“Imperium et Libertas”—motto of the Primrose League and South Africa’s Imperial Light Horse Regiment
“In the good old Colony days, when we lived under the King…“—“Three Jolly Rogues of Lynn,” American folk song
“There was a wild Colonial boy, Jack Duggan was his name…“—“The Wild Colonial Boy,” Irish-Australian folk song
There is a lot of really cheap thought flying around today, and nowhere is this truer than in those areas of the academic, media, and government industries dealing with political history. One of the chief tenets of this cheap thought is that of the intrinsically evil nature of European colonization of much of the world. According to the narrative attached to this belief by its cultists, the eruption of the Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch, English, Russians, and some few others beyond the Mother Continent’s boundaries, beginning in the late 15th and culminating in the mid-20th centuries, was an unmitigated series of horrors unleashed by evil white men upon people of colour, women, animals, plants, and the environment in general. Founded in genocide and built by slavery, so we are told. This narrative is used constantly today—not only to harass presumed descendants of the colonisers in countless classrooms, and as an excuse for destroying statues, but very specifically to attack the Catholic Church.
The fact that information-poor Catholics such as Justin Trudeau and Pope Francis adopted this narrative in response to the utter lies about the cemeteries in Canada—while ignoring the very real burning of Catholic churches in response—shows us how deeply these fallacies have passed into what passes for the popular mind. Trudeau is an ignoramus in this and most other things of course; the Holy Father doubtless was virtue-signalling to assuage his own conscience, since the Anticlerical post-independence government of Argentina did in fact wage an extremely successful genocide against the Patagonian Indians in the 1880s. Of course, this genocide was against the pleas of the Salesian missionaries who had only begun working with them in 1875; but as with the confiscation of two thirds of the Catholic Church’s Indian mission stations in the American West by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, republics dedicated to freedom are always better judges of spiritual affairs than anachronistic and retrograde ecclesiastics.
At any rate, since these historical delusions are paramount in such elevated modern minds as the Successor of St. Peter and Her Majesty’s First Minister for Canada, it were well to explode a few myths about colonialism. Some of us, with humbler stations in life, may then escape that unique combination of arrogance and ignorance that is the hallmark of leadership in today’s world. So, let’s gut them one by one, albeit in no set order.
The Crusades were at once defensive and justified. It may seem peculiar to bring up events that predate European expansion by several centuries. But since they are always brought up as examples of Christian-European cruelty, we might as well put them to bed first. The West had been repeatedly begged for aid by the Byzantine Empire since the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre in 1009 and the defeat at Manzikert in 1078, which latter event resulted in their collapse in Asia Minor and concurrent murder, mayhem, and forced conversions to Islam. Added to this were ongoing harassments of pilgrims and native Christians in the Holy Land. The same sort of internal dissension in the West that had delayed the Crusades in the end doomed them: the Crusader States were always dependent upon Western aid. But—as with the Battle of Tours in 732, the siege of Belgrade in 1456, the liberation of Granada in 1492, and the siege of Vienna in 1683—the liberation of Jerusalem in 1099 was a highpoint in the struggle between the Crescent and the Cross (even as the Battle of Hattin in 1187, the Field of Blackbirds in 1389, and the fall of Constantinople in 1453 were low ones). To be sure, in this ongoing struggle, the Christians were sometimes cruel to their enemies; but the reverse is also true—and no Muslim authority is likely to come forward at this date and apologise for the massacres of Acre and Tiberias, nor the large-scale seizures (sometimes encompassing whole villages) of Christians as slaves from Spain, Sicily, Ireland, and Iceland by the Barbary Pirates. Worse than the cruelty was the fatal tendency of Eastern and Western Christians to betray one another—happily absent for the most part from such conflicts as the First Crusade and the Great Turkish War of 1683-1699.
The Pre-Columbian world outside Europe was no paradise. This is perhaps the hardest nut to crack, since we have all been brought up on mental cartoons about evil Conquistadors and noble savages. But the truth is that the non-Christian world was extremely cruel, indeed—in ways that even the worst Christians of the time found barbaric. Genghis Khan’s exploits were amazing in this regard, as was his descendant Tamerlane’s habit of reducing cities that would not surrender to pyramids of skulls. The rise of the Incan and Aztec Empires were far from peaceful, although the ongoing bloodshed of the latter’s worship made the former’s installation of a veritable anthill society seem benevolent in comparison. We do not know precisely what brought about the downfall of the complex of advanced cultures once dubbed “the Moundbuilders”—but it could not have been entirely peaceful. Considering how many of the tribal cultures that succeeded their collapse based their manhood rituals on killing members of neighbouring tribes (“counting coup”), the memories must have been horrific. So too with the myth that the tribes lived in harmony with their natural environment: ironically, when the Plains Indians acquired horses from the Europeans, their buffalo hunts became much more environmentally friendly, as having mounts allowed them to hunt selectively. Thus, they were able to abandon their old practise of just stampeding whole herds off cliffs—allowing them to take only a relatively small amount of meat from the animals they slaughtered.
