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Thread: Did colonialism have a positive or negative effect on the world in general?

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    Default Did colonialism have a positive or negative effect on the world in general?

    Details: A discussion on the aspects of colonialism, it's long and short-term effects on both the colonising and the colonised societies from the beginning of European interaction to eventual decolonisation and beyond.

    My Position:

    I would argue that, while carried out for amoral reasons and with violent measure, the overall effect of colonialism was positive upon the world in general, though acknowledging that it has had various negative effects on certain nations and societies in both the short and long term.

    In short, colonialisation took a continent that, for the whole, had not advanced beyond the iron age, who's society was fundamentally that of a series of tribes with some degree of shared culture, and, in a space of under a century, turned these into modern societies. Roads, hospitals, schools, literacy, healthcare, medicine, philosophy - all of these were spread around the world as a byproduct, at times deliberate, at times accidental - of colonial exploration, exploitation and development. The modern world is, almost entirely, a product of colonialism and trade - these two being fundamentally interlinked. To exhaustively list the achievements and successes of colonial development would be nearly impossible, but I will lay out a few:

    1. Peace. Once the European armies had crushed all before them, and killed a lot of people, many of whom were undoubtly innocent or simply trying to protect themselves, there was peace. The single, overarching authority of colonial power suppressed, for the most part, the frequent intercine conflicts ranging from tribal cattle raids in Kenya, to civil war in India, to wholesale genocide and ethnic cleansing in South Africa at the hands of the Zulu (to the point where, when the Afrikaaners arrived in the Transkei and Transvaal, a generation after the Zulu migrations, they found this rich and fertile land so devoid of inhabitants that they concluded it was given to them by God). Colonisation in many places happened because existing political structures were so fractured and fragmented by constant civil strife that they simply could not effectively resist the division and conquest of the land. Post-colonial history tends to, aside from the obvious insurrections, rebellions and other such conflicts, be mercifully free of the constant, draining toll of war, and provided for the institution (or re-institution) of the rule of law.

    2. Commerce, trade, wealth and industrialisation. Colonialism was, arguably merely an extension of an aggressive trade policy by European nations seeking to secure both markets for their goods, and sources of raw materials. An obvious side-effect of this wealth-seeking was vast wealth-creation within certain nations. To extract the valuable resources and open up the potential markets of there (often horribly undeveloped) colonies, the Europeans were forced to construct roadways. To feed themselves and their workforce, they culled out large, productive commercial farms. To mine the minerals they found, they...well, built mines. To move their products to their home markets, they built ports.

    In all these cases, they provided jobs, work, and opportunity for the local population where previously there had been only the life of a small-scale, peasant farmer and smallholder. This brought a vast increase in the quality of life and lifespan of the local population. No longer did the Tsetse fly ravage their cattle, no longer were there possessions limited to livestock, tools, pottery and cloth, but a vast array of new and quite interesting possessions were theirs, potentially.

    3. The spread of ideas. This is an interesting one, for it represents the foundation of our society today. Without the rule of European governors and states - influenced by European philosophies - would there be any functioning, democratic governments today outside of Europe (or even within Europe)? Would India be the largest democracy in the world? Would South Africa have not recently elected it's third democratic leader since it's inception? Would the ideas of democratic government, of freedom, of personal responsibility, of choice and trade and all those produced by the enlightenment philosophers and beyond, have ever, ever been of sufficient importance to change the societies of the currently-developing world? It is doubtful. Colonisation, though inadvertently, and though it was, like all cultural shifts and changes, carried out for amoral motives and by violent means, created the world today. It made a better, richer world for innumerable people, and for the descendants for those people, and indeed for the descendants of ourselves it set the groundwork for a globalised, free world that we are (hopefully) progressing towards.
    Quote Originally Posted by Denny Crane! View Post
    How about we define the rights that allow a government to say that isn't within my freedom.

  2. #2
    Denny Crane!'s Avatar Comes Rei Militaris
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    Default Re: Did colonialism have a positive or negative effect on the world in general?

    Rather than lay out my own position I'm just going to go straight into dismantling yours because I believe it is based on a few false premises. For the sake of ease in such a broad subject I'll initially focus on Britain.

