I’m having a fascinating discussion on Facebook about the Falkland Islands, again in the news, which has mushroomed into a general discussion about colonialism and the Third World. A passionate, Latin Marxista in London paints a black and white picture of colonialism. But new studies have shown that what we call colonialism often produced unexpected benefits. India is the best example. Here are two posts, that give a flavour of the discussions. First, Imilla, writing from London. Feel free to join in.
Imilla: ” I would rather not have a little war of ideas here, but I couldn’t contain myself from making a comment to what seemed a very insensitive thing to say (that the falklands are better off being british – as if the falklands were ‘things’ to be had which they are not, but they are connected to a region that is not as far away from its context as Britain), particularly in the light of resource exploitation attempts by the UK. Our position – of many left-wing Latin American thinkers – is that of defense of sovereignty (political, cultural, economic). For Europeans, the left died with the collapse of the Wall, for us the left is just starting to open up the debate about our past, our hidden place in the world, and our past of exploitation. From this POV colonialism cannot be a good thing from any angle. India is a sorrowful case of colonial subjugation, without a doubt, only a society with fairly more equal opportunites could prove a good case for colonialism, sadly not the case. …”
And here’s my reply:
There is a case to be made for suggesting that it was to the benefit of the Falkland Islands, untouched and undeveloped before a group of hard-working crofters and shepherds from Scotland arrived to make a life for themselves and, on the way, create a viable society out of nothing. How can that be ‘ bad ‘ ? As to India: the central cause of India’s misery, which VS Naipaul has written trenchantly about, is the caste system not British imperialism. For sure, many regrettable and inhuman things happened under the British. But most fair and well-balanced Indians will tell you that the British left behind much that was good: a civil service and a system of law and justice; an incredible railway system; universities and buildings etc. etc. We didn’t give quite as much as we took: but we did leave behind a legacy that has been beneficial to India. I know that is a very difficult truth for you to accept. But we left behind a legacy of friendship and respect, which persists to this day. Indeed, you could argue that the cross-pollination of cultures that took place between Indian civilisation and British civilisation was the greatest, unexpected, legacy of that ” colonial ” past.
What do you think ?