African Slavery was an unmitigated evil, requiring punishment and compensation. The truth here is very complex. Apart from the Europeans stolen by the Muslims in the above-mentioned raids, slavery as such had been unknown in the Mother Continent for at least five centuries. But the minor kingdoms of the African West Coast fought incessant wars among each other for the very purpose of taking prisoners to be sold to the Arabs in North Africa. When the Tuaregs cut the caravan lines to the North in the 1400s, these little polities were faced with a glut on the market—only relieved when the European ships appeared. If cheap labour was a drug for Europeans settling tropical regions, the West Africans were definitely pushers. That slavery was an evil, no one can deny; but it was ended in time—outside the newly independent Americas—by the very colonial powers under whom it had grown; it was their navies that suppressed the transatlantic slave trade. Moreover, when they encountered it remaining in Arab hands in East Africa, they struggled to suppress it. This was, for example, the reason for the establishment of the Congo Free State in 1888. Leopold II—to whom, ironically, it had been deeded by the other powers precisely because his little Kingdom of Belgium was without political ambitions—was without the means to adequately govern such a vast expanse. He was forced to turn to independent operators who themselves became renowned for abusing the natives. As it was, the East African trade would continue until the British forcibly suppressed the great slave market at Zanzibar in 1893; sickened by the misgovernment of the Congo, the conscience-struck Belgian government took it over in 1909. Apart from the fact that no one considers asking the still extant West African Kings for compensation, the same enlightened folk do not advocate vigorous measure to end slavery in those parts of Africa where it still survives—in Mauritania, for example. Moreover, one cannot help but believe that the African diaspora in the Americas and elsewhere is far better off than it would be back in Africa—as evidenced by the steady stream of Africans attempting to come to Europe now. Further, this writer is one of those who thinks that the black presence in his own country has been and is a blessing, despite the never-ending messiness of the American racial issue.
De-colonisation was a great blessing for all its recipients. This one is so patently false that one barely knows where to start. For Americans, of course, the question is coloured by our own experiences during and since our first civil war, commonly called the American Revolution. But not only was independence purchased at the price of losing over 100,000 Loyalists (a large number at the time, many of whom were among our best educated), the period immediately following was chaotic; our Constitution was produced by a generation of Statesmen who had been nurtured by the British Empire and whose like we have been unable to produce since—although their successors did manage to blunder into a far bloodier conflict four score and seven years later. Moreover, Whig victory in Britain finished the gutting of the Monarchy which begun in 1688 and has culminated in the political munchkins who rule that country now. The 1931 Statute of Westminster gave effective independence to Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere; from that time since the level of leadership in those countries has dropped as well. Latin America’s throwing off of the “yokes” of Spain and Portugal ushered in an endless cycle of chaos and despotism, which damaged the home countries severely as well.
But independence has been far kinder to the settler countries established in the 17th and 18th centuries than to those established for more commercial reasons in the 19th and early 20th. The more fortunate countries have seen merely inefficient and corrupt governments; the less so have had to undergo waves of war and even genocide. What makes it even more ironic is that international bureaucrats, academics, and media have endlessly if tacitly indicated that murder and mayhem committed on the body politic by locals is inherently preferable to more or less stable rule by outsiders. In my youth, such folk were quick to condemn Apartheid in South Africa, as an example—but were strangely silent regarding mass murders in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Central African Republic, and elsewhere, to say nothing of the millions who died as result of the partition of India and Pakistan. But these were all considered necessary bumps on the road to paradise.
Of course, it might well be argued at this point that if these colonial empires were so wonderful, why did they end? The answer may be found in the loss of Christian Faith in the various homelands—a process which ironically began around the time Europe was first going overseas. By the end of the 19th century most of the ruling bureaucratic classes had abandoned whatever form of Supernatural faith they had; the result in the 20th century was an orgy of bloodletting far above what the most pagan of lands had managed on their own. Gandhi made the comment that Britain gave India everything save Christianity; while not entirely true—it was true enough. Today, both Western Europe and the Settler countries sink ever deeper into a sewer of immorality and cruelty that would have shocked many pagan cultures and inspired others.
All of that having been said, the global civilisation in which almost all of us reside—best symbolised by the United Nations and other such bodies—rests squarely on the foundations laid across the planet by the colonial empires; this is true even in countries like China, Japan, and Saudi Arabia, which were never entirely colonised. Indeed, the first-named relied for its civic faith on a post-Christian European ideology. Virtually all of us are beneficiaries of what those in charge are pleased to call “injustice.” But the truth is—when one reads of efforts to “de-colonise literature” and the like—there is only one way to truly free oneself of the taint of Imperialism. That is to give up all its has brought to the vast majority of us, in terms of lifestyle, technology, clothing, food, medicine, and language; we must, in essence, sit in our native mud, wherever that may be, and shut up. Less than this is arrant hypocrisy.