    The colonial period took place over a time that was far greater than a century. In 1672 the Royal African Company was given a monopoly of supply to the Carribean and from established strongholds in Africa was responsible for sending 3.5 million Africans to the Carribean and beyond in the so called Triangle of Trade between Britain America and Africa and was extremely profitable becoming a booming industry for towns such as Bristol and Liverpool.

    I will note here that earlier to that the Portugese had begun to colonise equatorial Africa in 1583 by systematically destroying countries and installing client or local government control.

    'they hadn't advanced beyond the iron age, they were just a series of tribes

    The African empires of Benin, Songhai and Zimbabwe as well as the ancient Egyptian empire, were rich in culture as well as having vast economic wealth from trading gold and spices.

    In the early 16th century, the Portuguese trader Duarte Barboosa said of the east African city Kilwa:

    ‘There were many fair houses of stone and mortar, well organised in streets. Around it were streams and orchards with many channels of sweet water.’ Of the people who lived in Kilwa he reported, ‘They were finely clad in (wore) many rich clothes of gold and silk, and cotton, and the
    women as well; also with much gold and silver in chains and bracelets, which they wore on their legs and arms, and many jewelled earrings in their ears.’

    We created countries

    A lot of our 'creations' are directly responsible for the conflicts now and that combined with rapid decolonialistion is responsible for the genocides we have seen now.

    Roads, hospitals, schools, literacy, healthcare, medicine, philosophy - all of these were spread around the world as a byproduct, at times deliberate, at times accidenta

    Looking at Africa now with the big challenges of their being no infrastructure, no education, medicine predicated on a lack of modern thinking and shamanistic ideas borne our of the poverty that we are responsible for shows this to be an obvious lie. The things that are there now are there because of aid, because of NGO's and the natural spread of technology and knowledge that happens without violence.

    All of which was predicated on the wealth of exploitation, death, genocide, brutalisation and destruction of African society and African practices as opposed to the natural spread of trade and wealth which would make them a successful continent today.

    What most people don't realise is that most of North Africa was Islamic or Christian pre16th Century and there were kingdoms and massive trade internal and external before they were oppressed. While they might not have been as advanced in industry as the North they certainly would have developed and over the course of 4 Centuries we forced tribes together, we destroyed practices that kept peace, destroyed identities, created conflict and did little more to the continent than was necessary in order to obtain its human and natural resources.

    What is happening in the Gulf and North Africa today is the African people finally getting a chance to escape some of the consequences that resulted from us leaving and the periods of instability which allowed dictators to enter.

    For interest:

    A Dutch traveller to the kingdom of Benin in the early 17th century sent home this report of the capital.

    ‘It looks very big when you enter it for you go into a great broad street, which, though not paved, seems to be seven or eight times broader than the Warmoes Street in Amsterdam. This street continues for about four miles and has no bend in it. At the gate where I went in on horseback, I saw a big wall, very thick and made of earth, with a deep ditch outside. Outside the gate there is a large suburb. Inside as you go along the main street, you can see other broad streets on either side, and these are also straight. The houses in this town stand in good order, one close to the other and evenly placed beside the next, like our houses in Holland.’

    And finally I would say this:

    There can never be an excuse for genocide, murder and the brutal exploitation of a continent and it is morally abhorrent to suggest so based on some myth of progress. There is virtually no way of knowing how Africa would have developed had it not been for our actions but I will say this:

    Africa has massive resources, so much so that the potential is enormous. Because of the state we have left them in it has been virtually impossible for them to make use of these and despite having left physically we continue to deny them free trade, we continue to exploit them and it hasn't been 50 years since we stopped fighting proxy wars on their soil. Stability means growth and they have been denied that for 4 centuries and as such have barely developed.

    As I said in the thread that started this topic, I find it decidedly odd to try and defend the mass murder of others.

  3. #3
    Denny Crane!'s Avatar Comes Rei Militaris
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    Default Re: Did colonialism have a positive or negative effect on the world in general?

    I posted this in another thread. When we consider why Africa is the way it is there are a lot of variables. We tend not to examine what our actions have been like in the post colonial age and while not directly related to the OP it does illustrate how benevolent the west is with regards to Africa though we actually try to veil it these days instead of stone cold racism.

