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Who are the truly peaceful ones?

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Fri Jul 12, 2013

Editor: A jaundiced view of the history of nations, engendered substantially by colonial brain-washing and on-going imperial propaganda, has caused the vast majority of Caribbean people to embrace the Eurocentric falsehood that European nations have been, and are, the embodiment of peace and goodness globally. Daily in my life and work across this Caribbean and elsewhere, I am an earwitness to this fallacy, nay unquestioned assumption, which infuses itself into public policy discourses. But what constitutes the historical and contemporary truth?{{more}}

Recently I have been reading a three-volume series entitled The Sources of Power, authored by Professor Michael Mann of the University of California. Volume 3 of this series of books sub-titled Global Empires and Revolution, 1890 – 1945 (published by Cambridge University Press in 2012), contains some compelling information/data, on this matter at hand, including:

1. Between 1494 and 1975, a period of nearly 500 years, European powers were engaged in interstate wars for roughly 75 per cent of the time and no 25-year period was entirely free of war.

2. In East Asia, the land depicted in our colonial education as being populated by nefarious warlords and vicious state systems, a 300-year period of peace between nations endured between the 1590s and 1894, broken only by barbarian incursions into China, and five fairly small two-state wars. During the preceding 200 years, China was only once at war, with Vietnam. In Japan, firearms were banned for two centuries from 1637 onward.

3. From 1871 to 1914, the British fought over 30 colonial wars, (excluding the perennial violence instigated by them along the northwest frontier of India). Between the British, French, and Dutch, at least 100 colonial wars were fought. In Kenya alone, the British fought one battle per year over a 20-year period. European losses in colonial wars amounted to some 300,000 persons; the conquered peoples lost around 60 million, some 90 per cent were civilians! Is this evidence of the so-called “democratic peace theory”? Are these the peaceful ones?

We in the Caribbean have the evidence of native genocide and the enslavement of African peoples committed by Europeans, at the behest of the public policy of European nations. Somehow the fallacy of their “peacefulness” and “goodness” prevails without question!

One month or so ago, the British government settled in the sum of £19 million (pounds sterling) with a group of Kenyan victims of a vicious war against them by the British in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The victims are elderly survivors of torture and terror and the offspring of Kenyans who were killed by the British in their offensive against Kenyans who were depicted as blood-thirsty Mau Mau warriors. In this “war”, genocide in fact, 20,000 Kenyans were killed; 1,000 were executed after cursory trials in Kangaroo courts – more than the French executed in Algeria; and hundreds more died in British detention camps. That occurred just over 50 years ago when I was in the Colonarie Primary School being taught about the “good, godly, humane, and peaceful British civilisation”!

David Anderson’s book, published in 2004 (London, Weidenfeld) and entitled: Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire, recounts one British policeman’s memory of interrogating “Mickeys”, British slang for “Mau Mau” fighters, thus:

“They wouldn’t say a thing of course, and one of them, a tall coal-black bastard, kept grinning at me, real insolent. I slapped him hard, but he kept on grinning at me, so I kicked him in the balls as hard as I could. He went down in a heap but when he finally got up on his feet he grinned at me again and I snapped, I really did. I stuck my revolver right in his grinning mouth and I said something, I don’t remember what, and I pulled the trigger. His brains went all over the side of the police station. The other two Mickeys were standing there looking blank. I said to them that if they didn’t tell me where to find the rest of the gang I’d kill them too. They didn’t say a word so I shot them both. One wasn’t dead so I shot him in the ear. When the sub-inspector drove up, I told him that the Mickeys tried to escape. He didn’t believe me but all he said was ‘bury them and see the wall is cleared up’.”

In the contemporary period, European nations’ senseless and barbaric actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places are in accord with their historical record. (A not dissimilar set of warmongering activities have been part of the historical record of the USA, but that discussion is for another time, so, too, the discourse on Stalin’s Soviet Union.)

I do not for one moment believe that Europeans are intrinsically more prone to war, state violence, and unrestrained barbarity than any other people. It seems clear to me, though, that unbridled capitalism, its thirst for overseas expansion as imperialism, and its hunt for profits at any cost, provide the context and the impulse for organised, criminal, state violence against “subject” peoples. In other contexts, modern-day international criminal cartels, jihadists who abuse and misuse their religion, and ideological fanatics, different impulses provide similar criminal and violent results, even if on a smaller scale.

Caribbean peoples and nations have a great deal to teach the world about social harmony, peacefulness, and non-imperial behaviour. Still, we must not be too smug about it. After all, in our countries, too, senseless violence of a personal kind occurs; and on too many occasions also, functionaries within the state security apparatuses abuse their authority and inflict, unlawfully, injury or death upon civilians. None of all this, however, reaches the level of historical and contemporary European barbarity against “subject” peoples. Human nature plus capitalist/imperialist expansionism or quest for hegemony is a terrible admixture.

For Europe to be reconciled with former “subject” peoples, as is indeed necessary and desirable for world peace, there must be an appropriate repairing of the relationship and the righting of historical wrongs in a wholesome reparation partnership. As the United Nations commences the discussion on the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals’ agenda, this repairing or reparation is a vital, though distinct, component of that global conversation. Let peace and reconciliation be with us! Let reparation be part of that reconciliation. It would be an immense contribution to global peace and justice.

Dr The Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves
Prime Minister

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