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Sunday, October 31, 2021

Margaret Thatcher’s Fake Individualism

One of Margaret Thatcher’s many famous sayings was: “There is no such thing as society.” She believed that there were only individual men and women. But how do you keep these individuals together? How do you make them fight for a common cause? 

Thatcher was a good politician; she had to be since she won several elections. But she had a poor grasp of the history of the country that had made her the prime minister. The British still see Thatcher as the “Iron Lady”—she did show a steely determination in dismantling British society. The Iron Lady was an ignorant lady, at least in the area of history. She presumed a lot of things about the history of Britain which are not true. 

Britain became an empire on which the “sun did not set” because the British were an intensely collectivized society. In the sixteenth century, Queen Elizabeth I initiated the process of uniting the British under the banner of “one monarch (herself) and one God (the Protestant Christian God).” She turned the British into a warlike group of chauvinists and zealots who were convinced that theirs was the only culture blessed by God. 

The kings and queens who followed Elizabeth I carried on with her policy of keeping the British united and motivated to fight the world. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the British empire saw its maximum expansion, the war cry of the British navy and army was: “Rule, Britannia!” (Inspired by James Thomson’s poem). There was hardly any political and cultural diversity in Britain during the heydays of Imperialism.  

The British fought, massacred, plundered, enslaved, and colonized as one people. They built their empire not as individualists but under the collectivist banner of “one monarch and one God.”

Saturday, October 30, 2021

On Kipling’s “Lesser Breeds Without the Law”

When some Haitians crossed the American border with Mexico and made it into Texas (in the first week of October), the conservatives went ballistic. They screamed and wept that their country was being invaded. They claimed that their country would be destroyed if the Haitians were not thrown out immediately. Their government listened. I think many of the Haitians have been deported to Haiti. But what do these conservatives have to say about the mindless destruction that America’s political and military interventions have caused in Haiti? Are they not culpable for the crimes that their government commits in other countries? 

In his poem, “Recessional,” Rudyard Kipling shows his contempt for the people of Africa and Asia by calling them the “lesser breeds without the Law.” In another poem, “The White Man’s Burden,” Kipling glorifies the Europeans with these words: “Take up the White Man’s burden—Send forth the best ye breed.” I wonder why Kipling is still being taught in schools and colleges of Asia? Why are they making movies based on his books? Kipling was a notorious defender of colonialism and slavery. He should be quietly dumped into the dustbin of history and forgotten.

After winning the Second World War, America became the leader of the West. The Kiplingesque notions of “the white man’s burden” and bringing law to the “lesser breeds without the law” became the drivers of America’s foreign policy after 1945. The Americans were convinced that they were exceptional, that they were the “masters of the universe.” They recognized some connections with Europe but they wiped out the historical connection between their country and Asia, South America, and Africa. 

Like the Spanish and the British in the Age of Imperialism, the Americans, after 1945, were convinced that it was their destiny to civilize the world. The result of this Kiplingesque thinking was hubris and tyrannical tendencies which led America to start a series of wars: Vietnam, Cambodia, the Korean Peninsula, Cuba, Chile, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Somalia. These wars were fought with three aims—first, to take control of natural resources; second, to expand America’s geopolitical power; third, to transform the world into America’s image. Now it is clear that all three aims have failed.

When I look at the destruction that has been caused in these wars, I have to ask myself: “Who is the lesser breed?” Kipling was obsessed with the imperialistic European vision. He did not care to investigate the perspective of the non-European people. There is nothing new about the American or Western notion of being an exceptional civilization. All civilizations harbor similar notions—they have their nationalistic mythologies and heroic founders. America is as imperfect as any other country, including Haiti where they have been intervening continuously since 1950.

Friday, October 29, 2021

The End of Western Currencies

“There certainly was no money in the Trojan War. Gold and silver passed by weight; Agamemnon might have had a treasure, but certainly no money.” ~ Voltaire. Agamemnon was the superpower in the age of the Trojan War, and the words that Voltaire has used for him can be used with some justification to describe the condition of the so-called superpower of our time: the West. 

The West might have a treasure (wealth), but certainly no money. The economic policies of the Western countries are as irrational and corrupt as the economic policies of Zimbabwe and Venezuela. Yet the Dollar, Euro, and Pound have not sickened and collapsed. They have not suffered the cataclysmic fate of the Zimbabwean Dollar and Venezuelan Bolivar. This is because the Western currencies are backed by Western military power.  

The global capitalist order is an unfair and corrupt oligarchy, which safeguards the Western economies and geopolitical interests, often at the cost of the non-Western world. Most nations are forced to use the Dollar for settling their international trades, even though the usage of this currency entails importing a slice of American (Western) inflation into their economy. The economies of the non-Western countries cannot develop as long as they are forced to import Dollars and (with it) American inflation. 

The West’s most lucrative export is its paper currency. Making money by exporting money is the world’s oldest scam and the West is guilty of it. If the West was militarily weaker, its currencies would not be the standard financial tool for settling international trades and its currencies, which are not backed by gold, would have died in a paroxysm of inflation. The economic logic which has destroyed the currencies of Zimbabwe and Venezuela would have caused a similar havoc in the Western countries.

The West cannot protect its currencies by using its military power for too long. The dollar is dying; so too are the Euro and the Pound. I believe that in ten years the Dollar, Euro, and Pound will join the Zimbabwean Dollar and the Venezuelan Bolivar in the dustbin of history. The end of Western currencies will mark the end of Western hegemony, and there will be far reaching and radical transformations in the world.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Homeric Rage of the Europeans

The first word in Western literature is the ancient Greek word for “rage.” Homer’s Iliad begins with this word. The first sentence in The Iliad is translated as: “Rage—Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles, murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses…” Rage is the supreme emotion of the Homeric characters in The Iliad and The Odyssey. Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, Paris, Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Priam are wrathful and brutal. They do not compromise. They do not negotiate. They fight and conquer. They kill, torture, rape, maim, sacrifice, plunder, and enslave.

In conceiving the characters of his epics, Homer could have been inspired by the Greeks (the Europeans) among whom he lived. The Greeks were a violent, wrathful, and brutal people. They were constantly at war with each other and with their neighbors. It is generally believed that the Greeks were good in philosophy, but what they were truly good at was massacring, plundering, torturing, and enslaving. They unleashed devastation on an epic scale not only in Greece but also in Syracuse, Egypt, South Italy, and the Persian Empire. Between 50 to 80 percent of the people in most city-states of Ancient Greece were slaves or metics.

The Romans, who came after the Greeks, were full of similar Homeric rage. The number of slaves that the Roman soldiers caught and sold is astonishing. The Samnite War in the third century BC resulted in 55,000 Samnites and Gauls being captured and auctioned. The destruction of Carthage in the third Punic War flooded the slave markets with more than a million slaves. Julius Caesar once sold the entire population of a conquered region (close to 53000 people) to slave dealers. The Romans held gladiator games for 600 years. No other culture in the world has turned the killing of humans into a spectator sport on the scale that the Romans did.

Till the fifteenth century, the Europeans were massacring, plundering, and enslaving each other. In the Age of Imperialism, they poured out of Europe and gave to the world a taste of their Homeric rage and brutality. The Europeans invaded the Americas, Africa, and Asia. They conquered, colonized, and plundered. They wiped out cultures, colonized many nations, massacred natives and animals with impunity, enslaved millions of people, and stole tons of gold and silver. From the sixteenth century to 1945 (end of the Second World War), the Europeans were also engaged in fighting apocalyptic wars with other Europeans. 

The power and might of Europe has never depended on its philosophy or science. It comes as a by-product of the collective Homeric rage of the Europeans.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

King Tobacco and the American Revolution

The American Revolution can be viewed as a contest between King Tobacco (the tobacco tycoons of Virginia) and the King of England (George III). In his book American Slavery, American Freedom, Edmund Morgan notes that the causes of the American Revolution cannot be understood without understanding the tobacco economy of Virginia. He writes:

“Virginia was the largest of the new United States, in territory, in population, in influence—and in slaveholding. Virginians owned more than 40 percent of all slaves in the new nation. It was Virginia slaves who grew most of the tobacco that helped to buy American independence. And Virginia furnished the country’s most eloquent spokesmen for freedom and equality. Virginia adopted the first state constitution with a bill of rights. A Virginian commanded the Continental Army that won independence. Virginians drafted not only the Declaration of Independence but also the United States Constitution of 1787 and the first ten amendments to it. And Americans elected Virginians to the presidency of the United States under that constitution for thirty-two out of the first thirty-six years of its existence. They were all slave holders. If it is possible to understand the American paradox, the marriage of slavery and freedom, Virginia is surely the place to begin.”

When the Americans were fighting for independence, they were the biggest slave holders in the British Empire. The British used to ask: “Why are these Americans clamoring for independence when they are denying freedom to their slaves?” Many British held that the Americans were a pampered community since taxes were lower in America.