    Trying to say that you've had 50 years of indepenence and that it is all about "responsibility" displays a wealth of ignorance on the topic so no you can't just remove all imperialist bashing from the thread to frame the question how you want it framed.

    Assuming it is all just Africas problems...OK it takes two to tango but:

    (channeling Ziauddin Sardar here, far better than I am)

    1. Debt traps and the ensuing capital flight, the role of corps like Monsanto and these development loans

    2. IMF and WTO and the influence of the US and the west on these NGOs, foreign ownership and other ties that come with IMF crisis loans.

    3. Trade liberalisation, one way open access for american multinationals and businesses. The removal or reduction of barriers to international trade in goods and services like the WTO Agreement on Agriculture and other structural adjustments Programmes (SAPs) that change countries policies which force the allowance of cheap food imports while reducing and limiting support for their own agriculture. The AoA requires WTO members to reduce tarriffs on food imports by24% over a ten year period most SAPs require more liberalisation as well as demand related measures such as privatisation of state run enterprises, elimination of subsidies and price controls, and abolition of marketing boards. Ostensibly the WTO and its agreement were arrived at by consensus and with the participation of developing countries. In fact, the whole agreement was made by the US an EU. AoA has been described as an act of fraud by Oxfam which intensifies rural poverty and destroys smallholder livelihoods. It enables the US, and the EU, to export its goods cheaply to devloping countries in which farmers unable to compete are out of business. The cheap imports come from commercial channels and through dumping of food sold below the cost of production to dispose of surpluses. In Ghana, for example, local farmers are unable to get an economic price for their produce such as corn, rice, soybeans, rabbit, sheep and goats, eve in village markets. The farmers are forced to pay heavily for inputs - expensive imported fertilisers and pesticides and often seeds. Usually they recieve less for their produce. Food prices for the consumers do not fall though, rural people suffer despite increases in production and there is significant deterioration in living standards, primarily amongst the rural poor. As a result countless farmers are forced to move to already overburdened cities to eke out some form of living. Thus local agriculture is destroyed, domestic food production is shattered and the food security of the country is seriously comprimised. This can be seen all over Africa.

    Ironically I heard a report today that stated that the demographic shift has now happened in Africa with as many in cities as out.

    4. The 'development' of countries where technology driven business enter and caputre the market but the ability of countries to export products is inhibited and barred from US markets. People think that this is all free market but in actual fact the state is deeply involved in shutting off some trade while promoting its own corporations and interests. This is why the WTO and IMF exist and also why someone like Clinton (thats right Clinton the god of the left in the USA) shut down a good candidate from Thailand from heading the WTO.

    *Andrew Simms head of the GEP at NEF

    5. Tarriffs in the USA and the EU on Rice, Sugar, Coffee, groundnuts with a tarriff of 100% and of course all of this is not just Africa.

    Just take a look at the history of haiti.

    6. AGOA, Africa Growth and opportunity Act signed into law by GWB in 2001. Supposedly allows duty and quota free access for their products to the American market in exchange for certain concessions to the US and its firms. So what do the African countries get? The US grants access only to certain products that won't negatively affect the US, that means coffee and sugar and other things Africa would really want to export. Or lets look at AGOA duty free access to African textiles and clothing but only products using fabric and yarns produced in the US will have easy access. Products from materals in Africa will be subject to sever contraints. They can withdraw these benefits at any time and raise limits at any time. Being forced to use American raw materials means that they can't compete and so other industries are destroyed.

    For doing this and getting all those benefits what does Africa have to do? Eliminate all tarriffs to US products. Open up all markets and regulation to US firms and support all trade and IP laws. Guarantee a minimum wage for child workers and not encourage anything against US foreign policy.

    And hell this is scratching the surface of how we in the west are messing with Africa. I'm not saying there isn't a way out, African Countries that are getting rid of their despots are getting smart and playing fast with their trade and developing but they are fighting an uphill battle against the way the act. As long as the AU is dominated by despots like Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and Zuma as well as all the other assorted idiots I don't have that much faith with the majority of Africa getting out from under the conditions that the West imposes upon them.

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