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Colonialism/imperialism

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There's no good reason a colony has to be a drain on the "home country" any more than a particular state in the Union is a drain on the whole. This may be the case in some contexts, but not in others. From what I know, British India was not a drain on Britain. indeed, many historians would probably argue that Britain was a drain on some of its colonies.

I remember reading that the Chinese tried colonizing a few place but gave up, because they found it to be a drain. The author (I think it was Boorstin) said that the Chinese were very keen to impress their colonies with their greatness, and ended up spending great resources doing so. Not sure if this is true. Anyhow, I would guess that most European countries that had colonies (in the 1600's - 1700s time-frame) did not lose on the venture.

It's also wrong to say "on a historical basis, colonialism has always been immoral", without giving any more context. Why only colonies? One can just as easily say that on a historical basis, all governments have been immoral. It is clear that many colonies were very moral when one compares them to some of their contemporary governments, to some governments at other times in history, and also to some of the local governments they displaced.

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There's no good reason a colony has to be a drain on the "home country" any more than a particular state in the Union is a drain on the whole. This may be the case in some contexts, but not in others. From what I know, British India was not a drain on Britain. indeed, many historians would probably argue that Britain was a drain on some of its colonies.

I agree, there is no good reason. But it does occur. As you stated, can occur both ways.

Just to interject on the conversation you were having about India earlier, which wasn't central to the discussion...The British did provide some benefits to Indians, but also harmed them. For example, much of Indian industry was developed under protective tariffs put in place by the British. So while Indians were able to produce, they did so only under the protection of the British. This caused some adverse harm to India when it gained independence. I have a good quote supporting this, if you want, I can type it out here.

Anyhow, I would guess that most European countries that had colonies (in the 1600's - 1700s time-frame) did not lose on the venture.

I'm not sure there is a way to quantify this and make an exact determination. A quick example though: My conjecture is that most European countries did lose during the "Scramble to Africa." Since colonization by various European powers in the 19th and early 20th centuries contributed to the World Wars being fought, I would state that everybody lost.

It's also wrong to say "on a historical basis, colonialism has always been immoral", without giving any more context. Why only colonies? One can just as easily say that on a historical basis, all governments have been immoral. It is clear that many colonies were very moral when one compares them to some of their contemporary governments, to some governments at other times in history, and also to some of the local governments they displaced.

I don't understand this point. Is this an issue where morality is determined by net benefit? It is possible that Mussolini's Italy stood on higher moral ground than Ethiopa's leaders. It is possible that Japan stood on higher moral ground than Chinese leaders. Does this make their imperalism morally proper? Furthermore, does it exclude them from other injustices committed, such as the ones stated earlier?

Edited by adrock3215

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The point is that something can be evil even though it was better than what it replaced.

Oh....then we are in agreement. This is why I say that on a historical basis, colonialism has always been immoral. Even though in certain situations the colonial power may have replaced an inferior power, the colonial power still committed an immoral (i.e, evil) act.

Not necessarily in the act of colonizing in and of itself, but in the preceding/accompanying actions.

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Oh....then we are in agreement.
I don't know, because I'm not sure what you mean when you evaluate the colonial powers as being "not moral". If you say they're not moral in the sense that no government has been perfectly moral, then we're probably in agreement; otherwise, I cannot say if we are.

To take a simple comparison, one might say that the U.S. government was immoral from the time of Washington, because it allowed slavery. By a standard like that, colonial governments would surely be immoral too. However, it would be deceptive to point to colonialism while making such a general point that is applicable to a multitude of other governments.

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I don't know, because I'm not sure what you mean when you evaluate the colonial powers as being "not moral". If you say they're not moral in the sense that no government has been perfectly moral, then we're probably in agreement; otherwise, I cannot say if we are.

I'm saying that they weren't moral in the sense that the colonial powers performed immoral acts during the processes of a.) colonizing foreign lands, and/or b.) maintaining their empires.

Of course we both also concur that no government has ever been perfectly moral. In my opinion (and I believe this would differ from most here), for colonialism to be proper it would require the colonizing government to be perfectly moral, as opposed to simply satisfying the relativistic requirement that the colonial power only be relatively on higher moral ground than the colony it conquers.

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I realize that this is a very old thread, but anyway:

 

On 5/6/2005 at 12:08 AM, softwareNerd said:

As an Indian, I will say this about the British in India: Thank you.

I wouldn't.

 

On 5/6/2005 at 12:08 AM, softwareNerd said:

The predominant empire in India at the time was the Mughal empire

No. The Maratha empire was the predominant empire at the time.

 

On 5/6/2005 at 12:08 AM, softwareNerd said:

It is difficult to say how India would have turned out if not for the British. However, when I look at other muslim countries: the middle east and Iran and Afghanistan, my guess is that India would not have turned out much different.

How are Muslim countries relevant? The Mughals had very little power at the time. They were also very different from other Islamic empires. Many later Mughal emperors were very concerned with integrating various sections of society, no matter what their beliefs were.

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1 hour ago, softwareNerd said:

I, for one, am totally convinced.

In what ways? Should the millions of indentured laborers at the time be thankful too? What about the millions who died in famines in India due to British mismanagement (with similar things happening in Ireland too)? Then, there were the massacres, the division of Indians into various races based on loyalty to the British (giving more power to the higher castes; making the caste system economically lucrative for the higher castes, entrenching it further into the Indian society), subjugation of native newspapers, a stagnant economy (with even lower growth than when India became socialist), lower per capita income, higher taxes (especially for Indian goods, creating a government level monopoly for British goods, killing many native industries). Then, there were various convictions without trials and active attempts to detain Indians from the court system (even the Mughals had more Indians in their courts).