In a letter (dated 31 May 1775), Washington wrote: “Unhappy it is though to reflect, that a Brother's Sword has been sheathed in a Brother's breast, and that, the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with Blood, or Inhabited by Slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous Man hesitate in his choice?” On the one hand Washington was stood for independence of the Europeans in America, but on the other hand he stood for slavery of the Africans and forced assimilation of the natives.

The plains of Virginia, which Washington calls “happy and peaceful,” had been full of slaves for almost a century, and 135 of these slaves belonged to him. When he died, he owned 277 slaves. When Jefferson was the governor of Virginia, he had hundreds of slaves. When he died, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, he was still a slave holder and the number of his slaves had probably increased. In his 5000 acre plantation at Monticello, he was using African slaves for extensive cultivation of tobacco. He did not free his slaves in his will; after his death, they were sold to the highest bidder to settle his debts. Edmund Morgan says: “The rise of liberty and equality in America had been accompanied by the rise in slavery.”

The American Revolution was financed by Virginia’s tobacco tycoons who believed that the revolutionaries would not outlaw slavery which was tobacco industry’s lifeblood. In his book The Emergence of a National Economy, 1775-1815, Curtis P. Nettels has said that France came out in support of American revolutionaries because of King Tobacco Diplomacy. He writes: “One American export—tobacco—towered over all else. Prewar shipments to Britain had amounted annually to 100,000,000 pounds, four fifths of which was re-exported, mainly to Europe. To wrest this lucrative trade from Britain was an impelling commercial ambition of France: its conduct in foreign affairs might be called “King Tobacco Diplomacy.”

Condoleezza Rice has called slavery “America’s birth defect.” Morgan argues that slavery was not a birth defect—it was the driver of the American Revolution. American slavery made American independence and, consequently, American capitalism possible. The idea that the American revolution was motivated by some sort of idealistic philosophy of liberty is a myth. Without slavery, without the decimation of Native Indians and native wildlife (bison and other creatures), the capitalist utopia of America could not be created.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Near Extinction of Bison

Some 40 to 50 million bison lived in the Great Plains area of America in 1800. By 1895, just a thousand were left. The Native Indians were not responsible for hunting the bison to the verge of extinction. The American pioneers, working for hide companies, were responsible for the carnage. They used to kill the bison, take its hide, and leave the rotting carcass behind. Charles Rath and Robert Wright in Dodge City, Kansas, shipped 200,000 bison hides in the winter of 1873. They had another 80,000 hides stored in their warehouse.

In 1873, this is how Lt. Col. Richard Irving Dodge described the destruction caused by the hide traders: “Where there were myriads of buffalo the year before, there were now myriads of carcasses. The air was foul with a sickening stench, and the vast plain which only a short twelve months before teemed with animal life, was a dead, solitary putrid desert.”

The wholesale slaughter of bison was unbearable for the Plains Indians. Bison was the foundation of their economy. It was the centerpiece of their cosmology. In the 1870s, some Indian tribes started attacking the hide hunters in the Texas Panhandle. The American military responded with force. The natives who were attacking the hide hunters were defined as hostiles, which meant that they could be killed. The army destroyed thousands of Indian homes and their possessions. They seized the horses. With their homes, possessions, horses, and bison gone, it was impossible for the tribes to resist. They were forced to surrender.

In his biography, John Fire Lame Deer, Teton Sioux (Lakota) teacher and elder, has described the intimacy between the bison and Native Indians: 

“The buffalo gave us everything we needed. Without it we were nothing. Our tipis were made of his skin. His hide was our bed, our blanket, our winter coat. It was our drum, throbbing through the night, alive, holy. Out of his skin we made our water bags. His flesh strengthened us, became flesh of our flesh. Not the smallest part of it was wasted. His stomach, a red-hot stone dropped into it, became our soup kettle. His horns were our spoons, the bones our knives, our women's awls and needles. Out of his sinews we made our bowstrings and thread. His ribs were fashioned into sleds for our children, his hoofs became rattles. His mighty skull, with the pipe leaning against it, was our sacred altar. The name of the greatest of all Sioux was Tatanka Iyotake—Sitting Bull. When you killed off the buffalo you also killed the Indian—the real, natural, "wild" Indian.” (From Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions by Richard Erdoes)  

If you want to know how North America was conquered and tamed, and made fit for the rise of the American capitalist utopia, which has dominated the world after 1918 (the First World War), you could start by examining the fate of Native Indians and native wildlife.

The American pioneers are not the only ones who overexploited the environment. Some environmentalists have opined that the humans arrived in Australia 50,000 years ago and within a few thousand years they hunted the giant marsupials and other large animals to extinction. The ancestors of the Native Indians are blamed for the extinction of large mammals in North and South America. Primitive humans are blamed for the extinctions in Hawaii, New Zealand, Madagascar, the Mediterranean Islands, and Central Asia. Not all environmentalists agree with the idea of human hand being behind the animal extinctions of earlier periods. They place the blame on climate change, pests, and diseases.

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Seven Pillars of Capitalism

The notion that capitalism is based on the ideas of John Locke and Adam Smith, that it leads to free markets and liberty, and that it is a humane system is a myth. 

From my study of the history of the Europeans in the last 500 years, I have reached the conclusion that the seven pillars of capitalism are: free land, free resources, slavery, a proselytizing religion, an armed population convinced of the supremacy of their race, a political establishment hell-bent on expanding its control over other people, and a military led by ruthless warlords and generals. The road to the Western capitalist utopia is paved with hubris, bullying tactics, enslavements, massacres, forced religious conversions, evictions, and genocides.  

Due to chance factors and a long tradition of warfare, enslavements, and massacres, the West could take control of these seven pillars towards the end of the fifteenth century. These seven pillars have played a pivotal role in transforming the West into a capitalist utopia and a global power. Capitalism thrives on free or cheap stuff. It thrives on free or cheap labor. In the last 500 years, the Western nations have used their political and military power to garner free or cheap resources and labor to quench the appetite of their economy. 

The philosophy of Manifest Destiny, which held that Western expansion was part of a providential mission in which the West would triumph over the barbarity of other cultures, has played a far greater role in the rise of the West than the ideas of Locke and Smith. The macabre consequence of the Manifest Destiny was that the non-Western cultures were destined to decline or become extinct to create space for Western capitalist advance. Inspired by Manifest Destiny, the USA expanded by 67 percent between the 1840s and the 1850s and became a capitalist powerhouse.

In the twentieth century capitalist violence has continued. The Western nations started a series of wars in the Middle East to grab cheap petroleum for their capitalist economy. Until 1960, when OPEC was created and there was a rationalization in the price of petroleum, Britain, France, and the USA were getting petroleum for a fraction of what it was worth.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

James Bond: The Warrior of a Dead Empire

In the 1940s, the British lost their empire but they did not lose their aspiration to be the savior of the West. So they invented the super spy James Bond who works for MI6. Ian Fleming wrote his first James Bond novel Casino Royale in 1952, almost immediately after the fall of the British Empire. The USA and the Soviet Union had battle carriers, fighter planes, missiles, and armies—the British had James Bond who would single handedly save the West.

In James Bond books and movies the powerful figures from the Soviet Union and other non-Western cultures are shown as deranged psychopaths who would walk over any number of corpses to achieve their nefarious agenda of dominating the world. Though Britain was allied with the USA, the British intellectual and political establishment had a condescending attitude towards the Americans. In the world of Bond, the CIA spies are characterized as bumbling operatives who don’t have what it takes to destroy the enemy. It is Bond who destroys the enemy.

The popularity of Bond in Britain was a sign of the country’s cultural and militaristic decline. In the era when Britain was a global power, it did not need a mythical super spy like Bond. In those days this country had the power to send its navy, army, and air force to any part of the world. After the fall of the empire, Britain became a mediocre power, and the British people started taking pride in their mythical one man army: James Bond.

The British made a last attempt to relive the “glorious” days of the empire in 1982, when Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister. The military junta that had captured power in Argentina was convinced that the British would not take military action for the Falkland Islands which had no economic or strategic value. They invaded the Falkland Islands on April 2. But they were taken by surprise when three days later the British dispatched their naval task force to retake the islands.

Argentina was no match for Britain and Thatcher won an easy victory, though she had to use cruise ships to transport her troops to the Falkland Islands. The once powerful Royal Navy did not possess enough ships in 1982 to transport British troops. In the days of the British Empire, the colonies used to transfer a massive amount of wealth to the British economy. But the Falkland Islands have been a massive drain on the British economy since 1982.

When the cost of the victory in the Falkland War became apparent to the British public, they lost the appetite for being the savior of the West. They no longer needed James Bond. He didn’t need them either. He had found a new home: Hollywood. Ian Fleming died in 1964 and the American movie producers had complete control over the new adventures of James Bond who was now battling the forces that were villainous from the American perspective.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

A Demythologized View of the American Revolution

The story of the American Revolution is the most famous work of mythology that the Western thinkers have created after 1776. James Madison has said that the American Revolution was driven by the “sacred fire of liberty.” But liberty for whom?

