View Full Version : (Post/Neo) Colonial (Lack of) Guilt

27-03-2012, 07:19 PM
To what extent does European post-colonial guilt sustain a continued sense of superiority and racism, and enable further neo-colonialist violence? To what extent is guilt both an integral part of the cycle of domination for the perpetrators, and a cycle of dependence (on charity) for the victims?

and on the other hand

To what extent is callousness and resolute refusal to admit complicity still ruling the day? To what extent is Europe avoiding taking real responsibility for its crimes, crimes which caused a million problems which have in turn developed into newer and bigger problems in the decades after? Crimes which were brutal at the time, and which are having brutal consequences for millions today?

German parliament has thrown out an opposition motion calling on the government to acknowledge that a massacre committed by German troops in what is now Namibia more than 100 years ago was genocide. (http://www.dw-world.com/dw/article/0,,15830118,00.html)

Little has happened on the German side, says Christian Kopp from Berlin Postkolonial, because the political elite is afraid of the legal and moral consequences that a clear definition of this crime might bring in its wake. "The state could be forced to pay reparations," Kopp explains.

Henning Melber also believes Germany does not wish to anger its European partners. "I can well imagine that France, Great Britain and Portugal are following very closely how Germany is tackling this issue. If Germany were to agree to hand over millions of euros, that could set a precedent which could trigger negotiations elsewhere. Germany's European partners might well advise it behind closed doors to let matters rest.

Zizek admires Deng Xiao Ping for saying, in 1984, to the British: "We thank you for waking us up from our slumber" -- because this is a sign of strength, no longer needing to blame the perpetrator. This is all very fine, for those countries who are at this stage of post-colonial development, who have been able to, to a greater degree, resist further expoitation and avoid further violence -- BUT IT IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG TO EXPECT THIS FROM THE OTHERS WHO STILL SUFFER BY THE MILLIONS because of post-colonial political meddling, and from neo-colonialist economic exploitation.

27-03-2012, 09:08 PM
Yeah well its difficult, because obv Europe has totally fucked up so many countries beyond all recognition, but then sending in shit to "fix" those countries, its kind of like "*massive sigh* - wellll if you black people can't sort your own shit out, we better do it for you, cos you can't fit in with us"

I don't know what the solution would be though.

The world is pretty fucked.

THat German thing is pretty fucked though

27-03-2012, 09:20 PM
Watch Niall's new programme on China, he touches on this in a very interesting way in regard to China's incursions into Africa.

Your thread title sounds like an amazing Meatloaf/Brian Eno/David Bryne collaboration, Zhao.

padraig (u.s.)
27-03-2012, 10:14 PM
obviously I would never argue against the massive, lasting effect of European colonalism + post-colonialist meddling. however, a point I always make when someone brings this up (about the U.S. as well): every empire ever, w/o exception, has left a trail of misery in its wake + pretty much none of them have ever paid reparations* unless their hand was completely forced, i.e. germany + japan post-WWII. rome never took responsibility for caesar's brutal wars of subjugation against the gauls. the mongol empire (+ its descendants, some of which lasted into the 16th or 17th centuries) never took responsibility for devastating the middle east so thoroughly that it still hasn't fully recovered 800+ years later. arabs ain't paying reparations to northern africa. this idea of apologizing + making amends is very recent. which doesn't make it bad in + of itself but it's still not really done, just talked about. russia didn't pay reparations to former soviet republics. china isn't + will likely never pay reparations to tibetans or any of the other non-han peoples it is literally colonizing. turkey isn't paying reparations to armenia. + so on. even taking symbolic responsibility w/apologies is pretty rare. the west at least pretends to hold itself to a higher standard, but things like the ICC + ICJ are paper tigers that will only ever prosecute individuals whose states will allow/cannot stop them from being prosecuted, i.e. african warlords + some eastern europeans. the geneva conventions are toothless. so is the IAEA. further, they're all creations of the west, as is the UN, the most futile of them all. + realistically, where does anyone expect this $ to come from? a bunch of countries whose economies are in the shitter? you think you've seen riots, just wait. there's also the problem of who this $ would go to + how it would be administered. you're taking about countries with serious corruption problems. it's already a huge problem w/foreign aid. further, there is the difficulty of how to assign blame to individual European citizens who, while certainly benefiting from the legacies of colonialism, didn't exactly have much say in the decisions made by colonial powers ca. 1550-1970 or so (also, will immigrants from former colonies + their descendants pay a share of these reparations)? + what effect would paying reparations have on European economies + by extension the world economy they are a major part of? if it winds up as a net negative for the countries they're paying reparations to it doesn't make much sense.