Also, personally, I come from Trivandrum, which used to be part of the Kingdom of Travancore, which was a princely state, whose developments had very little to do with the British (and my ancestors were never directly under the British rule, or the Mughal rule, or the Maratha rule). Most of the developments in Travancore is thanks to the king, Sree Chithira Thirunal. He successfully enforced many policies. For example, child marriage was successfully abolished in Travancore, but failed in the rest of India due to British and Muslim opposition. Why should anyone from a former princely state even care about the British?

 

On 5/6/2005 at 12:08 AM, softwareNerd said:

I am pretty clear in my own mind that I would not be where I am today (assuming I was born in the first place) if the British had not colonized India.

If you attribute your success to the British Raj, then all African Americans can attribute their failures to White slave owners. It goes both ways.

Edited by human_murda

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And all this is ignoring the racism from the British themselves. But racism is probably the least important part of British rule in India. The lack of social, political and economic freedoms are much more problematic.

(Also: forgot to mention the Rowlatt Act in relation to convictions without trials)

Edited by human_murda

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On 7/18/2006 at 4:15 PM, shakthig said:

Given this description of modern terrorists, there is no way to justify comparing them to British imperialists.

Colonel Dyer, responsible for Jallianwala Bagh massacre was most definitely a terrorist (in his own words, his intentions had been to strike terror throughout the Punjab and in doing so, reduce the moral stature of the "rebels"). And the British didn't even lock up this terrorist, simply because he was on their side. Too bad.

Edited by human_murda

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7 hours ago, human_murda said:

In what ways?

Based on your counter-examples, I should clarify that I'm not saying the British empire was an ideal government. Far from it. The question isn't whether a particular white-skinned monarch was good, but whether the average brown-skinned monarch was better. And yes, there were some very progressive, modernizing rulers in some of the princely states.

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5 hours ago, human_murda said:

Colonel Dyer, responsible for Jallianwala Bagh massacre was most definitely a terrorist (in his own words, his intentions had been to strike terror throughout the Punjab and in doing so, reduce the moral stature of the "rebels"). And the British didn't even lock up this terrorist, simply because he was on their side. Too bad.

Definitions are made in context. Terrorism is a tactic, and its moral quality depends on the moral quality of the terrorist's ultimate goal. There's no absolute law that states that "terrorism is evil". A 21st century terrorist fighting for militant Islam, targeting peaceful, rights respecting societies, is very different from a 19th century terrorist fighting for civilization, targeting tribal, abusive societies...even if their methods are similar.

Edited by Nicky

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1 minute ago, human_murda said:

Which terrorist was fighting for civilization and how is that relevant here?

I'm not really interested in debating the specifics. Just conveying the point that definitions are contextual.

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32 minutes ago, Nicky said:

Definitions are made in context. Terrorism is a tactic, and its moral quality depends on the moral quality of the terrorist's ultimate goal. There's no absolute law that states that "terrorism is evil". A 21st century terrorist fighting for militant Islam, targeting peaceful, rights respecting societies, is very different from a 19th century terrorist fighting for civilization, targeting tribal, abusive societies...even if their methods are similar.

I completely agree with this, and was thinking the same a couple days ago due to some statements in a different thread. I was thinking that the American Indians were the terrorists of their time, and that it is ridiculous that today the left finds fault with a rights respecting country for dealing with them harshly as a result.

Edited by EC

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33 minutes ago, Nicky said:

I'm not really interested in debating the specifics. Just conveying the point that definitions are contextual.

Well, if you want to speak about definitions, a "terrorist fighting for civilization" is a contradiction in terms, no matter what century it is.

Edited by human_murda

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14 hours ago, human_murda said:

Well, if you want to speak about definitions, a "terrorist fighting for civilization" is a contradiction in terms, no matter what century it is. 

That's a platitude.

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On 8/31/2006 at 8:26 PM, softwareNerd said:

To a large part, Europeans finally bought into the idea that colonization was immoral and that the colonies had a right to be independent. There was resistance from Europeans who had businesses to protect, but eventually it was the moral argument and local resistance, not the disappearance of trade and business interests, that ended colonization.

There is evidence* that colonization is largely responsible for the violence being visited on the descendants of those who practiced it.  It appears that exposure to the idea of rights being imported by the colonizers had the unintended consequence of kindling resentment and self-loathing in those who, failing to mimic the success of the colonizers, now seek to level the playing field by bringing them down.

In retrospect it seems the moral argument against colonization has proven to be correct, so I wonder if your opinion of colonization being a net benefit to Indians is challenged by today's events?

* ref: Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger 

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2 hours ago, Devil's Advocate said:

There is evidence* that colonization is largely responsible for the violence being visited on the descendants of those who practiced it. 

Not sure what being said here? Are we saying some people in the east hate the west because the west colonized them?

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More closely that some people in the East hate the West because the West exposed them to a principle of equal rights, e.g. property, pursuit of happiness, they could not experience.

Edited by Devil's Advocate
clarification

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On 11/26/2018 at 7:50 AM, Doug Morris said:

Can you elaborate?  For example, to what extent is this based on what happened during the French and Indian war?

No. Don't remember the details of that war. It's because they were constantly attacking, raiding, and killing, colonists, frontiersman, etc. for unclear reasoning. 

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1 hour ago, Devil's Advocate said:

More closely that some people in the East hate the West because the West exposed them to a principle of equal rights, e.g. property, pursuit of happiness, they could not experience.

Then those people are irrational and evil, and what they think or believe as a result doesn't matter.

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