A rumble in the jungle (Part 1): colonialism

L0004550 The new Home and Colonial Offices, Westminster, 1875. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images [email protected] http://wellcomeimages.org The new Home and Colonial Offices, Parliament Street, Westminster, 1875. Photograph Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Patria nostra olim provincia Romana erat

– First sentence in the Austrian schoolbook Liber latinus

The ongoing debate about colonialism and all that jazz needs a contribution from my side – not that I believe I am so overwhelmingly important. The maybe three of four readers of my regular cynical rants in the RS know I am not. But the debate is so superficial, so silly, so filled with ideological blackmail, so dominated by bullies, so populated on the other side by cowards and sissies eager to accept any slap from the rabble that it – most importantly – goes far beyond the day to day political needs and invectives but reaches into the essence [1] of culture and history, especially the history of creative man making artefacti.

The political, philosophical and historical questions are an immense challenge which I am only able to ‘encandrieren’ [2] in a short, theoretical, but nevertheless pugnacious and polemic, way. Therefore more inputs and deliberations are welcomed. Even critical ones … so a little bit of ‘thought crime’ and ‘hate speech’ is considered necessary by yours truly. Take that, benign reader as a ‘trigger warning’. Sensible souls and sissies, you have been warned…

For writing this article I could and maybe should have studied a lot of elaborations produced in the academic field; for example, Decolonising the curriculum written by one Kasturi Bihari-Leak, quoted by Tim Crow in one of his delightful articles right here in the RS. No, I did not. You read a few lines of these emanations and you know them all. The same jargon, the same phrases, the same resentment, the same crap coming out of the gutter, the same narrow-mindedness, the same agility in wanting to feel insulted, suppressed, annoyed and discriminated. Be it. They will get it. I do not care.

Just to let my few readers know: I am a confessed imperialist, especially if the empire is Hapsburg and Catholic. An empire must not even mean global or continental political power, it may also be an empire of the intellect, of art, of culture. Like the ‘empire’ of the Austrian school of economics is. At some time before 1914 [3] and still in the last century, Austria possessed (considering the size of its population) the largest share of scientists who had won a Nobel prize. A tremendous intellectual influence was therefore built up and maintained without mass shootings, concentration camps and Tscheka-Gestapo. Scientific communists of all colours and tribes vigorously protested.

The most irritating element of this anti-colonialist rumble is that the term is not even defined. That is typical for political discussions as the participants are free to change definitions and meanings are not  bound. As it may be an essential element of political tactics, that tactic is poisonous to a real debate in merits – a rational debate and discussion weighing arguments and reasons and trying to come to a serious, balanced and meaningful conclusion.

Back to the Latin language. The terms colony, colonialism, and other related terms derive from the Latin word colo/colui/cultus [4] and this word has a lot of meanings like working, doing agriculture, habituating, taking care, alimentation, decorating ,cleaning, educating, improving, bettering, preserving, conservation, consecration, adore, praying, celebrating, keeping holy and eminent, honouring, accepting, venerating. In one word it describes the whole sphere of an advanced culture, a culture whose members decided to come out of the hut and the cave and started to build up something significant.

By the way it just occurred to me how many words of the English language derive from Latin. If you speak English, you speak half Latin. That means you speak clearly. Another of the many gifts from the Roman empire to the inhabitants of the British Isles [5].  Sorry, Queen Boudicca you just did not get it. Massacring the immigrated Roman civilians and burning their cities is not cultured.

Therefore – strictly speaking and thinking – that is what most demagogues and assembled gutter boys do not do: we have to recognize, that if speaking  up against ‘colonialism’ you speak up against the whole frame and network of advanced culture. I do not know if they know what they actually do or say and I just do not care about the babble of the ongoing annoyed inepti, suspecti et debili but we, right here should know the real meaning of their rancid and racist (but not really racy) rants.

Look, I do understand the strong sense of independence in nations, especially small nations, even if they are slightly barbaric. I do understand that they or better said their local political elites do not want to be overrun by the armies of one empire; that the British got a bashing at Isandhlwana by the Zulus or by the Boers in various battles and skirmishes or the Italians at Aduwa by the Ethiopians makes me still smile. Well done.

But is this discussion about the concept of imperial domination or the concept of nation states? Or is it really about culture, about an advanced and productive way of living, of organizing a society, of being just more, much more than a caveman?

