It is almost a given now that most everyone considers colonialism as a mistake. They thought that the spreading of ideas, culture, and religion would have a positive effect on the native cultures they colonized. In fact though, these changes had an adverse effect on the peoples of these countries. For although many laud the efforts of these countries to spread Christianity, some question the motives of these countries in dealing the everyday needs of these people. In seeing the natives as inferior the mother countries were able to justify their treatment of them. At this time many subscribed to the belief of manifest destiny and social Darwinism. This is the belief in which the colonizing of other countries is justified by the belief that if God hadn’t wanted these people to be colonized He wouldn’t have let it happen, or would have provided the colonized with the same technology which would make an invasion impossible.
Another item that has caused a lot of strife within the lives of the natives is in the area of education. For many natives the history of their country before colonization is very foggy. They have been schooled from day one on the histories of their European conquerors, but seldom is the history of the native cultural even discussed let alone taught. This reminds me of the point made in Jamaica Kincaid’s novel “A Small Place” in which she comments about getting a day off of school for Queen Victoria’s birthday. In the book Kincaid states that most of the people on the island of Antigua don’t even realize why they have been given a holiday. This type of confusion is typical in dealing with the relationship between colony and colonizer.
It is however easy to sympathize with the colonizing country because they are teaching the only thing they know. They can’t teach about the native culture because they have no clue of the history. In fact probably the best method would have been to leave the history part of education in the hands of the natives. In other subjects, such as math, the colonizing may then be able to add insights that may not have been apparent to the natives. But as for the history of the country, there is nothing that a colonizing country can tell a native culture that wasn’t already known.
As Jamaica Kincaid implies in her book, if there is one thing that was sorely missed after the English left Antigua it is the fact that for the first time in Antigua there were quality built, well organized places to learn. As kincaid explains in the book, the beautiful library built by the British has since been demolished. And although the renovations for a new one were supposed to end years ago it hasn’t worked out that way. The library has now been moved to a tiny apartment above a grocery store. Where once these books had been categorically stacked on shelves, they were now gathering dust, strewn across the floor and randomly inserted into cardboard boxes. This demise of education in Antigua says only one thing to me, that being that the emphasis of the government is in the wrong place. It is true that Antigua has had their problems with a corrupt government that is more interested in padding their pockets with foreign money than doing anything to improve the state of education. For what does it mean when you have a Minister of Education, possibly that you have no education?
Often in looking for the hard-hitting effects of colonialism, the biggest effects are often missed. While pondering the effects of religion, commerce, and education, sometimes the effect of prejudice is left forgotten. We must realize that these are human beings that, in some cases, have just recently gained independence from their mother country. The problem with one country capturing another is the fact that the capturing country now thinks they are in some way superior to the country they have defeated. There is an air of inequality in these situations. One country is taught to feel as if their people are inferior and are therefore subject to obey the laws and rules set down by the ruling peoples. The obvious problem that arises from this position is the fact that there is now a proud native people that have been reduced to feeling as though they are less than the Europeans who have colonized them. This in turn creates a ripple effect that infects the future generations that also feel as though they are inferior.
Hopefully eventually this lengthy chain ends, and a few are able to see beyond the situation being presented directly in their face. They are able to see that the prejudice is simply one country trying to keep another subservient to their wishes. And are in turn able to avoid the pit to which every other native has fallen victim to. These are sometimes the leaders that are able to lead their countries out of colonialism and into independence. Then again these leaders sometimes end up being as ruthless, or worse, than the colonizing country.
This is where Kincaid’s comment from her book must be looked at a little more closely. She states that it is unfair to harshly judge the job of ruling that the Antiguans did after independence. Her point is that if corrupt ruling is all that you have ever witnessed, one can’t be expected to know how to suddenly run a successful country. For in many of these countries they are neck deep in problems with no end in sight. Yes, they were given their independence by the mother country, but in most cases the natives were left high and dry by the mother country financially.
In conclusion, it is unfortunate that our world has been marred by the practice of colonialism. And even more unfortunate that so many countries in the world subscribed that same practice. It is hard to argue that we as a people have matured all that much since the days of colonialism. But if we as humans are able to avoid this terrible practice we are taking a step in the right direction.