sorry, I know this is going on + on. basically I'm just telling you it will never happen for 100s of reasons, some of self-interest, some pragmatic, some both.

padraig (u.s.)
27-03-2012, 10:15 PM
*an exception actually is the limited reparations the U.S. govt has paid to some native american peoples in the form of $, land +/or recognition of self-govt. however, even in that case the "reparations" come w/a bunch of strings attached + there's debate over whether they're even reparations at all, as well as whether they even have a net positive impact for native peoples. it's a complex issue that I don't know a ton about so I won't go into it further, just wanted to mention it as an anomaly.

padraig (u.s.)
27-03-2012, 10:32 PM
+ as far as post-colonial meddling, again, I'm telling you it will continue so long as former colonial powers are strong + former colonies aren't. spain don't meddle in latin america, or least not nearly as much. it just don't have the juice, + a bunch those countries are relatively powerful in their own rights. but russia freaking projects into central asia like crazy, france + belgium into africa. a lot of it just a pissing contest too: superpower (u.s.), former superpower (russia), aspiring superpowers (china, india, pakistan), former empires (france etc) swinging their dicks around, tho obviously there's vast economic benefits to be reaped as well.

anyway, words like "reparations", "human rights", etc are predicated on countries playing by civilized rules of the affluent west. bashar assad (in the former persian then roman then islamic, crusader, mongol, ottoman + lastly french colony of syria), + by extension his backers in russia + china, could give a shit. no one really cares about that stuff. the west just pretends to so long as it's not inconvenient.

28-03-2012, 02:22 AM
all of that sounds pretty realistic.

however there is something to be said about Europe hypocritically having it both ways, patronizing and condescending to others like it is operating on higher moral ground, while not only not taking any real responsibility, but continuing harmful self serving programs.

padraig (u.s.)
28-03-2012, 04:03 AM
^oh absolutely. europe isn't alone in such hypocrisy but it is the worst offender by quite a bit. i'm just saying no one relinquishes power willingly.

modern ideas like international war crime tribunals, just wars, reparations, etc, of national (or racial) guilt in general, are actually fascinating, both in their existence + their general futility. they really boil down to ad victorem spolias, victor's justice, the taint of imperialism or patchwork enforcement motivated largely by self-interest (i.e. rwanda doesn't have any oil, but kuwait does). the ICJ found the U.S. liable for reparations to nicaragua + the U.S. basically said go freak yourself (hilariously, via the U.N. security council). russia carried out a war of extreme brutality in chechnya + minus some useless public scolding no one did nothing. anyway i can only imagine the spartans or northmen (vikings) or mongols laughing themselves silly over "war crimes".

padraig (u.s.)
28-03-2012, 04:17 AM
another interesting factor is the rise of huge multinational corporations essentially above any kind of regulation (the list is endless: shell/nigeria, union carbide/bhopal, bechtel/bolivia, the clusterf**k of the eastern congo (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/oct/22/congo.rorycarroll), illegal fishing off the somalian coast...) that are empires unto themselves. also international regulatory bodies like the IMF + world bank that can impose austerity at will on poor countries. like always + forever, might is right, whether it's the might of the gun or the financier (the two, of course, are linked - velvet glove//iron fist)

28-03-2012, 07:14 AM
so does the futility of the practical realization of these modern concepts mean that the charade should be dropped entirely? and we should do away with ICC and all the rest, and be more honest about the absolute right of the powerful to rob, rape, and pillage, without consequence?

but doesn't the possibility of real justice lie precisely through the little gap opened by the pretense of false justice?

would you say that you agree with Zizek when he says, in strange concurrence with the right, that the problem is too much guilt in Europe, and that African countries should stop blaming, etc., etc.?