Is an empire bad, as such? One can easily refer to Monty Python’s film Life of Brian in which the leader of the Judean People’s Front demands the total dismantling of the imperialist apparatus only to be reminded how many things exist which even his followers want to stay [6]. Of course, some empires were more destructive than constructive, like the communist empire of the Soviet Union [7]. The Soviet Empire left nothing but misery and a bad impression. The English Empire, for example, at least left constitutions, bills of rights, a substantial preference for law and order, infrastructure, schools, universities, publishing houses, international trade connections, industry and a practical lingua franca.

The Mongols had a very peculiar way of treating their enemies, reducing all their towns and infrastructure to fine grinded dust. Or Tamerlan in the 14th century A.D. who ordered the slaughter of all enemies after victory in battle, arrange them by many layers in the square, putting chalk on them and have in that way towers built of the corpses of his enemies. The nomads in the deserts of Central Asia still think that this was a quite witty idea [8].

Well, sometimes, the European empires and their agents also did not behave well.

Pizarro raped and plundered the Inca Empire and the British waged war against the Chinese to force them to import opium produced by the East India Company. So the United Kingdom then (1839-1840) acted as a militant agent for drug dealers. Not nice; really not nice.

But did the European empires also not bring to the others lingua, legibus artibus? Is it not a fact that especially small nations can prosper within an empire and gain significance beyond their numbers? I know Tim Crow, as a proud Irishman, will protest but confronted with the English Empire is it not true that the Irish could only survive being a member of the religious empire of the Catholic Church?

Are we aware of the tremendous cultural work done by the Spanish and Portuguese colonialists and empire-builders, who spread the gospel – I apologize to the agnostics among my libertarian friends, but for me this is a good thing – founding a specific culture (you still might see it with architecture), universities, abolishing abhorring practices like mass slaughtering of prisoners to the gods by the Mexicans (Aztecs) [9] and so on? Forget the leyenda negra, the Calvinist propaganda against the Catholic empires.

By the way; sometimes the Europeans acted stupidly. A lot of mudslinging and dirty propaganda derived from one European power fighting another. So even the anti-colonialist rants are about 80 percent European-produced.

And even in their anti-imperialist hypes they were not able to get away from European terms. Take, for example, the name of Azania. We know which segment of the anti-imp-cap-col crowd is eager to use it. Sorry, I have to spoil their fun: the name ‘Azania’ is a Latin word and was used by the Romans long ago to name parts of East Africa (today’s Eritrea, Somalia, and Kenya) which they explored whilst trading with India [10]. Even in their spiting rage these funny radicals speak imperialist lingo. Amusing, quite amusing. Let us have South Africa renamed. Azania is an absolutely worthy wonderful Latin and finally imperialist term. I love it…

Back to the European empires of the 19th century: they spread order, law, civilisation, modern techniques, science, medicine, and whatever over the dark or disorganized parts of the planet. Many of today’s ‘anti-imps’ would not even live as due to lack of medicine, nutrition, order and infrastructure they would not even been borne and not even their parents or grand-parents.

I do not ask them to be thankful – thankfulness does not exist in politics, forget it – but they should recognize it.

[1] For the definition of ‘essence’ please read Thomas Aquinas’ De ente et de essentia and you will find a precise definition.

[2] A nice term used by Carl Schmitt in the foreword to his famous  book The Essence of Politics meaning giving it shape, form, meaning and limits. And then have something useful which might serve as a fundament for a meaningful debate.

[3] That was under the cold Sun of the Hapsburg rule (this word coined by the novelist Joseph Roth) who since Empress Maria Theresa in the mid of the 18th-century ordered to build up a school and university system which was at its time world class.

[4] Stowasser, Latin-German dictionary, 1971, p114  (p stands for pagina meaning ‘page’. Got it?)

[5] As Churchill pointed out in his History of the English-speaking People the standard and the comfort of living was for many centuries below the standard in Roman times.

[6] You surely find this hilarious scene on YouTube and if not I do not care.

[7] Come on. Do not always think automatically of the bad bad Nazis.

[8] Essad-Bey, Oil and blood in the Orient, DVA, Leipzig 1930, p151f

[9] Goergen, 500 Years Latin America, LIT, 2nd edition, 1993 and Hugh Thomas, The conquest of Mexico, Pimlico 1993. All right, you have to study and read about 1,000 pages. So what? Beyond your brain capacity? Get a few bottles of South African wine, relax, take a timeout, catch a babe and start living. Books, booze and babes. What about that ?

[10] Theodor Mommsen, World Empire of the Caesars, Buechergilde Guttenberg, 1955, p450