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2004 September 23 Thursday
Moeletsi Mbeki: Africa Was Better Off In Colonial Times

Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of South African President Thabo Mbeki, states the obvious when he argues that Africa was better governed under colonial rule than it is today.

The average African is worse off now than during the colonial era, the brother of South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has said.

Moeletsi Mbeki accused African elites of stealing money and keeping it abroad, while colonial rulers planted crops and built roads and cities.

Of course, no Western nation wants to take on the burden of ruling Africa. It would be a totally thankless job. Therefore conditions in Africa will continue to deteriorate.

Mbeki fears a further decay in South Africa.

Addressing the local branch of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) here last night, SAIIA board member Moeletsi Mbeki said in his view African leaders were not serious about the economic welfare of their own people and South Africa had to guard that it did not become another Burundi.

Mbeki pointed out, however, that he was not arguing for a return to colonial rule.

The decay is going to continue and South Africa will eventually become as bad off as some of its neighbors.

Moeletsi Mbeki appears to be a free market kind of guy. He opposes what are called Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) deals in South Africa where powerful connnected blacks are granted shares in white-owned business enterprises. Moeletsi Mbeki says South African blacks ought to be more focused on wealth creation instead of wealth redistribution.

MINEWEB: Handicaps it?

MOELETSI MBEKI: Yes, because it takes and I have lots of friends who were involved in black economic empowerment deals it takes the brightest among the black people who -- instead of devoting their energies to creating new companies, to creating new products, to providing and creating employment -- tend to spend most of their time, if not all of their time, looking for redistributing mechanisms to get shares in pre-existing companies. So what you are actually getting is that the brightest among the black people in this country, instead of creating wealth, building up their own companies, are becoming secondary fiddle players to the existing companies and that in my view is not what is going to save our country.

Moeletsi Mbeki says the ruling party in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe has destroyed the country.

Mbeki said: "Zanu PF have also so destroyed the core of their own economy, which was commercial agriculture and peasant agriculture. They have destroyed that part of the economy. I was reading that the tobacco crop is only a quarter of what it was in 2000, so in a way Zimbabwe is finished, it is almost dead and the people who are in power are determined to stay in power."

Of course this is true. But what is interesting in all this is that a wealthy and well-connected South African black man is saying it.

The Mbeki brothers stake out very different positions about Zimbabwe and about African economic development and political rule.

Mr Mbeki's analysis of Africa's history and of its predicament today differs fundamentally from that of his brother. Thabo Mbeki has pointedly refrained from criticising Mr Mugabe's excesses. Instead, he opposed Zimbabwe's suspension from the Commonwealth and he blames the legacy of British colonialism for the country's crisis.

Eventually biotechnology will advance to the point where Western nations will be able to supply Africa with treatments to cure its major diseases. Also, genetically engineered agriculture ought to be able to reduce and even eliminate hunger if only populations would stabilize.

But some African countries are not experiencing a decline in fertility to replacement levels and so Malthus may yet be proven right in Africa. Niger has a mind-boggling 8 children born per woman and has a fertilty rate as high as it was in the 1970s. Many African countries have high absolute levels of fertility with either only slow declines in fertility or even stagnant or rising fertility. (and that link has some great world demography graphics) More recent research (which I learned about a few months ago watching a think tank seminar on population on C-SPAN but now can't find after hours of googling and would welcome relevant links) argues against the inevitability of fertility declines toward replacement rates. Fertility rate declines in some instances are halting and reversing. The poorest countries in Africa may maintain high levels of fertility for decades to come. If Africa's total basket case countries maintain high levels of fertility the result will be disastrous for Africa both in human suffering and in environmental damage (say good bye to some big cat species, primates, and other species). This will also create environmental, political, and economic problems for the rest of the world.

