A rumble in the jungle (Part 1): colonialism

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...

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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

In this article

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  1. Tim Bester Reply

    Sitta raises a very interesting point; by what name did the indigenous inhabitants describe this vast continent?

    The Afrikaners, speaking Afrikaans, were surely the first to fully identify themselves as “Africans”.

    Any takers on this theme?

    1. Harald Sitta Reply

      Historically “Africa’ was the name of the roman province established in present day Tunisia.The other (known) parts of today’s Africa had been called >. Egypt, Libya (today’s Libya and the desert) , Mauritania (today’s Maghreb) , Abyssinia (>> Ethiopia), Azania, Nubia ( >> present day Sudan.Nubian’s or Nilotic people had the only dark skinned people known to antique times).The people in Mauritanian had been of Indo-Germanic stock , Egyptians Semitic/Hamitic, Carthago, the Sidonia people Semitic >> Phoenicians. The word ‘Azania’ when was used by the Portuguese for Southern Africa .The term Africa for the whole continent is relatively young, i believe 17.century .

  2. jemevans Reply

    I enjoyed your brief foray describing colonialism as ecompassing a ‘whole sphere’ of advancement. That to which you allude was captured nicely by a small event in Swaziland, in 1973. King Sobhuza II surrounded the houses of parliament with his tanks and forced parliament to revoke the Westminster constitution that had been in place since September 1968. Ever since Sobhuza got his way, Swaziland has been ruled by two absolute monarchs. Many, many years later, Google Earth emerged and allowed me to scan my old home town, Swaziland’s capital. Apart from a couple of new roads and buildings, absolutely bugger all has changed in 34 years. Not even my old school, the police station, the petrol station, my father’s office building, the untarred road where I lived and the shortcut I took through Mr Hayes’s vegetable field. The parliament buildings look the same, and about the University I will write nothing.

    1. Harald Sitta Reply

      Looks like the downfall of the western half of the Roman empire. We have to recognize – not understanding or accepting – that some like to be barbarians and some simply cannot cope with the complexities of a modern civilization., green-alternative Neomarxists in Europe belong to these groups also

  3. Gillian Benade Reply


    1. Harald Sitta Reply

      wait for part 2 🙂

      1. Riaan Jansen Van Vuren Reply

        Cant wait!

  4. Spyti K Reply

    For a long time now, I have likened our Governing party to a dog that has taken to chasing cars, but after reading this, I think I’ll expand that comparison to the anti-colonialists and Social Justice Warriors in general as well.

    The dog will chase after a car as it comes down the street, but it has no idea what to do with the car in the event that it should catch it, so it slinks back to the side of the road waiting for the next one to come by.

  5. Paining Reply

    Love the term “ideological blackmail” as dished out by those cultural Marxist “bullies” and self-proclaimed social justice warriors.

  6. Tim Crowe Reply

    I won’t comment at great length on Dr Sitta’s ‘rumbles in the jungle’ because I find them extremely biased and racist at best and historically fallacious at worst. Also, he misrepresents me and spells my surname – CrowE – incorrectly. [At least that’s better than hate-speaking, Shackville Fallist Simon Rakei who refers to me as “Jim Crow”.]

    Yes, the“debate [about race, racism, colonialism, Apartheid, decolonization etc.] is [far, far too often] 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 …”

    But, these concepts and historical events do warrant discussion, if only to prevent the extremists’ views from prevailing. One thing that is certain is that the five examples listed above are all steeped in ignorance and evil. Sure, elements of even the most repressive oppression may be keystones for a liberated post-world, but can never be used by apologists or recidivists, like Dr Sitta, to hanker for the ‘good old days’.

    No number of Nobel prizes can justify empires or enforced colonial assemblages of nations that yearn for independence.

    Yes, an “irritating element of this anti-colonialist rumble is that the term [decolonization] is not even defined”. This is certainly true in the case of the University of Cape Town, now hell-bent on a terrifying
    inchoate path towards ‘deconstruction’. Of course, this is not true for “decolonization” sensu lato. Many people have offered definitions, almost all of which involve academic ‘cleansing’.

    One can investigate the etymological origins of the word ‘colonialism’ to death. But, in the end, it just means taking over a people and the land they occupy without their consent and to their detriment –
    or much, much worse.

    Use of terms such as “gutter boy” for those with whom you disagree or disrespect does you no

    There is nothing wrong with “small nations”, even if they are “slightly barbaric” – in your undefined terms – for wanting to control their own destiny. Things go ‘pear-shaped’ when they start forming bigger and bigger entities through conquest – England being the best/worst example.

