responsible nations of their wrongdoing in Africa have had mixed results. European countries and America are, at government level, opposed. In 2001 there was an international conference on racism in South Africa. The African countries demanded an ‘apology’ for the slave trade, but European countries would only state that they ‘regret’ it. America and the European countries fear that an apology, an admission of guilt, would bring legal consequences and force the payment of reparations in some form.

The final wording of the conference’s declaration on slavery was agreed as follows: We acknowledge that slavery and slave trading, including the trans-Atlantic slave trade, were appalling tragedies in the history of humanity, not only because of their inherent barbarism, but also in terms of their magnitude, organised nature and especially their negation of the essence of victims.

The United States walked out of the conference before this declaration was agreed, over criticism of Israel.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, an American leader and former Presidential candidate, was interviewed during the South Africa conference. He asked Britain to apologise for its role in the slave trade. He suggested that compensation or reparation should be paid to African countries in the form of reducing debts they owe to the West. 

Jackson said, "If you feel proud of [slavery and colonialism] then say that. But if one has a sincere desire to overcome the ravages of the past it doesn't take much to apologise and move towards some plan for restoration."

Dr Stephen Small of the University of Leicester said of the reparations movement, "The descendants of Africans and of Europeans view the legacy of the slave trade from different vantage points. Africans and their descendants realise that there is nothing that the West can ever do to make right the wrongs committed during slavery and colonialism. But they also insist that the West can begin to loosen the shackles of poverty and economic distress which continue to hold back Africans and Africa.  Only by tackling the unfairness of these systems can we begin together to create a more morally acceptable economic and political system within which the world’s entire population can prosper."

Herero survivors after an escape through
the Kalahari desert.
African prisoners chained up
by German soldiers, 1904.

In just one of the African conflicts, one-hundred thousand Herero were killed by German colonial forces. On 16 August 2004, 100 years later, the German government officially apologized for the atrocities. "We Germans accept our historic and moral responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time," said Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Germany's development aid minister. In addition, she admitted the massacres were equivalent to genocide.

2014 - an aside:  I sat in conference with two U.K representatives on improving maritime safety.  As we discussed potential technological solutions for the problems faced in Africa's Gulf of Guinea, one of them noted with a wry grin, "We have to be careful how our efforts are perceived by the coastal nations; we've made mistakes there in the past."  A hundred years afterward, lingering distrust still inhibits cooperation and progress.  
See Histronomics - 401 if you're interested.