The Declaration of Independence begins with these lines: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…”—this sounds like a triumph of liberty, equality, and fraternity. But in the section known as Grievance 27, the Declaration of Independence clarifies that all are free and equal except the slaves and the natives. Here’s the text of Grievance 27:

“He has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.”

The Declaration of Independence categorizes all Indians as merciless savages, even those who are allied to the American side. The words “domestic Insurrections” is a reference to the slave revolts which many Americans believed the British were inciting. In 1775, the British had announced that they would give freedom to all those who were enslaved by the revolutionaries if they joined the British Army. The American colonies feared the outbreak of slave revolts—the Grievance 27 addresses their concerns and clarifies that the slaves would not be freed.

The unique feature of the Declaration of Independence is that it inextricably binds slavery and racism with liberty. From the point of view of the slaves and the Native Indians, there was no liberty for them in American independence. For them, the “scared fire of liberty” often meant little more than new chains of bondage.  

The Founders of America are the most deified figures in Western history. But how did the Native Americans see them? In the Seneca tribe, George Washington was known as a “town destroyer.” They held him responsible for decimation of their cornfields and several villages. The Shawnee tribe knew Thomas Jefferson as the man who had started the war of extermination against them, when he was the Governor of Virginia.

The success of the American revolution led to an intensification in the campaign against the Native Indians. In 1779, George Washington sent this terrible order to his military commander: “The immediate objects are the total destruction and devastation of their [Native Indian] settlements and the capture of as many prisoners of every age and sex as possible...Parties should be detached to lay waste to all the settlements around, with instructions to do it in the most effectual manner; that the country may not be merely overrun but destroyed.”

The founders of America and most of the European colonist population did not believe that the slaves and the natives could become civilized. To them becoming civilized was becoming white—that is something that the slaves and the natives could not do.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Surviving Columbus: The Story of Pueblo Indians


In 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s so-called discovery of the Americas, celebrations were organized all across the United States and Europe. But not everyone was interested in extolling Columbus. For Native Indians, this was the time of mourning. They saw Columbus as the man who had brought cataclysm to the land of their ancestors. 

To present their version of history, Pueblo Indians made a two-hour documentary called Surviving Columbus, which premiered in October 1992. I saw the documentary yesterday. The documentary begins from 1539, when the first band of Spanish invaders arrived in Pueblo territory. In the section on Spanish invasion, a speaker asks the audience what names the natives gave to the Spanish. The names are not discoverer or settler. It is fear and death. 

The one-sided Eurocentric history tells us that Columbus discovered the Americas, that the Americas were the new world, and that Asia, Europe, and Africa were the old world. But Columbus didn’t discover the Americas for Native Indians. For the natives, their civilization was the old world, and the Europeans had come from a new world. The terms like “discoverer,” “new world,” and “old world” are a linguistic legacy of European Imperialism. 

Then there are words like “wilderness” and “settlement” which create the impression that the Europeans arrived at an empty acreage. The Americas were not an empty acreage—this was the homeland for millions of natives. Their homeland was seized by the invaders. 

“The cant of conquest”—this is the phrase that historian Francis Jennings has used to describe the European strategy of masking exploitative strategies with pious, self-serving terminology. (The work of Francis Jennings is not mentioned in the documentary.)

The European powers which ruled Pueblo Indians after 1539—Spain, Britain, and the USA—tried to subjugate the Indians militarily and religiously. The conquerors gave the conquered a choice: submit or die. After 1970, there has been some improvement in the policies of the United States. The legitimate rights and cultural aspirations of native communities are now being recognized. Despite impossible odds, Pueblo Indians have survived. 

I recommend the Surviving Columbus documentary.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Unpredictability of History

Things we assume to be true mislead us the most. We assume that the world is orderly and things happen due to human planning and ingenuity, but history is often moved by human errors and by events hardly anyone in that age expected. In 1492, when Columbus departed on a voyage to discover the sea route to India, no one could have predicted that a navigational error would lead him to the island home of the Taíno in the Caribbean. 

No one foresaw the First World War, the quick dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the defeat of the Greeks in Anatolia and the rise of Turkey, the rise of Hitler, the loss of Churchill in the 1945 election, the sudden collapse of the British Empire, the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the spread of the Internet, and the rise of China. The next decade, the next year, and even tomorrow cannot be taken for granted. Something that no one foresees today might happen and completely transform the world, for better or worse. 

The rules we make, the political institutions we create, and the mass behavior we develop will not protect our society from chaos when a major unexpected event strikes. Unexpected events are the drivers of history, and they shape the present and the future.

Lincoln’s Choice: Eternal Rule or Suicide

“If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.” ~ Abraham Lincoln, on January 27, 1838

These words from Lincoln make me think of a line that is attributed to King Louis XV of France: "Après moi, le déluge.” Louis XV was convinced that if he was not the King, the world would die in a deluge—everyone would commit suicide. 

The choice that Lincoln’s is offering in his statement is untenable: to live through all time (as if one were an everlasting God) or die by suicide (as if there is no hope of a comeback after defeat).

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Movie Prometheus

My favorite science fiction movie is Prometheus (2012). The central theme in this movie concerns the conflict between the creators (the Gods) and the created (the Humans). Some God-like beings (people from an advanced alien planet) arrive on earth and create human beings. But the Gods soon realize that the humans might become a competitor to them and they try to wipe out the human race. The conflict between the Gods and humans happens on an alien planet where a team of humans has arrived in a spaceship called Prometheus. Their mission is to find the Gods and ask them the crucial question: "Why did they create the humans?" The disheartening answer to this question is: "They created us merely because they could." There was no higher goal. The creation of humanity was a mistake. The crew of the Prometheus pays a heavy price for their attempt to communicate with the Gods. The one surviving God on the alien planet evolves into a demon.

On the Fate of the American Indians

“The only good Indians that I ever saw were dead.” ~ General Sheridan, speaking in 1868, after the Sand Creek massacre and other massacres of the Cheyenne Indians by the US Army. Sheridan’s words were recorded by Lieutenant Charles Nordstrom who was present. Over a period of time, Sheridan’s words got honed into a popular American aphorism: “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” 

“The white man is coming out here so fast that nothing can stop him. Coming from the East, and coming from the West, like a prairie on fire in a high wind. Nothing can stop him. The reason for it is that the whites are a numerous people, and they are spreading out. They require room and cannot help it. Those on the sea in the West wish to communicate with those living on another sea in the East, and that is the reason they are building these roads, these wagon roads and railroads, and telegraphs… You must not let your young men stop them; you must keep your men off the roads… I have no more to say. I will await the end of your council, to see whether you want war or peace.” ~ General Hancock addressing Cheyenne Indians in 1867 (Source: Reports of Major General W.S. Hancock Upon Indian Affairs, by W. S. Hancock). He was trying to bully the Cheyenne to make them vacate their traditional land and move elsewhere. He also fired some of his cannons to make the Cheyenne aware of the power of the American army.

“My opinion is, if fifty Indians are allowed to remain between the Arkansas and the Platte we will have to guard every stage station, every train, and all railroad working parties. In other words, fifty hostile Indians will checkmate three thousand soldiers. Rather get them out as soon as possible, and it makes little difference whether they be coaxed out by Indian commissioners or killed.” ~ General Sherman in his 1867 report to Secretary of War Edwin McMasters Stanton.

Sheridan, Hancock, and Sherman were not cranks—they were celebrated generals. Whatever they said would be in line with state policy of their time. Till the early twentieth century, many powerful voices in America were calling for the eradication of the Indian tribes. Lincoln’s Civil War, it is claimed, was about abolishing slavery and establishing the equality of all races. Yet some of the worst evictions, enslavements, and massacres of the Indians have happened after the Civil War. Does America have the moral right to close its border with Mexico? I am not sure.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Rise and Fall of Religions

Powerful empires are more likely to lose their religion than small and oppressed communities. My first example is the Jews—they have suffered immense atrocities in the past 1100 years. But the Jews won’t give up their religion. Before the formation of Israel, their community in most areas was so small that they were like a large family. They could not conceive of leaving Judaism because that would have meant leaving behind their family members to suffer alone. The atrocities they endured made them cling to their faith tenaciously and obstinately.

Zoroastrianism, in its early form, arrived in the Middle East in the second millennium BC. By the sixth century BC, it was a much larger religion than Judaism—it was the dominant religion of the largest empire of that time, the Persian Empire, where Judaism was a minor religion. Even outside Persia—in the nations of Transoxiana and South Asia, there were millions of practitioners of Zoroastrianism. Yet in the seventh century AD, Zoroastrianism vanished almost entirely—today a few practitioners of this religion can be found in some pockets of India.

In the third century AD, Europe was being ruled by the powerful Roman Empire and the majority of the Europeans were pagans, yet by the sixth century most Europeans had converted to Christianity. The second time the Europeans have en masse given up their religion was between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries. In this period, Europe was the great colonial empire of the world, yet most Europeans lost their faith and became atheists. In the two vassal states (culturally) of Europe, the USA and Canada, most people claim that they are atheists.