28-03-2012, 08:14 AM
Padraig, your posts on this thread are brilliant, but there is nothing wrong with the word "fuck".

28-03-2012, 09:42 AM
what is interesting is the global shift in economic power that is occurring - Brazil overtaking Britain in economic size, etc etc, and the possibility of former colonial power relationships being reversed.

What I'm less clear about is how this interacts with multinationals, as said, and the mobility of capital/the super-rich from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Did anyone ever see the film 'Enjoy Poverty', by that mad Dutch guy, Renzo Martens (it's quite possible Zhao mentioned it on here at some point, and that's how I know about it)? Interview here: http://africasacountry.com/2010/07/16/poverty-for-sale/
I think there's definitely a lot of mileage in the idea that the way people deal with African poverty, or poverty in general, or a whole raft of other uncomfortable issues in life, involves a high degree of cognitive dissonance. but that's how human beings deal with a huge array of things in their lives (from the friend they don't like to the comfortable salary they know they don't really 'earn' in any meaningful sense), so applying it to an international context is almost second nature.

padraig (u.s.)
28-03-2012, 06:03 PM
@zhao - tbh, I don't know. it's hard to be against trying to punish genocidaires, but you could argue that these fictions actually facilitate those rights of the powerful by demarcating the violence of petty warlords from the violence of "just" imperialist wars or the pillaging of multinationals, in the same way domestic law demarcates armed robbery from white collar crime. law is + will always be on the side of those who write it, i.e. those with power. are you familiar with concept of the subaltern in post-colonialist theory? either way I think it's a mistake to assume that real justice follows from false justice. just as often it's a tool to legitimize IMF-imposed austerity. or death squads. the konys of the world don't have even a fraction of the power of the exxon mobils or koch brothers. this part marx got right: power flows from control of capital, whether by nation-states, corporations, (western) regulatory bodies, or individuals.

as far as zizek I agree to the extent that africa needs to stop waiting for apologies or handouts from the west that are not forthcoming, especially now. foreign actors in africa will always act on self-interest. meanwhile, guilt is harmful in that it takes the place of useful action.

padraig (u.s.)
28-03-2012, 06:22 PM
@craner - I know, use it on here all the time, sometimes I get the idea people are using work computers that block them from sites w/swear words

@baboon - as I said, power in the modern world flows from economic might. but the new bosses will be the same as the old, twas ever thus. as far as multinationals + the ultra-wealthy who can be also considered extra-state entities (there's some overlap), they simply operate on a totally different plane. they're much harder to regulate than nations, basically impossible. they're almost an entirely different race (considering corporations as legal/metaphysical individuals; add also de facto corporations like massive drug cartels). it's one of several central cyberpunk tropes that has largely come true.

padraig (u.s.)
28-03-2012, 06:27 PM
+ I know I keep going on about history, but a major theme of human history prior to the rise of the west was horse peoples from the steppe, complete economic have-nots, periodically (huns, seljuks, mongols, ottomans) sweeping in to conquer the sedentary peoples of perisa, asia minor, the middle east + eastern europe. such a thing now - power existing on a purely military level - is utterly impossible.

29-03-2012, 02:19 AM
so in a small facebook group called Deutsch-Namibische Gesellschaft (Germany-Namibia Society) people not only don't think we should be worrying about something which happened 100 years ago, but are adamant deniers of historical and current european complicity in African problems.

