Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Ruthless Practices in the Colonies

The Social Darwinist views that dominated the colonial elites revealed themselves in policies adopted towards the native peoples. These administrations did not regard these peoples of the countries they ruled as human, but as primitive, intermediate life forms, and usually inflicted suffering, destruction and unhappiness. Social Darwinism was one major factor in these countries' ruthless policies. As already seen, the aggressive measures adopted by some nations, that in their arrogance regarded other nations as inferior, acquired false legitimization through Social Darwinism. These countries regarded themselves as perfectly justified in adopting such policies, which only increased their greed and aggression.
The Opium Wars are an interesting example. Great Britain began selling opium to China in the early 1800s, even though at the time the production, sale and consumption of opium were forbidden in Britain itself. The English governing class, who scrupulously protected their own people against this scourge, soon made the Chinese people dependent on opium. After his son died of excessive opium consumption, the emperor decided to put a stop to the British importing the drug into his country. A government official, Lin Zexu (Lin Tse-Hsü), was sent to Canton—the East India Company's largest port—about putting an end to the trade. Since the British merchants did not favor cooperation, Zexu had the opium warehouses closed. The British immediately followed this with military intervention. The Chinese were routed and forced to accept a humiliating treaty, under which the opium trade in China was regarded as legal. Lin Zexu lost his post in the government and was sent into exile.
The Portuguese, for their part, exercised their “superiority” by effectively making slaves of the natives. They kidnapped natives from their colony of Angola and sent them far across the sea as “contracted” workers for five years. But very few of them survived long enough to make the return trip.70 In the great majority of occupied countries, colonizing powers took for themselves such territories and resources as they considered appropriate and gave them to settlers or companies from their own countries. They took no interest in the people who had lost their lands, and totally exploited their workforces, goods and mineral resources.
From their colonies, the British sent raw materials like cotton, tea and minerals to Britain, and later sent products made from them back to the colonies, to be sold at high prices. Cotton from India was processed in Britain, and the sale of Indian cotton was prohibited in India. In other words, they could use only cotton sold by the British. The Indians were also able to buy only salt produced by the British.
Another practice of the new imperialism was their belittling and behaving disrespectfully towards rulers of the countries they colonized. But in earlier times, from the era of Elizabeth I up until Napoleon, administrators had treated foreign leaders equally. The deviant idea of regarding oneself as superior gained increasing strength in 19th-century Europe, bringing with it insolence and rudeness.
Darwinist imperialists portrayed their colonization of other nations as the result of their races being “inferior” and “backward.” According to such claims, the order of the superior race had to spread across the entire world, and if the world were to progress, the inferior had to be improved. Put another way, the colonialist powers alleged that they were bringing “civilization” to the lands they conquered. Yet their practices and policies in no way reflected their claims to be “well intentioned.” Along with their Social Darwinist ideas, the 19th- and 20th-century colonialist powers brought with them chaos, conflict, fear and humiliation, rather than well-being, happiness, culture and civilization. Even if one accepts that the colonialists did provide some benefits for their colonies, still the harm they wreaked was many times greater.

Karl Pearson's words cited below, devoid of any humanity or compassion, summarize these Darwinism-based views:
The struggle means suffering, intense suffering, while it is in progress; but that struggle and that suffering have been the stages by which the white man has reached his present stage of development, and they account for the fact that he no longer lives in caves and feeds on roots and nuts. This dependence of progress on the survival of the fitter race, terribly black as it may seem to some of you, gives the struggle for existence its redeeming features; it is the fiery crucible out of which comes the finer metal. You may hope for a time when the sword shall be turned into the ploughshare, when American and German and English traders shall no longer compete in the markets of the world for their raw material and for their food supply, when the white man and the dark shall share the soil between them, and each till it as he lists. But, believe me, when that day comes mankind will no longer progress; there will be nothing to check the fertility of inferior stock; the relentless law of heredity will not be controlled and guided by natural selection. Man will stagnate... The path of progress is strewn with the wreck of nations; traces are everywhere to be seen of the [slaughtered remains] of inferior races, and of victims who found not the narrow way to the greater perfection. Yet these dead people are, in very truth, the stepping stones on which mankind has arisen to the higher intellectual and deeper emotional life of today.71
This “world view” that regards most nations as inferior, and their suffering and death as a step on the path to so-called evolution, poses a danger to all humanity. If individuals join forces to depict an idea as scientific fact, no matter how dangerous or how unscientific and illogical it may be, and engage in propaganda on its behalf, then soon that idea and its byproducts will be accepted by those who lack sufficient information on the subject in question. This is where the hidden danger of Darwinism lies. People believing in concepts such as “the struggle for survival” and “conflict between superior and inferior races” carried out all kinds of ruthless actions under the shelter of these claims—or at least kept silent while others did so. As a result, racist, aggressive, and ruthless dictators such as Hitler, Mussolini and Franco emerged, and millions applauded their words. And because of these cruel ideologies, tens of millions lived and died in pain, fear and suffering.
70. John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, vol. 2: From the French Revolution to the Present, pp. 990-991
71. Pearson, National Life from the Standpoint of Science

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