When the Ottomans captured Constantinople in 1453, the fate Orthodox Christianity was uncertain. But the religion survived in Constantinople and in certain parts of Europe. It became the dominant religion of Russia. When the Soviets took control of Russia after the 1917 revolution, they used the might of their government to force the Russian Christians to give up their religion. They failed. Millions of Russians obstinately clung to their Orthodox faith through the years of the worst excesses of Lenin and Stalin. Orthodox Christianity survived the communist rule and is now thriving in Russia.

Islam has been overthrown in just two places: Spain and Portugal (during the Reconquista). The invasion of the Middle East by the Western crusaders in the medieval period had the paradoxical effect of helping the Islamic forces to come together and prove the superiority of their religion and culture. This inspired most people in the Middle East and North Africa, and the barbarian tribes of Transoxiana and Central Asia to convert to Islam. In our time, the religious contest with geopolitical implications is between Western atheism and the Middle Eastern religion.

Monday, October 18, 2021

America and The Myth of John Locke

Margaret Thatcher has said: “America was created by philosophy.” She meant the “lofty” philosophy of John Locke and other great ancient philosophers. But there is another non-philosophical view of the creation of the USA. The founders of the USA—Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Hamilton, and others—were convinced that it was the “manifest destiny” of the Europeans (Americans) to rule over the entirety of North America. The Declaration of Independence, adopted on 4 July, 1776, did not apply to the African slaves, who were about twenty percent of the population, or to the native tribes.

Since its founding, America was an expansionist, aggressive, and militarized nation. The aim of its government was to expand westwards. Even in the eighteenth century, the American government possessed a powerful army to defend its territory from its European rivals and to wage war on the native tribes. Most settlers in the country were heavily armed. In the frontier areas, there were private groups which used to conduct raids on the natives to evict them or kill them. The Americans of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were not the followers of John Locke. In their raids against the native tribes, they often behaved like the Spanish conquistadors. 

In 1789, the time of the ratification of the United States constitution, the country had thirteen colonies (864,746 square miles). As the population grew, due to the arrival of new immigrants from Europe, the pioneers continued to expand westwards at an aggressive pace. The expansion happened through both land purchases and conquests. Today the country is 3,531,905 square miles. In 1830, the American government passed the “Indian Removal Act.” By the twentieth century, many of the native tribes had disappeared.  

Consider what happened in California which was conquered by the settlers between the 1840s and 1870s. The number of native hunter-gatherers in California was about 300,000. They were divided into a large number of small tribes, which were mostly unarmed, and consisted of 50 to 500 people. A military style campaign was not required to wipe them out. When the California gold rush began in the late 1840s, most of these native hunter-gatherers were evicted from their land or were killed. Thousands were enslaved and deliberately starved or worked to death.

The American settlers played a critical role in destroying California’s native population. As one example, look at what they did to the Yahi tribe which consisted of just 2000 unarmed hunter-gatherers. This tribe was wiped out in four raids by the settlers. Seventeen settlers armed with guns took part in the first raid in 1865. An unknown number of Yahi were killed. The second raid took place in 1866, when the Yahi were surprised in a ravine. In 1867, some Yahi were discovered hiding in a cave. They were massacred. The final massacre happened in 1868 when four cowboys found some Yahi survivors hiding in another cave.

Thatcher’s statement that America was founded on the philosophy of John Locke and other philosophers is an utter falsehood—America is a nation of warlike settlers from Europe who trod over tens of thousands of corpses to win land for their country.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The East Versus The West

“New Guineans… impressed me as being on the average more intelligent, more alert, more expressive, and more interested in things and people around them than the average European or American is. At some tasks that one might reasonably suppose to reflect aspects of brain function, such as the ability to form a mental map of unfamiliar surroundings, they appear considerably more adept than Westerners.” ~ Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs & Steel

Jared Diamond is not arguing for the genetic inferiority of the Western brain. His argument is that the quality of the human brain is not related to race. People of all races are equally capable of being intelligent and innovative. The political, militaristic, and scientific superiority that the West has achieved after the fifteenth century is due to natural and historical factors.

Europe is part of Asia—Eurasia is located along the east-west axis and it has very few geographic and ecological barriers. Goods, technologies, ideas, people, and militaries could move around with considerable ease. Consider this: from 10,000 BC to the rise of Greek civilization, between the fifth and seventh centuries BC, Europe was the most backward part of Eurasia.

If an anthropologist from an alien planet had landed in Europe in 1000 BC, he would have surmised that this area would never become developed. If he had continued his journey through the earth and travelled to North Africa, the Middle East, China, and India, he would have predicted that the people in these areas would become the masters of the world. The major scientific and intellectual innovations of Eurasia—domestication of animals, agriculture, writing, metallurgy, wheels, poetry, philosophical and religious theory—have happened in the Asian civilizations.

Even after the rise of the Greek civilization, the flow of science, technology, and intellectual ideas was from the East to the West. Till the end of the fifteenth century, science and technology flowed from the East to the West. Most of the technologies that the Spanish used for conquering the Americas came from the East: compass, gunpowder, paper, printing, cast iron, astrolabe, ships with lateen sails, and much else. Things changed in the sixteenth century—when for the first time science and technology started flowing from the West to the East.

Is Western dominance of the world permanent? Looking at the history of the last 12000 years, and considering the ultimate causes and not merely the proximate ones, I find it impossible to believe that the West can defend its pole position in the twenty-first century.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Fate of the Aborigines of Australia

The aborigines were living in Australia for 50,000 to 65,000 years, but within a century of the arrival of the Europeans (the British), they were mostly eradicated. Here’s an excerpt from Jared Diamond’s book Guns, Germs, & Steel (Chapter 15, “Yali’s People”): 

“Australian Aborigines, of course, stood in the way of European food production, especially because what was potentially the most productive farmland and dairy country initially supported Australia's densest populations of Aboriginal hunter-gatherers. European settlement reduced the number of Aborigines by two means. One involved shooting them, an option that Europeans considered more acceptable in the 19th and late 18th centuries than when they entered the New Guinea highlands in the 1930s. The last large-scale massacre, of 31 Aborigines, occurred at Alice Springs in 1928. The other means involved European-introduced germs to which Aborigines had had no opportunity to acquire immunity or to evolve genetic resistance. Within a year of the first European settlers' arrival at Sydney, in 1788, corpses of Aborigines who had died in epidemics became a common sight. The principal recorded killers were smallpox, influenza, measles, typhoid, typhus, chicken pox, whooping cough, tuberculosis, and syphilis.” 

When Captain Cook visited Australia between 1768 and 1779, it is estimated that the aborigine population was 750,000. Ninety percent were dead by 1920. The ships carrying British settlers reached Australia on January 26, 1788. Within a few years, the British army and police forces were using guns, germs, and other tactics to eradicate the aborigines. There is no dearth of controversial theories on how the germs (Eurasian diseases) had spread with such rapidity in the aborigine communities. A number of cases of deliberate poisoning of flour and other consumables given to the aborigine communities have been documented. 

There was no political unity among the aborigines. They were splintered into thousands of small tribes, which were mostly unarmed. The smaller aborigine tribes were destroyed more casually by groups of armed private citizens. The irony is that several treaties were signed between the British and some of the larger aborigine communities, but the British kept breaking these treaties. They kept expanding into the continent, driving the aborigines out of their traditional areas. In the 1850s gold was discovered in Australia. Many small aborigine tribes were dispossessed or killed when a large number of immigrants from Europe, who wanted to become rich by finding gold, flooded the continent. Australia became a part of the Western Empire, and the aborigines became the outsiders in the land where their ancestors had lived for 65,000 years. 

The demographic transformation that has happened in the Americas and Australia, between 1492 and 1920 (the Age of Imperialism), is the most massive transformation in the last 12000 years. The notion that the Europeans are a humane civilization is a myth.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

On Modern Literature

After losing their colonial empire, the Western nations are losing their literary empire. Since 1940, there has been a decline in the quality of literature coming out of the West. The former colonies are producing better literature.

Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country, written in 1948, is the most widely read book by a South African writer. In the novel’s chapter 7, the character called Msimangu, says: “I have one great fear in my heart, that one day when they are turned to loving, they will find we are turned to hating.” His fear is that when “they” (the white people) turn to love, then “we” (the black people) will turn to hate. Paton examines the seemingly irreconcilable racial and class differences which are threatening to tear apart South Africa, and gives the perspective of both sides: the white people who face the problem of rising crime, and the black people who face social instability since they are morally and culturally disoriented.

Chinua Achebe’s 1958 novel Things Fall Apart presents the Nigerian view of the world. Its title is a line from the poem, “The Second Coming,” by Y. B. Yeats. The novel portrays how Nigeria was before the arrival of the Europeans in the late nineteenth century, and how the country was transformed during the period of colonization. When I read this novel, I thought that its theme was reminiscent of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind—since it evoked a longing for a world that had vanished. Nadine Gordimer’s 1979 novel Burger's Daughter presents the perspective of the white population in South Africa—it gives a view of their fight against the apartheid regime. Gordimer was herself an anti-apartheid activist.