Ruanda and Somalia are perfect examples for manufacturing guilt! Thank you for bringing up these two awesome cases. The division between Hutu and Tusi has absolutly nothing to do with Europeans. Or do you think these two peoples look so different because they have been intermarrying for "thousands af years" like you claim? Nothing like that happened. These two tribes are hating each other for hundreds of years. Very often I have heard the story about them being friends, holding hands and dancing kumbaya together on a daily basis until the evil white man arrived and caused them to hate each other. It is not true. The opposite is the case, in political science it is an example of the so called "ancient hatred" theory. 2nd Somalia. What an intrigueing fairy tale of the poor exploited fisherman being the victim of large and evil multinational fishing corporations. I guess people at Berlin dinner parties love that story and give you that concerned look Germans are so famous for.. Except.... mhh... the strange thing is none of the pirates are ex fisherman. Many investigations have shown the opposite, the fisherman are not allowed out and fishing becaue SOMALI pirates threaten them and beat them up if they go.

all of this is counter to every bit of first and second hand evidence i have ever come across... "Ancient Tribal Hatred"??? "Pirates Oppression of Local Fishermen" in Somalia??? a simple and quick look on wikipedia renders these notions utter Horse Shit.

what do you make of people like this???

29-03-2012, 03:17 AM
these fictions actually facilitate those rights of the powerful by demarcating the violence of petty warlords from the violence of "just" imperialist wars or the pillaging of multinationals, in the same way domestic law demarcates armed robbery from white collar crime. law is + will always be on the side of those who write it, i.e. those with power. are you familiar with concept of the subaltern in post-colonialist theory?

in this context you mean the subaltern as groups who have been rendered without agency by hegemonic power structure, who often have had to adopt the language and Eurocentric modes of thinking of the oppressors in order to be heard? (good stuff by the way)

29-03-2012, 10:09 AM

"We can talk as much as we want about human rights and the importance of complying with international obligations, but if at the same time we just leave people to die – perhaps because we don't know their identity or because they come from Africa – it exposes how meaningless those words are," said Strik, a Dutch member of the council's committee on migration, refugees and displaced persons, and the special rapporteur charged with investigating the case.

Mr. Tea
29-03-2012, 10:48 AM
I'm sure most people here are aware but there's a great Adam Curtis doc on ethnic divisions in Rwanda/Congo etc. and how tribal enmity was stoked, if not entirely created, by Belgian colonial governors. Can't remember what it's called but should be easy to find on youtube - well worth a watch if you haven't seen it, zhao.

Edit: ep3 of 'Machines of Loving Grace', his most recent series.

29-03-2012, 11:04 AM
will give that a watch too.

Also - read anything by Mamdani on the creation of Native Authorities. And, of course, postcolonial African leaders/despots continued the exacerbation of the divisions stoked by the colonials, at least in the Congo (competiton for state access by different perceived ethnic groups, further instantiating these groups as 'realities' etc etc).

Also interesting how the British did similar things with the caste system in India - didn't create it as such, but were highly responsible for the fucked-up way in which it works today.

padraig (u.s.)
29-03-2012, 07:48 PM
you mean the subaltern

yeah. basically fanon - the father of postcolonialism - filtered through the prism of foucault. it literally means exclusion from global power structures; I've also heard it defined as that which does not act but is acted upon (in an existential sense). having to adopt a colonial mode of thought + discourse is a point fanon was very big on, i.e. black skin white masks. chinua achebe, a contemporary of fanon, also addresses it - brilliantly - in no longer at ease (the sequel to things fall apart). + achebe's searing takedown of the heart of darkness (http://kirbyk.net/hod/image.of.africa.html) is pretty much a required postcolonial text, up there w/fanon + orientalism. tho i'm really not an expert, i've just dabbled a bit.

padraig (u.s.)
29-03-2012, 08:14 PM
reckon it's very important to acknowledge the existence of tribal tensions + other things that predate the arrival of europeans. to not do so perpetuates the noble savage myth, for one. history is complicated. it rejects simple narratives. the inca + aztecs were both imperialist empires in their own right. so were the zulus. shit, so were the vikings. many, many peoples kept slaves before the middle passage. it's not as if any of that nullifies the catastrophic effects of european colonialism. taking advantage of + exacerbating those things to divide + conquer was a frequent colonialist strategy. it's how cortez conquered the aztecs w/a couple hundred guys + a couple of cannons (well + ruthlessnes + some help from aztec mythology but anyway). the british were particularly good at it. it's how they ran the raj. it lead to many arbitrary borders tho tbh the borders of europe are pretty arbitrary too.

as well it's important to acknowledge that many postcolonial leaders have fucked up badly. helped along, sure, but the mobutu sese sekos (+ pol pots) have contributed mightily to the continuing fucked up state of their countries.

