The West is not Equal to Colonizers

I love your writing Indi, and I get that in journalism one needs to take some liberties and engage in some generalizations for a punchline, but in this case you are attacking a generalization “the Developed world,” while engaging in a gross generalization yourself.

You try to be “fair” by excluding Taiwan and South Korea. Why do you not extend that favor to the parts of Europe which was not engaged in colonization? Ireland, most of the Nordics, Greece, Switzerland, Canada and others have not been involved in colonization. Often many of us where ourselves subjugated by larger more powerful countries. Yet we are not part of the exclusion lists. And I have a pretty good idea of why. We are “white” countries, and that means guilt by association.

Every white country is somehow partially responsible for every bad thing people who looked white did historically. It it is like the original sin. The stain that can never be washed away.

Western countries are not some faceless power hungry monolith. We are not the Sith or House Harkonnen. We are all sorts of people. And the ones that drove colonization and benefitted from it was in large part a rich upper class that was equally ready to gun down their “white” underclass as colonial subjects. Winston Churchill was a horrible racist colonialist but he was also responsible for gunning down striking British workers. The British upperclass was utterly complacent about the Irish famine, that probably killed more people relative to total population than the British ever imposed on one of their overseas colonies.

These upper classes that tended to have rather racist views of colonial subject also happened to view the poor in their own countries as genetically inferior as if they where some sort of inferior race onto themselves. It was argued by Eugenicists that poor people in the West should have fewer children as they where viewed as genetically inferior people.

It is easy to always tell this story as being about people of this color and that color vs each other. It is a convenient story for the rich and powerful to sell. Let the poor of the world hate each other, as to take away the focus from the real puppet masters. Yes poor white people joined the armies to suppress colonies of colored people. But guess what so did poor people of color as well. Where would the British have been if they did not have large armies of Indians helping their colonial misadventures. Forcing China to their knees would have been hard to accomplish without large contingents of Indian soldiers.

If we are to pass blame on poor whites joining these oppressive armies, then why should poor Indians joining these same kind of oppressive armies be absolved of responsibility or guilt? At the end of the day responsibility primarily rests with the rich and powerful who make the decisions.

The developed and developing world are still useful distinctions. Sure COVID-19 handling was botched in much of the developed world, but there is still a major difference in the wealth and prosperity experienced in developed and developing countries. The distinction matters when one discuss where development aid should go. Who should be allowed to increase their CO2 emissions and who must reduce their emissions.

It matters in trade talks when discussing e.g. who should perhaps get favorable status. It matters when you compare countries. By world standards the US does not have a high homicide rate, but by developing country standard it has a high murder rate. Would it be fair to compare the US to say Brazil? Of course not. Countries should be judged by how developed they are. One of the prime reasons we criticize the US a lot today isn’t because it is bad by international standards. It isn’t for the most part. But rather because as one of the worlds oldest democracies and one the world most developed countries it is failing on many metrics. For such a rich and developed country as the US to have say developing country style infant mortality rate is kind of shameful.

But if we say there is not distinction, we are just countries of the world, then they could say, hey we are better than India, so who cares? We care because you got to be compared with groups of countries in which it makes sense to compare.

The outcomes of COVID-19 in the developed world is especially embarrassing due to us having the best developed health care systems, having the most money etc. If we where not judged by that standard, then there would be nothing embarrassing about it.

But I can agree that the binary distinction between developed country and developing country is often more confusing than helping today. A country such as China is so advance in many areas that it sounds somewhat odd to speak of it as a developing country. Yet hundreds of millions of Chinese still live in poverty, so it is not completely wrong either. From the very beginning we probably should have had at least 3 categories and not just two. Although I guess in practice we do. It is common to speak of emerging economies or middle income countries.

Please don’t read too much into my criticism. I write it with the outmost respect. I keep being amazed at your writing. As someone who also tries to make it as a writer on medium, I am constantly reminded when reading some of your pieces, that I could never have pulled off the articles you wrote. And I don’t want my criticism to cause your style to be neutered, bland or full of disclaimers. I kind of hate that too. I also paint with broad strokes when I write at times. It is hard to write something engaging without doing it.

But hey, what is the fun if you cannot rant, rave and complain a bit?

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

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