V. S. Naipaul’s epic-length 1961 novel A House for Mr. Biswas is the saga of a Hindu Indo-Trinidadian family. The novel’s central character, Mr. Biswas, is plagued with the feeling of alienation since his childhood. When he is middle-aged, he begins a desperate quest for a house that would be his own, where he would not have to live in the company of those from whom he is alienated. A Bend in the River (1979), another superb book by Naipaul, is set in a Central African country that is facing catastrophic decline after the colonists have departed. The novel opens with the words which describe the personal philosophy of the protagonist Salim: “The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.”

Salman Rushdie is interesting because he is controversial—I think, Shame (1983) is his best book. Then there is the South African writer J. M. Coetzee. I liked Coetzee’s novel Disgrace (1999), which is the story of David Lurie, a South African professor who loses his job and reputation due to his affair with his student, a girl called Melanie Isaacs. He goes to live with his daughter in her farm, but there he loses his peace of mind when he realizes that he cannot protect her from acts of violence. South Africa is in the grip of a moral and cultural crisis, and Lurie and his daughter are incapable of judging which side is responsible for the violence.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Sierra Leone: The Resettlement of Freed Slaves

One of the most shameful episodes of Western slavery happened in Sierra Leone in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In a span of 400 years, the Europeans had brought about fifteen million slaves to the Americas and Europe. They were using the slaves to run their plantations, fight their wars, and work in their industries and homes. They had grown rich from the slave trade and from sugar and other goods that the slaves produced. But when they didn’t require these slaves they decided to dump them in Sierra Leone which was then a lawless place.

When the slaves of Haiti started their violent revolution for independence in 1791, the European governments realized that having a large slave population in any area was dangerous, since the slaves could become united under black leaders and start fighting for independence. They decided to take measures to bring down the number of slaves in their territories. 

In 1807, Britain banned slave trade—though illegal slave trade continued to thrive for several decades. Another decision that the British took in this period was to transport a part of their slave population to Sierra Leone and other territories in Africa. These slaves were the descendants of those who were forcibly brought to the Americas and Europe fifty to two hundred years ago. Having lived in Western territories for several generations, they had converted to Christianity and had adopted some of the Western attitudes. They knew nothing about Africa. 

With the involvement of some abolitionists, the British Crown established a utopia for free slaves, known as the Province of Freedom or Freetown, in Sierra Leone. Like all utopias, Freetown was dysfunctional and corrupt. The first batch of 400 blacks and 60 whites were shipped to Freetown in 1787. Ninety-six passengers died during the ocean journey. It was the rainy season when they arrived in Freetown and they found that there was no shelter. In the next two years, many of them succumbed to African diseases and many were killed in warfare with the locals.

In 1792, another attempt was made to populate Freetown. The British had settled 3000 Africans in Nova Scotia in Canada. These settlers were former slaves who had been freed after they had served in the British Army during the American Revolutionary War. The problem was that the local whites were hostile to the Africans living in their midst. So the decision was taken to move the 3000 army veterans to Freetown. A significant number of these veterans died within five years of their arrival at Freetown.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, a few thousand Africans (no reliable data exists on their exact number) were living in the poor districts of London. Many of these Africans were former slaves who had been freed after serving in the British army. The pro-slavery elements in British society accused the Africans of committing crimes and saw them as a threat to the purity of the British race. The British government, led by the conservative leader William Pitt the Younger, decided to get rid of the African slave population by sending them to Sierra Leone.

The Africans in London did not want to go to Africa, which was an alien land to them. They had been living in Western territories for several generations. Some force had to be used to make them board the ships bound for Sierra Leone. They were told that they would get free land in Sierra Leone, but that promise was not kept. The London Investors, who controlled Sierra Leone, refused to give free land to the freed Africans who were being brought there.

In 1799, some groups of settlers in Sierra Leone revolted for not getting the land that they were promised. The British brought an army of Jamaican maroons (runaway slaves) to maintain order. The Jamaican maroons overcame the settlers, and took possession of the best agricultural lands and houses in Sierra Leone. Between 1808 and 1871, more than 80,000 Africans were sent to Sierra Leone. The descendants of these freed African Americans and African Europeans are called the Creole people. They comprise about two percent of the population of Sierra Leone.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Freedom and Oppression

“Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift.” ~ Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire in his 1968 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I think this is a thought provoking line from Freire. Throughout history, it is always the civilizations of the conquerors and enslavers that have philosophized endlessly about the glories of freedom. They philosophized about freedom while using their military power to impose their will on other civilizations.

When you subdue another man, force him to become your slave, you realize the importance of freedom—freedom is what you (the conqueror) have and he (the conquered) doesn’t. The fruits of freedom belong to the conquerors. Those who are conquered find it difficult to conceive of the possibility of freedom—they have no alternative except to keep striving until they can themselves become the conquerors. Till they make their own conquests, they cannot be free.

Liberation is not enough. A slave cannot feel free till he enslaves his master.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Four Reasons for Critical Race Theory

Today I have ordered three books on Critical Race Theory (CRT):

1. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic 
2. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi 
3. White Fragility, by Robin Di Angelo

We live in a world created by our ancestors. What our ancestors did or didn’t do, decades or centuries ago, defines our way of life. Since we benefit from the achievements of our ancestors, we must bear the cost of their failures and sins. I became interested in CRT after I realized that in Western history, there exist several problematic areas. Joseph Conrad has used the phrase “heart of darkness,” though in slightly a different context. 

Here is a brief account of four instances from Western history that I find most problematic: 

The Greek World

In the census ordered by tyrant Demetrius Phalereus, between 317 and 307 BC, it was found that the population of Attica consisted of 21,000 citizens, 10,000 metics and 400,000 slaves—this means that the number of slaves in Ancient Athens was twenty times more than the free citizens. Most Western Empires have had a disproportionately high number of slaves. For instance, when Haiti was a European colony 90 percent of its population consisted of slaves.

The Roman World

The Romans took the institution of slavery to a new level. The purpose of the Roman Army was to conquer new territories and capture new slaves. Wherever the Roman Army went, a large contingent of Roman slave traders followed. The soldiers would catch people, immobilize them by tying them up or clubbing them on the head, and then sell them on the spot to the slave traders, who would transport the slaves to the slave markets which flourished on the trade routes running through the Roman territories.

The number of slaves that the Roman soldiers caught and sold is astonishing. The Samnite War in the third century BC resulted in 55,000 Samnites and Gauls being captured and auctioned in the slave markets. The destruction of Carthage in the third Punic War flooded the slave markets with more than a million slaves. Julius Caesar once sold the entire population of a conquered region (close to 53000 people) to slave dealers on the spot. 

The Romans held gladiator games every year for 600 years. No other culture in the world has turned the killing of humans into a spectator sport on the scale that the Romans did. The Romans used to sit in the Colosseum (and other such stadiums) and watch humans being tortured and killed. Most of the gladiators were slaves captured during wars. In the gladiator spectacles organized by Trajan, Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar, Commodus and other leaders of Rome thousands of slaves and animals were tortured and butchered.

The Conquest of the Americas

The Europeans slaughtered the indigenous tribes of the Americas not only with their guns, swords, spears, war horses, and war dogs but also with their germs. They used to give the unsuspecting natives of the Americas blankets that had been used by people who were suffering from smallpox, measles and other Eurasian diseases for which the natives had no immunity. Within 100 years of the discovery of the Americas by Columbus in 1492, between 90 to 95 percent of the native population was wiped out.

For the imperialists, the death of 95 percent of natives was a good thing—now they could take control of the Americas without any opposition. Europe’s political establishment cheered the annihilation of the natives—they saw this as a sign from God that it was their manifest destiny to rule the world. Till the end of the nineteenth century, the Americans used to proclaim that it was their manifest destiny to rule over North America. Their declaration of independence on 4 July 1776 did not apply to the African slaves; it did not apply to the natives who were the original inhabitants of the Americas. American independence was for the European population. 

The Slave Trade

From the 1440s to the 1860s some 12–15 million Africans were brought to the Americas in chains and made to labor in the mines and plantations. This was the largest forced migration in history. The ships in which the slaves were transported were divided into several levels of compartments. Once the slaves were chained to their seats, they had little headroom. The bodily fluids from those on the upper levels would descend on those on the lower levels. Many of the slaves on the lower levels used to die from suffocation and foul smell.

The slaves suffered from dysentery, dehydration, and scurvy. About 20 percent died during the Atlantic crossing—most accounts suggest that even the crew of these slave ships used to die in large numbers. Since 20 percent of the slaves were dying, the Western powers could have mandated that the ships should carry 20 percent less slaves. They could have passed laws to ensure that a minimal level of hygiene was maintained on these ships. But they didn’t do that. For four centuries, the slave trade went on through such overcrowded ships. 