Mr. Tea
29-03-2012, 09:43 PM
many, many peoples kept slaves before the middle passage.

Which makes the whole Egypt thing that some black nationalist/Afro-centrist people have all the more mystifying. The ancient Egyptians captured and kept black slaves and quite explicitly depicted this in their own artistic records.

22-11-2012, 05:44 AM
is it telling which thread the spam bot chooses to dig up?

Mr. Tea
26-11-2012, 11:00 AM
Well it's late November in Flatland, so it's that time of year again!


28-11-2012, 05:48 AM
this belongs here more than in the "What England Thinks Of Itself" thread:


In his book Exterminate All the Brutes, Sven Lindqvist shows how the ideology that led to Hitler's war and the Holocaust was developed by the colonial powers. Imperialism required an exculpatory myth. It was supplied, primarily, by British theorists.

"Last week three elderly Kenyans established the right to sue the British government for the torture that they suffered – castration, beating and rape – in the Kikuyu detention camps it ran in the 1950s.

Many tens of thousands were detained and tortured in the camps. I won't spare you the details: we have been sparing ourselves the details for far too long. Large numbers of men were castrated with pliers. Others were raped, sometimes with the use of knives, broken bottles, rifle barrels and scorpions. Women had similar instruments forced into their vaginas. The guards and officials sliced off ears and fingers, gouged out eyes, mutilated women's breasts with pliers, poured paraffin over people and set them alight. Untold thousands died."

28-11-2012, 05:50 AM


Ex-French minister’s ‘arm’ strains ties with Algeria (http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/11/03/247471.html)

28-11-2012, 11:34 AM
Good Monbiot article (as they usually are, tbh).

What he says about empire was interestingly mirrored in the docu I watched on the US war on drugs/prison system complex this week - the identification and harrassment of a group (first demarcated by race, and then more generally by class, in that case) are used as comparatively 'innocent' and easily instituted preparatory steps, eventually down the line paving the way for the mass detention or annihilation of that group, which is accepted because of the gradual moulding of public opinion in the direction that the group in question is subhuman/Other. It always works the same way - in the US prison system of course, detention rather than annihilation (death penalty notwithstanding) is the ultimate goal, but detention on a scale unseen before, at least in modern times.

29-11-2012, 01:43 PM
Well it's late November in Flatland, so it's that time of year again!


what's the deal here? like our morris dancers?

Mr. Tea
29-11-2012, 01:55 PM
what's the deal here? like our morris dancers?

They're meant to be Zwarte Piet, who's the comedy darkie sidekick, I mean faithful companion, to Sinterklaas, the Dutch St. Nicholas/Father Christmas. According to folklore, Saint Nick freed an African slave, who was so overcome with gratitude that he decided to serve him anyway. There have been attempts to reinvent him as a chimney sweep who's blackened with soot, but in most representations he also has huge lips and Afro hair.

I know the word 'morris' as in 'Morris dancer' is meant to come from 'Moorish', but they don't generally use blackface, do they? At least not any more.

29-11-2012, 04:46 PM
I know the word 'morris' as in 'Morris dancer' is meant to come from 'Moorish', but they don't generally use blackface, do they? At least not any more.
There's still quite a lot of black face paint in morris and similar folk traditions (mummers and so on), but I think it's more of a paint-your-face-to-look-weird sort of thing (as you see in folk dance / ritual stuff all over the world) that traditionally uses black makeup rather than specifically trying to look african - there's all sorts of other stuff in the getups (ie all the bells and dishcloths and breeches and things), none of which has any racial connotations that I can see...

