Monday, January 29, 2007

Western colonialism has all but disappeared

Post-war decolonisation
I have long tended to look at post-war history as one great rally towards independence and self-government of – almost – all people in the world. This obviously includes the unraveling of the communist version of colonial rule, symbolized by the breakdown of the Berlin wall in 1989.

But I have increased reservations in respect of this particular aspect of our recent history.This is not simply because the Western World has continued to be the most dominant force on Earth.

And even though I am well aware of some major setbacks, I would like to be proud of the broad accomplishments of the Western World, particularly in the field of democracy, societal organization and efficiency, our technological advancement, our commercial success and so on. And I do not see any other road ahead than one which harbors these accomplishments at new levels of advancement.

Still, a price is being paid. A severe price is being paid today, and a price of as yet unknown magnitude still looms in the future. It is a good thing that our societies are gradually awakening to this.
Will we change our perceptions?
Will our further advancement include any change in the way we look at the world around us? I am thinking of the many nations outside our Western World, large masses of people in fact, who do not share our accomplishments by any measure, and many of whom are really being held back because of them.

The latter, I believe, is the most disturbing feature of our time. And again, there is abroad awareness of it in our own world. The most tragic example is the fate of Africa. It would have been much better if Africa had never been discovered. It almost seems like Africa cannot exist if, and as long as, the world is going our way.

Many people in Africa are being fed at a subsistence level, with bags of food being thrown out of airplanes – it is ‘manna from heaven’ – but without any serious efforts to get Africa on its true feet. Sure, there is the ongoing exercize in the name of Development Aid, but after more than four decades of sustained failure it becomes very difficult to believe that any good can still come from it. It is nothing less than an imperative for our Western World to exploit the larger part of our Globe, simply to help support our life of luxury and abundance.

So really, nothing substantial has changed after WW II. Colonialism turned into Development Aid and global commercial extravaganza at unprecedented scale, largely serving the same interests as did the former Western Powers in their time when they governed their ‘colonies’.

New approaches needed
I do not think that this situation will change by mere policy or any kind of international co-operation within existing frameworks. We may have the awareness, but we do not have the will, nor do we actually have a viable alternative from our point of view. It is not dissimilar from the dilemma’s prior to the abolishment of slave trade and slavery, or prior to the abandonment of ‘classic colonialism’. The power will have to be taken from us.

But can we not anticipate? Why not pro-actively and substantially help African, Asian and Latin-American markets develop? Why not increase our investments, and sacrifices, beforehand, rather than risking a massive wave of destruction out of those countries, aimed at us? Let’s for instance increase our expenditure in Research & Development to include the development of new agricultural technologies suited in an arid climate. Let’s make rain!
Hopefully the development of new technologies will get us a long way. However, we cannot simply rely on this to save us from disaster in respect of natural resources, clean water, fresh air and space to live. In addition there is a great need for new approaches to international (global) development and co-operation. The United Nations and related institutions have all consumed their relevance in a world, which is gradually disappearing into the realms of the past. It is imperative, in my view, that the non-Western World take an active part in this process.
Take it up
We are severely obstructing the sustainable evolution of the world. It is already a fact that a long echo of this will run through many milleniums following ours. Climate change, depletion of energy resources, ravaged habitats, animal and plant species extinct…. What more do we need to stand up for the future?


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