Several other instances in Western history can be examined: the crusades, the Reconquista, the British suppression of the Irish catholics, the colonization of Africa, Australia, and Asia. Other civilizations have been brutal too but not on the scale that the West has been. I know that theories like CRT have a short shelf life. They are popular today but they will become obsolete in ten years. When they become obsolete new theories will have to be developed.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Western Intellectualism and Western Slavery

Western intellectualism and Western slavery were together in the bed throughout the Age of Imperialism. Most European writers of this period have defended slavery and colonization in their writings because they benefitted from such enterprises. Edward Gibbon could devote his life to working on his history of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788, because his grandfather (also called Edward Gibbon) had amassed a great fortune as the director of the South Sea Company, whose chief occupation was to supply African slaves to the Americas. 

Lewis Carrol, the author of Alice in Wonderland, was the great-grandson of a notorious slave trader. The father of the French writer François-René de Chateaubriand was a slave trader and had also served as the captain of a slave ship. John Locke, the so-called philosopher of liberty and man’s rights, was a major shareholder in the Royal African Company, which was shipping thousands of slaves every year to the Americas in ships which were so overcrowded that about 20 percent of the slaves died during the Atlantic crossing. The company’s initials, RAC, would be branded with hot iron on the breasts of the slaves who were transported on its ships.

John Brown, the founder of Brown University in Rhode Island, made his fortune in slave trade. The Rhodes scholarship was established in Oxford University by Cecil Rhodes, the vulgar imperialist who saw all Africans as barbarians and who made a great fortune by plundering gold and diamonds from South African mines. Rhodes was the architect of the Natives Land Act, 1913, which drastically limited the areas where the natives could be settled. Yale College was funded by a grant from Elihu Yale, the corrupt governor of the East India Company

Saturday, October 9, 2021

On The Three Western Myths

First Myth: The West has won because of its philosophy

The West was not founded through the philosophies of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Cicero, Seneca, Thomas Aquinas, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, Hegel, and Karl Marx. It was founded through the actions of preachers, monarchs, and conquerors like Pope Urban II, Pope Innocent III, Queen Isabella I, King Ferdinand II, Columbus, Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, Queen Elizabeth I, King James VI and I, Oliver Cromwell, James Wolfe, Robert Clive, Warren Hastings, Napoleon, and Cecil Rhodes.

Second Myth: The West has won because it is democratic

The European nations which spearheaded the expansion of Western power during the Age of Imperialism were not democratic. They were tyrannical regimes united under the banner of “one God and one monarch.” During the reign of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II, Spain became Europe’s first imperialist empire. The political system in Spain was highly centralized, tyrannical, and militaristic. The minority communities which failed to accept the Catholic faith and prove their loyalty to the Spanish monarchs lost their property and were exiled or executed.

England under Elizabeth I, and the monarchs who succeeded her, was probably as tyrannical and expansionist as Spain. The British monarchs were Protestant and they committed many atrocities on the Catholic population in the British Isles, especially Ireland. During his reconquest of Ireland (1649–1653), Oliver Cromwell wiped out a large section of the Catholic population—he is still a hated figure in Ireland. Portugal, France, and the Dutch Republic too were united under tyrannical and intensely religious monarchs. 

There was hardly any democracy in Europe between 1492, when Columbus discovered a group of islands in the Americas, and 1900, when imperialism peaked and the colonial empires started declining. The kind of political unity that tyrants of Europe had achieved in their nations was not there in the Americas, Africa, and Asia. For instance, the Aztec and the Inca empires were more diverse than any European state of that time. They allowed thousands of people of other tribes to live in their empire. The conquistadors took advantage of the rivalries between the tribes to gather local allies who helped them in bringing down the Aztec and Inca Empires. 

The Europeans won because they were united under “one God and one monarch.” The people in the Americas, Africa, and Asia lost because they were divided into many nations and tribes. Democracy with universal suffrage came to the Western countries in the twentieth century. By 1945, the British Empire and most other colonial empires were finished. 

Third Myth: The world is “the white man’s burden”

In 1899, Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem called “The White Man's Burden,” in which he exhorts the Americans to conquer the Philippine Islands. Kipling believed that it was the white man’s burden to conquer the world and civilize it. He was not a historian or a sociologist. He was a fine storyteller but he was an ignorant and insensitive man. He didn’t know how brutal the slave trade was. He didn’t know about the genocides that had happened in the Americas since the arrival of the Spanish in 1492. He didn’t know that 90 percent of the native population in the Americas had been wiped out. 

Instead of civilizing the Americas, the Europeans had brutalized it. 

Till the 1920s, the imperialist powers were convinced that it was their manifest destiny to civilize the world. Till the 1850s, the American swashbucklers used to brag that it was their manifest destiny to rule over the entire North America. In 1775 and 1812, the Americans tried to invade Canada. Both invasions failed. When the imperialist powers went to Africa, they claimed that their aim was to bring civilization to this primitive continent, but their venture was all about capturing gold, diamonds, slaves, and land. Till the twentieth century, the Dutch were arguing that South Africa was theirs since they were here first and they civilized this place.

The Age of Imperialism is one of the worst chapters in the sordid history of civilization. Many more scientific, political, and artistic innovations would have happened in all parts of the world if the Europeans had stayed inside Europe between the fifteenth and the twentieth centuries.

Friday, October 8, 2021

The Haitian Revolution and the End of Slave Trade

The Revolution in Haiti was the unexpected consequence of the French Revolution. The French Revolution failed. The Haitian Revolution succeeded—it was the largest slave uprising since Spartacus’s rebellion against the Roman Republic 1900 years ago, and it resulted in Haiti becoming the only country to be won by former slaves. The Haitian Revolution began on 22 August 1791 and ended on 1 January 1804, with the colony’s independence.  

Toussaint Louverture, now known as the “Father of Haiti,” was the most prominent leader of the revolution. Born as a slave in Haiti, the French controlled section of Saint-Domingue, he was inspired by the rhetoric of the French Revolution. In 1791, he proclaimed that he was a free man and a Jacobin, and began to campaign for Haiti’s independence. 

In 1789, there were 40,000 whites in San-Domingue, 28,000 mulattoes and free blacks, and 452,000 black slaves. Two-thirds of the slave population was born in Africa—since they were not raised in slave societies, they were not used to being submissive. The European colonists monopolized the administrative posts. The sugar planters, known as grands blancs (Big Whites), employed most of the slaves—they behaved like aristocrats and were despised by the slaves and the lower-class whites (petit blancs or Small Whites). 

The political situation in San-Domingue was hopeless. The greed of the Spanish, the British, and the French knew no limits—they had brought too many people from Africa to toil as slaves in their plantations. With its slave population exceeding ninety percent, San-Domingue was a volcano waiting to explode. The eighteenth century French writer Count Mirabeau once said, “the Saint-Domingue whites slept at the foot of Vesuvius.”

The incident that sparked the slave uprising was the execution of Vincent Ogé, a free man of color, who was campaigning for the right to vote in accordance with the principles of the French Revolution. When the French governor refused, Ogé intensified his struggle. He was captured early in 1791, and was executed by being broken on a wheel before being beheaded. The slave uprising began on 22 August 1791, and it quickly went out of control—a large number of lives were lost in the first wave of violence. 

Within weeks, about 100,000 slaves joined the rebellion. The white population fled into the fortified camps. In their book, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, Jack R. Mason and Lynn Hunt note that the revolutionaries extracted revenge on their former masters through "pillage, rape, torture, mutilation, and death”. 

In two months, 180 sugar plantations, and hundreds of coffee and indigo plantations, were destroyed. Ten percent of white population was killed. By 1792, the slave rebels controlled one third of the island. The victories that the slave rebels were winning against the colonial forces shocked the political establishments in Europe and the Americas. The politicians in England, Spain, France, and North America realized that if Haiti became free, it could inspire copycat slave rebellions all over the Americas. 

British prime minister, William Pitt the Younger, dispatched British troops to restore order in San-Domingue. The French were at war with the British—they refused to let the British take control of their section of the island. The British joined hands with the Spanish and defeated the French. To outfox the British and the Spanish, the French declared that they were freeing the slaves in their colonies. The British tried their best to restore slavery, wherever they went in San-Domingue. But they could not pacify the slave rebels. On 11 April 1797, the British were forced to retreat from Saint-Domingue after losing thousands of their troops. 

Napoleon invaded Haiti on 2 February 1802. He tried to keep his intention to restore slavery a secret but the slave rebels came to know about it. They resorted to guerrilla tactics, and within days killed hundreds of French troops. About 10,000 French troops died due to yellow fever. At the Battle of Vertières on 18 November 1803, the slave rebels decisively defeated the French. Humiliated by the defeat, the French withdrew from Saint-Domingue with their remaining troops. 

