Posts Tagged ‘colonialism’

Why Europe conquered the world

By Jonathan Power

February 21st 2017

Eleven hundred years ago Europe was a backwater. There were no grand cities, apart from Cordoba in Spain which was Muslim. The Middle East was much further ahead, still absorbing the intellectual delights and challenges of Greek science, medicine and architecture which Europeans were largely ignorant of. In southern China agriculture advanced and trade in tea, porcelain and silk flourished.

By 1914 it was a totally different world. The Europeans ruled 84% of the globe and they had colonies everywhere. How was it that Europe and its offspring, the United States, became the dominant dynamic force in the world, and still are today in most things?

If I walk round my university town and stop the first ten students I meet and ask them why this was so they would probably say because of the Industrial Revolution. But in 1800 when the Industrial Revolution was only just beginning Europeans already ruled 35% of the world and had armed ships on every ocean and colonies on every continent.

If they didn’t say that, they might say it was the way the Europeans spread their fatal diseases, smallpox and measles, to which they had gained a good deal of immunity, and this enabled them to lay low native peoples. But in fact all the major Middle Eastern and Asian civilizations had this same advantage. In Africa it was local diseases that attacked the Europeans more than vice versa.

Maybe one of the ten students would say it was because the Europeans were ahead in the development of gunpowder technology. After all the military revolution preceded the Industrial Revolution. But I doubt that, even though on the right track, this one student could explain why. Read the rest of this entry »

Gandhi and Mandela: Two South Africans

Johan Galtung

By Johan Galtung

Mohandas Gandhi invented the nonviolent approach to basic social change, Satyagraha, in South Africa in the early 20th century; Nelson Mandela presided over the birth of a one person-one vote democracy at the end of the century. Both were lawyers, trained in English Common Law; good in the sense of a keen consciousness of what is right and wrong, bad in the sense of a court process identifying who is in the wrong rather than solving underlying conflicts, and wrong in the sense of punishing the wrong-doer; violence rather than cooperation.

Both built on the positive side of law – the indelible rights of the people for whom they were fighting by comparing empirical facts with normative rights; immigrant Indians in the case of Gandhi, original inhabitants in South Africa, the Blacks, in the case of Mandela.

Gandhi (1869-1948) did not live to see equality between Indians and whites in South Africa, but in India, his mother-father land; Mandela (1918-2013) did. They won their struggles – but the societies that emerged still suffer from other and major ones.

A deep culture united them: the culture of law. Read the rest of this entry »

A quick glance at Indonesia-Malaysia

By Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Muhammadiyah University – Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Coming from Malaysia, the two neighbors are incredibly different. Indonesia, richer in ancient cultures, larger in territory, an archipelago of thousands of islands, has GDP/capita 3,500 and Malaysia 11,500; three times+ more. Products of brutal Western colonialism, Dutch for Indonesia, English for Malaya, which became Malaysia. Exploited, robbed, impoverished. Both hoped that World War II, fought for democracy-human rights, would end that in 1945, but got wars to keep colonialism instead–till 1949 and 1957, respectively.

Both had been occupied for 3 1/2 years by Japan going south to beat the US-imposed boycott, heading for oil resources in Indonesia (Malaysian oil not yet discovered). There was a difference: Indonesia’s future leader, Soekarno and his no. 2 Mohammad Hatta had lived in Japan, made friends and met the Dutch returning to “their” colony fighting as a free country – no such freedom in Malaya.

So, why the difference? It is almost like a social experiment.

The key is the local Chinese minority, in Malaysia used by the English against the Malay majority, as exploited workers in the tin mines, and as capitalists with their gangs in Penang and Singapore; in Indonesia also in the army and in the PKI, Indonesian Communist Party, the largest outside the Soviet bloc. Hard working, well organized, clever with money, they attracted much of the same hatred and violence as Jews in Germany and Armenians in Turkey – both ending with genocides.

So also in Indonesia, the massacre of 1965-66; planned by US think tanks and the CIA with the Indonesian government. Standard CIA tactic: rumors of imminent coup from the left, perhaps organizing some–the coup against Gorbachev 1991–and then a massive, well prepared, coup from the right. Half a million or so killed, General Suharto in power for three decades, giving USA the free access to the economy they wanted. Pillaging started and lasted; like under Yeltsin in Russia.

Riots came in 1969 to Malaysia, but the reaction was totally different: the New Economic Policy. Forty percent of Muslim Malays lived in misery, 35 percent of the economy was in English, and 20 percent in local Chinese hands. Majority Chinese from Singapore had left in 1965 and now Malaysia has a GDP/cap 55,200 by far no. 1 in ASEAN – some are still in the 1,000s.

The Malaysian government did not turn on the Chinese but lifted the bottom Malays up by positive discrimination – like across race and gender faultlines elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry »


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