Wednesday, June 24, 2009

College For Free 4: Colonization Part 2

So let's recap.
Africa, the Middle East and China are all doing extremely well while Europe is throwing buckets of shit out into the streets and burning witches and all other sorts of terrible things during the 12th, 13th and 14th century. Because Europe doesn't get to be part of the club, the Europeans decide to go across the ocean to find something better, at which point they invent the concept of racism and engage in widespread genocide all at once. This allows them to harvest all of the resources from the Americas and return the wealth to their European homes.
A pretty uplifting story, I would say.
But here comes the second chapter of this miserable saga. Europe's return to the Old World.

Before we get started, I think I should make a quick note about the College For Free entries. The point of this blog is to spread interesting information that I came to acquire throughout college, but it's also to sort of explore what I did and did not take away from a $20,000 education. That is to say, if I didn't learn something, you won't either, because I'm trying to stick to what I actually learned from class, and not what I can Google in order to fill in the blanks. Think that's stupid? I don't care. That's how I'm doing it. For that reason, this blog is going to be a lot more about Africa than the Middle East or China, because that's what I learned the most about.

Anyways, here's what happened:
In the blink of an eye (an eye that takes a couple hundred years to blink, anyways) Europe went from being sort of quiet and dirty and off in the corner not bothering anyone to a full on drunken psychopath with serious blood lust and hunger for gold. Their new found wealth gave them almost unlimited resources and a scary amount of power, especially when put into the hands of the people who had so historically been outcast and downtrodden. Trading with Africa quickly turned into kidnapping which turned into slavery. The Atlantic Slave trade, or the Triangle Trade, lasted for like 300 years, and Europe made money off of all sides. They received goods from the Americas, they sold goods to Africa, and they sold slaves from Africa to the Americas.
The assaults on Africa went on from the 1500s to the 1800s, during which time 12.5 million slaves were delivered to the Americas. I think I should note here that the constant onslaught of colonization, the wars, the kidnapping and the utter plundering of resources, made it pretty difficult for countries in Africa and the Middle East to have large scale industrial revolutions, and the effects of this still live on today.
And I should note that I say that the assaults lasted until the 1800s because after 1884 the assaults stopped and the utter takeover began. Up until then, European powers had been working individually, in competition with each other, hoping to get as much as possible for their own individual countries. After a few hundred years of failure, they finally wised up and said "Brothers, sisters, come together. We shouldn't be so selfish. Let's consolidate our efforts and concentrate on murdering, raping, and plundering the Africans only." So in 1884, they held a little thing called The Berlin Conference, the sole purpose of which was to divide and conquer the entire continent of Africa, which they did. By 1914, the only free countries in Africa were Liberia and Ethiopia, and Liberia was only free because the US had founded it in order to return freed slaves to Africa.
Oh yeah, it may not stick out right away, but the colonization of Africa occurred after slavery was abolished in both the US and the UK. Perfect, right?
Most of these colonies lasted until the 1950s and 60s, and were only abandoned under severe international pressure, mostly for things like basic human rights, especially in light of the atrocities in WWII. When the Europeans left, they took everything out of Africa that wasn't nailed down, like literally. Rakes and stuff. Remember how the land of the Truffula trees looked after the Onceler was done with it? That's how I imagine it went down.
Things didn't get much better after that.
Some notable remnants of colonization:
The Hutus and the Tutsies.
Ever seen Hotel Rwanda? The two groups involved in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 were the Hutus and Tutsies, and the only difference between these two groups was the width of their noses and their height. These racial constructs were invented by their European invaders, who routinely established an elite class and a lower class in the conquered countries in order to turn the natives on each other. These kinds of divisions exist all over Africa, to this day, and continue to ruin the lives of millions of people through the warfare that they cause.
Unpayable African Debt.
After European power removed its awful tentacles from the throat of the continent, new African leaders came to power with promises to restore the greatness of their once wonderful land. So international aid flowed in as the world sort of sheepishly said "Hey, sorry about the last four hundred years." And the African leaders kindly thanked the world for their support, stuffed the money into their pockets, and got the hell out of there. And who can blame them? They grew up during European colonialism, they learned from the best thieves in the world. Now almost all of Africa is in debt that they cannot recover from, something that people like George Bush take advantage of and use as an excuse to cut aid that could save lives. Millions of lives.

Colonization affected the world in some other pretty neat ways. Iraq, for example, was completely invented by Europe, without any regard for the differences amongst the people being stuck together. So now we have a country full of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds who hate each other with an astonishing amount of passion.
Also, after 400 years of colonization, Europe became the dominant power in the world, unseating over 1,000 years of Middle Eastern reign as top dog. And they had just enough money from all their centuries of pillaging to really effectively blow each other to smithereens during the first two world wars, which is where much of the gold actually ended up going.

As for China, well, like I said in the last entry, China does okay most of the time (except for that whole baton death march thing during WWII, but that wasn't European, that was Japanese, so I don't feel the need to dwell on it here) and Europe wasn't able to do any real damage there.

That's the bleak and horrible story of European colonization, possibly the worst atrocity of the last millennium, and it was perpetrated by my ancestors. It makes me feel all warm and cozy. Just for a little pick-me-up, my next blog will be about America's war on democracy, Noam Chomsky style.

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