Louverture died in French prison on 7 April 1803. Some chroniclers suggest that Jean-Jacques Dessalines, another prominent leader of the slave rebellion, was responsible for Louverture’s imprisonment. On 1 January 1804, Dessalines declared Haiti a free republic in the name of the Haitian people, and became a dictator. He ordered that those who had cooperated with Europeans must be killed. From early January 1804 until 22 April 1804, Haitian soldiers moved from house to house torturing and killing entire families. Around 5000 people were killed. 

The Encyclopedia of African American Politics claims that "between 1791 and independence in 1804 nearly 200,000 blacks died, as did thousands of mulattoes and as many as 100,000 French and British soldiers.” The British banned slave trade in 1807, not because they had suddenly realized that slave trade was evil but because the events in Haiti had thought them an important lesson: the Africans were capable of defeating the most powerful armies of Europe.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

China Versus Britain: The Opium Wars

In the nineteenth century, the British East India Company was the world’s biggest drug smuggler. It was generating massive revenues by smuggling opium to China. It was also controlling the opium trade to Europe, Africa, and the Americas. The East India Company can be seen as the world’s first drug cartel. In 1839, Chinese Commissioner of Canton Lin Zexu wrote a letter to England’s Queen Victoria. He asked her why the British were pushing a poisonous substance like opium into China and he asked her to order her subjects to desist from opium smuggling. Here’s an excerpt from Lin Zexu’s letter:

"There are barbarian ships that strive to come here for trade for the purpose of making a great profit. The wealth of China is used to profit the barbarians… By what right do they then in return use the poisonous drug [opium] to injure the Chinese people? Even though the barbarians may not necessarily intend to do us harm, yet in coveting profit to an extreme, they have no regard for injuring others. Let us ask, where is your conscience? I have heard that the smoking of opium is very strictly forbidden by your country; that is because the harm caused by opium is clearly understood. Since it is not permitted to do harm to your own country, then even less should you let it be passed on to the harm of other countries — how much less to China! Of all that China exports to foreign countries, there is not a single thing which is not beneficial to people: they are of benefit when eaten, or of benefit when used, or of benefit when resold: all are beneficial. Is there a single article from China which has done any harm to foreign countries? Take tea and rhubarb, for example; the foreign countries cannot get along for a single day without them.”

The list of atrocities that the Europeans powers have committed during the Age of Imperialism is long—it includes plunder of gold, silver, and diamonds from weak communities, enslavement of millions of people, eviction of native populations from their land, annihilation of native populations, destruction of local industries and culture, and the smuggling of opium. It is through such acts that the Europeans became a wealthy civilization. In most periods, before the fourteenth century, Europe was a backwater, and its economy was smaller than the economies of China, India, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Balzac has said, “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” This line is relevant for the great fortune that the Europeans made during the Age of Imperialism. 

Lin Zexu had written the letter to Queen Victoria under the direction of the Chinese Emperor Tao-kuang who wanted to stamp out the consumption of opium in China. In 1838, the Chinese confiscated 20,000 cases of British opium which they set on fire. But the East Indian Company continued to smuggle opium into China by bribing Chinese officials. In 1840, the Chinese banned British ships from entering Chinese ports. The East Indian Company lodged a complaint with London and the British government responded with its military might.

British foreign secretary Lord Palmerston led the pro-war camp in Britain. He said that opium sales to China were too profitable to be discontinued. Throughout the middle decades of the nineteenth century, several high ranking members in the British political establishment were getting a share of the profits that the East India Company was generating through opium trade. To protect this evil opium trade, the British went to war. They won the First Opium War and the Chinese were forced to sign the Treaty of Nanjing in August 1842. Under this treaty, Hong Kong became a British naval station. The Chinese opened five new ports for British ships and granted the Royal Navy the permission to patrol Chinese rivers and coasts. 

Between 1850 and 1864, China was rocked by the catastrophic Taiping Rebellion which made the country even more vulnerable to exploitation by the British. Between 1856 and 1858, the British fought a second war with China. In 1860, there was a third war. These two wars enabled the British to impose harsher terms on China. The people of China blamed the British for destroying the lives of millions of their young generation by making them addicted to opium. In the 1840s, the citizens of Canton released a manifesto which gives a good idea of the anger that the Chinese felt for the British. Here’s an excerpt from the manifesto:

“You use opium to injure our people, cheating us of our silver and cash… We note that you English barbarians have formed the habits and developed the nature of wolves, plundering and seizing things by force… Except for your ships being solid, your gunfire fierce, and your rockets powerful, what other abilities have you got? We patriots have received the favor of the Celestial Dynasty in nourishing us for two centuries. Today, if we do not exterminate you English barbarians, we will not be human beings. You have killed and injured our common people in many villages, and seriously hurt the universal harmony. You also completely destroyed the coffins in several places, and you disastrously damaged the Buddhist statues in several monasteries. This is properly a time when Heaven is angered and mankind is resentful: even the ghosts and spirits will not tolerate you beasts…”

The Chinese used to call the British barbarians. In light of the atrocities that the British were committing during the Age of Imperialism, the Chinese were probably using the right terminology.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Who Were the Real Savages? The Aztecs or the Conquistadors?

On November 8, 1519, Hernán Cortés and his six hundred conquistadors marched unopposed into Tenochtitlan, the city of palaces and temples that the Aztecs had built on an island. In an area known as Xoloco, they were welcomed by Moctezuma, the King of the Aztecs, who was convinced that the Spanish were Quetzalcoatl and other native Gods who were prophesied to return from the east in “one reed year,” which was 1519 in Aztec calendar. 

Cortés and his conquistadors entered Tenochtitlan not as invaders, not as human beings, but as the Gods who were returning home. 

They stayed in the best building in Tenochtitlan—the King’s palace. Had they conducted themselves with dignity, the conquistadors could have got anything they wanted from the Aztecs. But they lost no time in displaying the savage side of their personality. They got into fights with each other and the natives, they openly displayed their lust for gold and silver, they were rude to the king and the nobles, and they misbehaved with the native women. The Aztecs were confused by the vile attitude of the people that they thought were Gods.

The history of the “conquest of the Aztec empire” is generally understood on the basis of the account that the conquerors, the Spanish, have left behind. Historians have not considered the prose and poetry, written in Nahuatl language, in which the Aztec chroniclers of that time have described their version of what happened during the so-called “conquest.” I recently read the book by Mexican historian Miguel León-Portilla, The Broken Spears: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico. This book has several Aztec texts translated from Nahuatl. 

On May 22, 1520, Pedro de Alvarado, the chief lieutenant of Hernán Cortés, and his men massacred a group of worshippers who had gathered at the Patio of the Gods to celebrate the festival in the honor of Tezcatlipoca, an important God of the Aztecs. The worshippers were unarmed, and there were a large number of women and children among them. Here’s an excerpt from an Aztec chronicler’s description of the massacre (from Miguel León-Portilla’s book):

“They ran in among the dancers, forcing their way to the place where the drums were played. They attacked the man who was drumming and cut off his arms. Then they cut off his head, and it rolled across the floor.

“The attacked all the celebrants, stabbing them, spearing them, striking them with their swords. They attacked some of them from behind, and they fell instantly to the ground with their entrails hanging out. Others they beheaded; they cut off their heads, or split their heads to pieces.

“They struck others in the shoulders, and their arms were torn from their bodies. They wounded some in the thigh and some in the calf. They slashed others in the abdomen, and their entrails all spilled to the ground. Some attempted to run away, but their intestines dragged as they ran; they seemed to tangle their feet in their own entails. No matter how they tried to save themselves, they could find no escape.”

The conquistadors not only slaughtered the Aztecs, they not only plundered and razed the Aztec cities, they also vilified the Aztecs by branding them as cannibals. I am convinced that the charge of cannibalism is disproved by looking at the 1521 siege of Tenochtitlan, which led to the fall of the Aztec Empire. During the siege, the conquistadors did not allow food to be brought to the city. Both Aztec and Spanish chroniclers say that the Aztecs trapped inside the city became emaciated due to lack of food. Many Aztecs did not have the strength to walk. They fell in the streets and died. The city was filled with rotting corpses. The stench was unbearable.

If humans were food for the Aztecs, then they could not have run out of food during the siege of Tenochtitlan, since the city was full of dead bodies. Apparently, the Aztecs preferred to die of starvation rather than eat the dead humans. The accounts of Cortés and people like Bernardino de Sahagún corroborate the fact that the Aztecs died from starvation in a city full of dead bodies. This proves that the Aztecs were not cannibals. Cortés and his supporters created the myth of Aztec cannibalism to justify their atrocities in the Americas.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The Imminent Return of the Pagan Gods and Rituals

During the Renaissance, the attempt was made in Western Europe to recover the art, philosophy, political doctrine, and military techniques of antiquity. There is one aspect of antiquity, however, that the Renaissance did not recover: Paganism. The Gods and rituals of the Ancient Greeks and Romans were not only ignored but also criticized and ridiculed.

