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HD- Excellent NY Times article about colonialism. 
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Post HD- Excellent NY Times article about colonialism.
Samson gave us the link to this article in the King Leopold thread.

I highly recommend it.


http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0DE4D71E30F932A1575AC0A9649C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all


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Wed Mar 26, 2008 1:29 pm
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It's always so hard for me to decide what is a proper response to the countless scourges for which history indicts us (the U.S., Begium, Britain, France, whoever). I could condemn it all, true, but is that a little too easy for me, sitting here comfortably so many years later and having benefited (there's no avoiding it) from the unsavory things done in past eras?

While these events were unfolding, events we now look back upon with horror and disgust, could anyone really have done anything to stop them? Did anyone even fully realize what was going on? Having to live a life is a consuming project for all of us; while we are doing it, we have little attention left over for the broader picture. We are watching out for our own interests, and which of us doesn't fall into the trap of pressing whatever competitive advantage we might have? We also act from the only belief system we have at the time and will always assert that it is the truest and best. Later, those beliefs are exposed by our successors as so obviously flawed, and we are blamed for them.

In the U.S., the concept of manifest destiny is said to have fueled the westward expansion that swept away nearly all of the native American population. We can now look at this period of time and regret what happened, but it is a cheap regret that can't possibly be sincere. Being what we still are today, we couldn't have done otherwise, so does it even make sense to apologize for it? Does all this regret just amount to wishing that we had some other human nature?

This might viewed as pessimism, if so, sorry. If there is any chance of escape from such pessimism, efforts to make the facts available, such as what Belgium is doing, can be valuable. Perhaps over time, this will condition us to act more humanely and less selfishly. We will have to give up the idea that in our country, we are better, which has been a foundation of national pride (why else, after all, would God be blessing America?). We are all no better. Thanks to Samson for posting the link to the article.
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Thu Mar 27, 2008 10:27 am
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Will wrote:

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In the U.S., the concept of manifest destiny is said to have fueled the westward expansion that swept away nearly all of the native American population. We can now look at this period of time and regret what happened, but it is a cheap regret that can't possibly be sincere. Being what we still are today, we couldn't have done otherwise, so does it even make sense to apologize for it? Does all this regret just amount to wishing that we had some other human nature?



I understand what you're saying Will, but I do think apologizing is important, even if it can't be 100 % sincere.

It is perhaps a little different in the case of Native Americans and the US, because the US is still benefiting from what it took from the Indians, and does not intend to return more land.

So all you could do is apologize for the brutality with which the lands were taken, which sounds rather weak.

In Europe the colonies have become independent, and we could apologize to the new nations.
We benefited from colonialism at the time, and we wouldn't be giving back the wealth we took (we spent most of it fighting other Europeans in WWI anyway) but we could state that we recognize that the principles we used to justify our behaviour were all wrong: that we had no right, because we were European, white, Christian and mighty, to take what was there for the grabbing.

Grabbing is human, yes, but this is why we have laws, to hold our general impulses for grabbing in check. That's why we have the United Nations.
If people stop grabbing (at least some of the time!) because they are afraid of the police, it's not as worthy as if they behaved virtuously of their own accord, but it's still acceptable.


Also apologizing in Europe would be a sort of damage control: if we go on putting the inept sentences quoted from Belgium in our school books, how will the wounds between Africa and Europe, and between us and our immigrants, ever heal?

They will recognize our apologies for what they are: unsatisfactory and incomplete, but it would be a start.


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Thu Mar 27, 2008 11:26 am
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Ophelia, that is all very well said. I wonder, though, whether these apologies don't imply that now we are ready to do the right thing, in the way we currently conduct ourselves in the world. Unless we are commited to doing that, the apologies are still hollow.

Regarding apologies, in the U.S., several states have issued declarations of regret for slavery. The federal government has not, unless I am mistaken. The word regret is used instead of "apology" because the latter word is considered to be stronger and liable to expose the governments to suits for reparations.
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Fri Mar 28, 2008 8:48 am
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DWill wrote:

"Ophelia, that is all very well said. I wonder, though, whether these apologies don't imply that now we are ready to do the right thing, in the way we currently conduct ourselves in the world. Unless we are commited to doing that, the apologies are still hollow. "

Well yes, it implies we are going to do the right thing, and have done so for a while already.
Can't a nation say they're sorry for slavery and colonization, implying they're never going to do it again, and mean it?

One has got to do things one step at a time, promising 100% ethical behaviour on the part of our companies or our individual citizens would be another chapter entirely.


"Regarding apologies, in the U.S., several states have issued declarations of regret for slavery. The federal government has not, unless I am mistaken. The word regret is used instead of "apology" because the latter word is considered to be stronger and liable to expose the governments to suits for reparations. ".

I must say I hadn't thought about suing.
I went back to Jacques Chirac's declaration about slavery in 2006. He didn't use the words "sorry" or "apology", but it was strong wording and it was understood as an apology.


https://pastel.diplomatie.gouv.fr/editorial/actual/ael2/bulletin.gb.asp?liste=20060207.gb.html
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Post King Leopold's teenage mistress
Yes I have read the book Heart of Darkness and I have seen Apocalypse Now and as a student of Imperialism I read that NY Times article with hunger. And I feel it should be stressed that you cannot look back at the deeds done in 1909 with present day morality. This is something the author of that fine article also mentioned... That and the fact that 'Children worked in factories' and the quality of life was lower everywhere in the world. Imperialism presents modern man with a moral myopia - look at all the roads and bridges and schools and plantations, mines and factories they have now...



Tue Apr 22, 2008 7:48 am
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Hello Arob,

I believe we haven't met yet as your first posting was a while ago.
Welcome back!:smile:

The topics raised by the discussion of "Apocalypse Now" and Heart of Darkness in relation to colonialism/ imperialism are fascinating to me.

I haven't found any takers at BT for a discussion of the film yet, so perhaps today's the day? What do you think Arob?
This is a movie with endless possibilities.

Actually, I'll paste this into another forum.

How about you, Mr President, are you an "Apocalypse Now" man?


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