    “Culture” is something that just “is”. It’s the bigots who decide which ones are “advanced”, “productive”, or “organized” – with or without “cavemen”.

    “Is an empire bad, as such?”

    YES! Some may be less repressive than others, e.g. British vs French, but they’re still all bad.

    I greatly enjoyed Monty Python’s film Life of Brian, but would not have liked to live in Judea under Roman occupation.

    Ranking the Mongols, Spanish and British according to how ‘bad’ they were as colonists/conquerors
    may be an interesting scholarly exercise, but it doesn’t make the British look any better.

    Yes, “small nations can prosper within an empire and gain significance beyond their numbers”. Ireland is a very good example. But, please don’t pretend to know what I think about my ‘Irishness’ or the role the Roman Catholic Church played in its retention of Irish national identity.

    Also, please reconsider talking about the “tremendous cultural work done [any] colonialists and empire-builders”. By and large, all they “spread” was misery.

    Characterizing European imperialism as “stupid” is disingenuous at best. The great capitals of Europe would be bereft of their magnificent architecture without it.

    What’s in a country’s name? Perhaps South Africa should be called “Sania” (or maybe “Insania”), after its original people, who have been hanging around this part of Africa for more than 100000 years. But the San would probably object to this because “San” is a name (meaning ‘foreigner’) imposed on them by Khoekhoe ‘settlers’ who only ‘arrived’ in southern Africa a few thousand years ago. In any event, this
    is not possible since, sadly, none of the many KhoiSan languages are ‘official’ according to the current government.

    As much as you might like to dream, pre-colonial Africa was anything but “dark or disorganized”. Ask any mummified Pharaoh.

    Now to Part ‘deux’

    I’m not sure that many Brazilians share your fond memories of rule by an “Austrian archduchess”, as much as I admire the era of rationality and enlightenment.

    All I can say about:

    “It would have been good for Africa and its people to have remained under colonial rule
    for more time, at least one hundred years more.”

    is: which ones?

    With regard to:

    “Who abolished slavery? The European powers, at the Congress of Vienna in 1814.”

    is: Why?

    Not out of the goodness of their ‘hearts’, but because it was necessary to replace it with colonialism to keep making money.

    With regard to “Arabian” slavery, some argue that it was relatively much more benign that that by your fellow Europeans, and possibly even the working conditions in mid-19th Century England!

    Was Nelson Mandela an “uppish and rebellious native”?

    If, by ‘coconuts’ and ‘Uncle Toms’ and ‘sell-outs’ you mean people of ‘colour’ with self-generated dignity and economic independence, let’s have lots more of ‘them’!

    Yes, the “Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Indians – whoever” have co-opted ‘Western’ “technologies,
    science or methods”. But, they have retained their own national identities, and the co-option should be working in both ways.

    With regard to Austrian music/dance, there is, of course the “godless”, “shameless”, “indecent whirling-dance” – the Waltz.

    Now to Haiti, the richest of all the colonies.

    First, you fail to mention the ‘perfectly extreme’, vicious, soul-destroying and ruthless form of slavery that developed there after the Spanish and French imperialists eradicated the indigenous Taíno people.

    Then, of course, the Napoleonic French colluded with the vicious and illiterate former slave, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, to betray the ‘George-Washington-like’, liberator Toussaint Louverture. This set the precedent for hundreds of years of internal strife (including genocide and mass rape) promoted by rapacious imperialists, the most recent being the USA.

    There was no Marshall Plan for Haiti. It just isn’t in the imperialists’ ‘interests’.

    The Haitians have no need for “European culture” or “religion”. They have their own – a fascinating mosaic.

    With regard to:

    “The last bimbo walking out of the bush into town to get a job there and make a living has more
    sense and respect for culture and more industry and productivity in himself than they have. Why this self-hate, this longing for a common cultural suicide exists – I do not know; maybe psychologists have an answer for that.”

    Shame on the editors for allowing it to be published.

    With regard to Fallists, whom you describe variously as “half-witted guys”, “professional
    complainers”, “scum and assorted rabble barbarians”, whom you “want to retreat to the caves or the huts”, I ask you to consider my favourite Lyndon Johnson quote:

    “When you put your foot on a man’s neck and hold him down for three hundred years, and then you let him up, what’s he going to do? He’s going to knock your block off.”

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