Mr. Tea
29-11-2012, 06:05 PM
It's second season I've been here but it still makes me do a double take, seeing a couple of white guys prancing down the high street covered in bootpolish, with Afro wigs, red lips and big gold earrings. And it's not like there are no black people here - not that it would be OK if there weren't, but it makes it seem even stranger. Can't help but wonder how they'd fare in Brixton or Tottenham...

04-12-2012, 09:14 PM
Zwarte Piet is not supposed to be a helper in the sense of a butler or something worse. He's more of a personal assistant to the old, confused man.

It's a long time ago, but I don't remember as a kid seeing Zwarte Piet as an African.

Mr. Tea
05-12-2012, 06:41 AM
I guess it's probably something that gets reinterpreted* every now and again, perhaps varies from place to place as well. The ZPs around here (Noord Brabant) are pretty similar to the 'gollywog' figures you used to see in Britain:


*e.g. I've heard some people have tried to cast him as a (presumably white) chimney sweep whose face is blackened by soot. Which isn't really much better since C19 child labour practices were basically slavery in all but name, but it does at least attempt to de-racialize the whole thing.

05-12-2012, 01:56 PM
The interpretation of his role might have shifted a bit, but I don't think he was ever interpreted as African.

My grandparents would never have called a black man black (zwart), they would have said nigger (a word that only started to be considered offensive through the influence of American culture). Zwart was a colour, not a racial attribute. The face paint is an attribute of the Zwarte Piet character. I read the Wikipedia page about Golliwogs, and they were supposed to look African (big lips and frizzy hair), while Zwarte Piet isn't.

05-12-2012, 02:29 PM

an interesting article on this.

The idea that the Netherlands is now questioning its own reputation for tolerance (I've seen this mentioned in several contexts recently - don't know how accurate a reflection this is of what's really happening) seems to me odd, as I didn't understand what that reputation was ever based upon (obviously it must be more than just 'tolerance' over soft drugs). At the least, its recent history seems pretty conflicted. Which is true of most places of course.

Mr. Tea
05-12-2012, 02:36 PM
Look, the Zwarte Piets I've seen parading around central Eindhoven for the last month or so have got black skin, frizzy black Afro wigs, bright red lips and huge gold hoop earrings. He is quite clearly meant to be 'black' as in 'African'.

And St. Nicholas has a long association with one or more African men in Dutch folklore, it's pretty well known. I'd heard of it years before I moved here. The character may ultimately have had some other origin but the ones I've seen around here are definitely cartoon Africans.

@baboon: well I think it's been a pretty good place for gay rights for some time, for one thing. And at least until quite recently it's had, as far as I can tell, a fairly similar sort of laissez-faire multiculturalism that was standard in the UK under New Labour. The tolerance of 'soft' drugs and the sex trade is the most well-known aspect outside the country but there is more to it than that, I think. But of course it's become strained, and people are starting to question large-scale immigration from countries where attitudes aren't so positive about gay rights or women's rights for example, and then there's a reaction to it - hence politicians who are left-liberal on social issues but against immigration. My girlfriend has a copy of Murder in Amsterdam, I should borrow it at some point I think.

05-12-2012, 02:56 PM

this is quite interesting, more so no doubt if you're living in the country

Mr. Tea
05-12-2012, 03:44 PM
Cheers, just skimmed it - will have a look when I get home.

05-12-2012, 04:59 PM
Yeah, for the record, I'm not denying there's widespread racism in the Benelux. It's probably worse here than in any other Western country.

But I don't see how a child could associate this: http://www.wikikids.nl/images/thumb/d/de/TweeZwartePietenKleding.png/350px-TweeZwartePietenKleding.png
with modern day people of African descent.

Mr. Tea
05-12-2012, 05:06 PM
Well the red lips and frizzy hair are a bit suspicious, aren't they? To say nothing of the skin colour?

He's obviously not meant to represent the stereotype of a modern black man, else he'd look like 50 Cent or whatever - apparently the clothes are meant to be a 'Moorish' costume from some vaguely defined time in the past. But really the costume and accessories are secondary, I mean the main deal here is white people making themselves 'black' with cosmetic paint.