Culture is a package deal. A civilization does not get to pick up one set of values from the past while ignoring other values. When a civilization accepts the art, philosophy, political doctrine, and military techniques of antiquity, then it has to accept antiquity’s religion too. The union between the beauty and the beast is unbreakable—wherever the beauty goes, the beast follows. 

Thomas Aquinas, and the scholastics who followed him, tried to obviate the need for pagan religion by attempting to reconcile Christianity with the ideas of antiquity, especially the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition. Their project did not succeed because Christianity is a theological and monotheistic religion—its tenets cannot be reconciled with the philosophical, political, and militaristic ideas developed in the polytheistic world of antiquity. 

In the Age of Imperialism, which followed the Renaissance, there was a rupture between the Papal establishment and the imperialist powers, who were motivated by the Greek and Roman tradition of warfare, genocide, brutality, plunder, and the mass enslavement of vanquished people.

The preachers who went to the Americas were appalled by the savagery with which the European imperialists were dealing with the indigenous population and the African slaves. Bishops and monks wrote letters and books in which they condemned the atrocities that were being committed in the Americas. Some of these religious chroniclers warned the Europeans that divinity would not forgive them for the crimes that they were committing in the Americas. 

In the eighteenth century, Ancient Greek and Roman thought had become very influential in Western Europe—the time was ripe for a complete rejection of spirituality. During the so-called Age of Enlightenment, several influential philosophers preached materialism and utopianism. The Jacobins led by Robespierre tried to put the Enlightenment ideas in practice during the French Revolution, which can be seen as Europe’s first attempt to build a utopia.

The utopian empire of the French Revolution was short-lived. It was wiped out during Napoleon’s counterrevolution. In the nineteenth century, several new political movements, inspired by utopian ideologies, emerged in different parts of Europe. In the twentieth century, the West became a battleground of utopian ideologies. The clash between the utopian ideologies led to the First and the Second World wars, and a series of other wars, which sapped the West of its strength. 

In the twenty-first century, the West has lost its political, economic, and military power. The most critical thing that the West has lost is prestige and self-confidence. The West has not fallen yet, but it is moving on the trajectory of decline at a brisk pace.

Between 2035 and 2050, the Western politics and culture might see intense dilution. The Western civilization might get swamped by a medley of non-Western civilizations. The old Gods and rituals often make a comeback when a civilization is declining. Paganism might return to the West. I don’t think paganism can save the West from falling—paganism could not save Ancient Greece from the Macedonian barbarian, Alexander the Great.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Industrial Revolution and the Slave Trade

“The Industrial Revolution in England was financed by the profits from Liverpool slave traders.” ~ Dr. Eric Williams in his 1944 book Capitalism and Slavery. Williams led Trinidad to independence from Britain in 1962, and became the country’s first prime minister, serving till his death in 1981. I believe that Williams is right. Without slave trade, and the conquest and colonization of several regions in the Americas, Africa, and Asia, Britain could not have had the industrial revolution. 

The British slave trade was pioneered by the pirate John Hawkins in 1554 (the British continue to revere him as a hero). Within fifty years, Britain became a major slave trader. By the time slavery ended, the British had transported between three to four million slaves from Africa to the Americas. Initially, London and Bristol were the centers of British slave trade. Liverpool was a later entrant. But by 1740, it had raced ahead of London and Bristol. In 1792, Bristol had 42 transatlantic slave vessels, London had 22, while Liverpool had 131.

In the second half of the eighteenth century, Liverpool was giving a tough competition to the Portuguese and the Spanish in the area of transatlantic slave trade—one in five slaves was being transported across the Atlantic in a Liverpool vessel. The condition in the ships used to be so bad that about 20 percent of the slaves would die during the Atlantic crossing. Several crew members perished too. The ships would become diseased by the time they reached the Americas and in many cases they had to be burned and scuttled.

The income from slave trade was invested in the economies of Liverpool and neighboring Lancashire and Yorkshire. The ships leaving from Liverpool carried textiles and other goods manufactured in the local industries and delivered them to the African, Asian and American markets. This foreign trade led to a massive expansion of the local industries, and by the 1760s, Liverpool had become the epicenter of the Industrial Revolution. Thus, slave trade and colonization were the fountainhead of the Industrial Revolution. 

The British were as brutal towards their slaves (the Africans and the natives of North America) as the Spanish and the Portuguese. But in some cases, it can be argued that the Spanish and the Portuguese were better. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Spanish and the Portuguese had the policy of freeing the slaves who converted to Catholicism; the British never freed their slaves. The Spanish and the Portuguese gave some nominal rights to their slaves; the British did not. Till the eighteenth century, the British did not consider the slaves as human beings.

The Spanish were the colonial masters of Florida from 1513–1763, and they freed a number of slaves after converting them to Catholicism. When the British took control of Florida in 1763, they re-enslaved all those who had been freed by the Spanish. In 1783, Florida went back to the Spanish and they once again enacted the policy of freeing the Catholic slaves. Until the 18th century, there was hardly any debate inside Britain about the barbaric manner in which the British were treating the natives of North America and the Africans.

For the British, the natives and the Africans were the “invisible people” and the savages who could not be regarded as humans. There was no room for the natives and Africans in British common law. There was no room for them in the British churches. They could be worked to death and killed without any legal and moral consequences. The British went on expanding their territorial possessions in North America by driving back and killing the natives. Their attitude was that the land belongs to us because the natives were not making productive use of the land.

Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane are vilified in history books as the barbarians who ravaged empires, plundered cities, and slaughtered thousands of people. But Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane had the dignity and the courage to fight against the most powerful empires of their time. Attila the Hun brought the Roman Empire to its knees. Genghis Khan had a rule—he attacked the toughest empires, and spared the weak states if they did not stand in his way. Tamerlane was constantly testing his strength against the great empires. 

Who did the British fight in the Americas? They destroyed the lives of millions of natives of North America and African slaves who were weak, who had no unity, no weapons, no modern army. Since the British imperialists oppressed and killed weak people in the Americas, their deeds are much more vile and cowardly than the deeds of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and Tamerlane. There is no honor in oppressing and killing the weak and capturing their land and property. Yet, history is kind to the British. But that is because the British have written much of history.

Friday, October 1, 2021

The Renaissance and the Birth of Western Imperialism

We are told that the Renaissance led to the recovery of art, philosophy, and literature of antiquity (Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome). What we are not told is that the Renaissance also led to the recovery of antiquity’s merciless methods: slavery, plunder, and carnage. The painters and writers of the Renaissance glorified the gladiator spectacles in which the slaves were butchered. They glorified the massacre of the barbarians by the Greeks and the Romans. They depicted slavery as a normal part of ancient life. 

Between the sixth and fourteenth centuries AD, slavery in Europe was in decline. Slavery could have disappeared if a new kind of thinking had not taken hold of Europe during the Renaissance. In the thirteenth century, the crusades in the Levant had ended in a disastrous failure. The realization dawned on Europe’s political and religious establishments that the crusaders were beaten by the Islamic forces because the Europeans had forgotten the ancient methods of carnage and enslavement. They started examining the texts from antiquity to recover the techniques of their warlike ancestors.

During the Renaissance, the ideas from antiquity were used to make a philosophical case for conquering, plundering, and enslaving. The Europeans became acquainted with philosophical arguments for slavery and conquests. The imperialist mindset was gradually developed in Europe. The Renaissance can be seen as the precursor to the Age of Imperialism.

Aristotle was the favorite philosopher of the imperialists. His writing on slavery was extensively used to defend the institution of slavery. The ideas of Plato, Cicero, Seneca, and other philosophers were also deployed. The imperialist strategy of vilifying people in conquered territories by labeling them as savages, killers, and cannibals was an integral part of the recovery of ideas of antiquity. The ancients first denigrated the people that they aimed to conquer and enslave.

For instance, in Politics, Aristotle says that human beings are of two types: slaves and non-slaves. What he is essentially saying is that the Greeks are the masters and the non-Greeks are the barbarians, who can be plundered, enslaved, and killed. “For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule.”

Aristotle accepted the institution of slavery. “A slave is property with a soul.” He saw no difference between dogs, cattle, and slaves. “And indeed the use made of slaves and of tame animals is not very different; for both with their bodies minister to the needs of life.” He believed that the slave existed to serve his master. “The slave is a part of the master, a living but separated part of his bodily frame.”

Like Aristotle, Plato has made a case for slavery. In his dialogue, Gorgias, he wrote: “..nature herself intimates that it is just for the better to have more than the worse, the more powerful than the weaker; and in many ways she shows, among men as well as among animals, and indeed among whole cities and races, that justice consists in the superior ruling over and having more than the inferior.” The Roman philosophers Cicero and Seneca found slavery and massacres acceptable. There is no record of any Roman philosopher opposing the gladiator games.

A civilization that thrives by conquests is itself one day conquered—this is the rule of history. Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome were eventually conquered by the people that they regarded as barbarians. Similar fate could befall the imperialist powers. They could be colonized by the nations which they had once colonized. When the tide of history turns, nothing is impossible.