Did European Colonization Save The World?
This might be a controversial opinion.
For the many who suffered under the yoke of colonization, this view may be downright disrespectful. The entire world has nothing short of horror stories from European colonial powers, but then again, is it the full story? It would be pragmatic also to view this from certain unexplored angles.
I wrote a piece diving into such a similar light, and the reception has been a mix of all kinds of reactions. I have a feeling this article might evoke similar feelings:
The Error of Colonization
I am not a colonization apologist, and I will never condone the idea. The world, as we know it, has mostly been shaped by the endeavors of former world powers. The cost was blood, sweat, and tears for everyone, including parties that should not have gotten involved.
The objective was always to exploit the land and extract the wealth and transfer it to their homelands in the case of European colonial powers. One such instance is the extraction of approximately $45 Trillion from the Indian subcontinent:
How Britain stole $45 trillion from India
There is a story that is commonly told in Britain that the colonisation of India — as horrible as it may have been …
Another instance is King Leopold of Belgium, using the Congo as his resource extraction backyard. A deed that led to the exploitation of people that resulted in one of the most horrific genocides humanity has ever seen. The estimates of the number of people who died range anywhere between 5–10 million. Their only crime was existing in the wrong place:
Leopold II: Belgium ‘wakes up’ to its bloody colonial past
Inside the palatial walls of Belgium’s Africa Museum stand statues of Leopold II — each one a monument to the king…
Leopold’s rule was so deplorable that even other nations that were in the business of exploitation deemed his deeds as despicable. His legacy in the Congo is chopped off limbs of innocent baby girls and boys who could not reach their quotas.
The once rich Congolese soils did not get spared as they were exploited exclusively for rubber in certain regions. The aftermath was poor soils that left a country hungry and unable to grow a significant amount of food for its populace — nothing ironic like having rich lands and being poor at the same time.
All these and countless more stories are all over, and I feel like I won’t be able to state them exhaustively. But it takes me to my original point, were the European colonial powers the worst to have conquered the world? Many more people had a higher economic and technological capacity to do the same, but they didn’t.
The World’s Worst Overlords
The world sometimes forgets that some of the most impressively advanced societies were cesspits that thrived with things we view as backward and savage like.
Imagine one such society, the Aztecs. Their achievements as a society are still impressive to this day. The cities built by these people and their architectural prowess would still outshine a lot that our mundane lives could ever include.
Various aspects that dictated their lives were revolutionary and can even be seen in our societies. One such thing is Universal education for the citizenry:
Education — Education in the earliest civilizations
Education — Education — Education in the earliest civilizations: The history of civilization started in the Middle East…
In places such as Europe, it was a privilege to have an education of this nature. It was to the benefit of the entire society that they developed such methodical ways to spread knowledge on various crafts.
What often goes unmentioned is that they were a local colonial power, and the one thing that allowed their downfall is the hatred that surrounded them. They rank among the most brutal overlords that ever walked the earth — a level of brutality that can only get equated to that of the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians.
The brutality did not end at enslaving people and selling them in markets. It proceeded into cannibalism and mass sacrifices. In one instance, a temple was inaugurated with the sacrifice of 80,400 people. Men, women, and children were all found in that number.
Apart from ritual sacrifices to the gods, they had the singular intention of striking fear into the hearts of those they ruled. Such ingrained hatred for the Aztecs led their subjects to work with the Spanish in the end to oust the Aztecs.
Human Sacrifice: Why the Aztecs Practiced This Gory Ritual
When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and his men arrived in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán in 1521, they…
Let us keep this in mind that this is one event and one culture alone among the many economic powers that could have conquered the world at the same time.
Slightly Benevolent Colonialism
Even though the objective was to exploit in many of these countries, it needs to be understood that certain sweeping changes came to benefit those societies.
The abolition of slavery on the entire planet is one of the most successful campaigns that the colonial powers did. They engaged in the trade too, but it ceased to be morally acceptable in their nations, and it countered the views of the citizenry. It also ceased to be profitable due to the industrial revolution.
The introduction of technology and knowledge that was developed in different parts of the world led to faster globalization and many widespread benefits. Among those benefits is the improvement of medicine and a higher standard of living in many of these colonized countries.
Professor Yuval Harari, in his book Sapiens, also mentions the development of newer bodies of knowledge due to the European style of colonization. British colonization was backed by all kinds of scientists and enlightened people that improved upon the understanding of the world.
The motivations for colonizing a people will forever be wrong, but the results are a mixed bag of results. Forever leaning on the bad will never bring to light the profound luck the world had in all that darkness.