Update: For $3.9 billion per year Western nations could prevent 23 million births of incredibly poor people per year. That'd reduce poverty for those who are born, reduce pollution, and reduce damage to the environment. It would cost a couple of percent of what we are spending deconstructing Iraq. Seems like a bargain.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 September 23 01:04 PM  Civilizations Decay


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Comments
Invisible Scientist said at September 23, 2004 2:02 PM:

The Apartheid regime and the overall slavery in Africa, was nothing less
than horrific. In my book, death is preferable to this kind of humiliation,
even if the life standard of the average slave is higher than the free
savage who hunts lions.
One exception is India, where the British accidentally did less harm than good,
in the sense that the exploitation of India was brief enough not to humiliate
them so that the emotional scars were short-lived, and India inherited a good
educational system and a good political system of democracy was established later.

But the way Africans were treated, overall was tantamount to slavery, which is not
acceptable.

Tom said at September 23, 2004 2:03 PM:

When in doubt, blame colonialist for everything. They'll be doing it 100 years from now, all 2 billion of them.

Invisible Scientist said at September 23, 2004 2:06 PM:

Which 2 billion futuristic colonialists 100 years from now, are you referring to?

Tom said at September 23, 2004 2:06 PM:

Invisible Scientist how many years ago since the white man took African slaves? If my ancestoers were humilated I would do something about it, build myself and my country up. Not use it as a lame excuse.

Invisible Scientist said at September 23, 2004 2:09 PM:

Tom:
I gave India as an example for those who successfully built a good country with
democracy and a good educational system after colonialism, without any excuses,
and without any rancor against the British.
But just because the Africans were less competent in building a modern country
after colonialism, does NOT authorize the Europeans to keep Africa colonized. This was
my point.

Tom said at September 23, 2004 2:09 PM:

I meant the 2 billion Africans there will be 100 years from now.

Tom said at September 23, 2004 2:12 PM:

Invisible Scientist, I do not want Europeans to colonize Africa again. I don't know where you got that from.

Invisible Scientist said at September 23, 2004 2:13 PM:

Then if the Africans are so incompetent, why do you worry that the 2 billion of
them will be able to colonize Europe and America in 100 years?
Aren't you worried about other powers who might successfully colonize and enslave all of us in the future?
After all, those who live by the sword, often die by the so... What if another group of people
whose average IQ is almost 10 points higher than the white Europeans, overruns the West in
a few decades? Are you ready for that?

Tom said at September 23, 2004 2:22 PM:

Invisible Scientist, I didn't suggest Africans would colonize Europe either.

"When in doubt, blame colonialist for everything. They'll be doing it 100 years from now, all 2 billion of them."

I was probably a bit ambiguous. What I meant was in 100 years from now Africans, 2 billion of them by than, will sill blame their terrible situation on colonial rule of yesteryear.

John S Bolton said at September 24, 2004 12:48 AM:

For the African population to increase as it has been growing, requires that others provide, invent develop and distribute vaccines, public health interventions, drugs, pesticides and more. If these are not forthcoming, and without foreign aid programs increasing from tens of billions, to perhaps double the level of today, the population of Africa will crash. With zero aid getting in, their numbers could easily fall 90%. Look at the fast-declining life expectancies in southern Africa; and even a few years ago, villages had been found where everyone over the age of 14 had died of AIDS, or perhaps, had long since fled the responsibility of taking care of the others. To save the African, though requires aggression on the net taxpayer, and the treason through which, the tax money of a decent country is diverted to the foreign pestholes, among other official projects of a damaging nature. It was aid programs like imperialism and foreign aid which generated the high population growth of Africa; when the conspicous altruists playing Albert Schweitzer with money taken by aggression, throw in the towel, as they have been starting to, the death which follows is also greatly magnified.

noone said at September 24, 2004 5:17 AM:

"Eventually biotechnology will advance to the point where Western nations will be able to supply Africa with treatments to cure its major diseases"

Not if the Left manages to do to biotech what it has done to pharmaceutical companies.
The number of new drugs under developement has dropped drasticaly due to relentless politcal attack and several drug companies have simply abandonded R&D on AIDS drugs as the cost is huge and they will not be allowed to recoup the costs,a great victory for the gay left,indeed.

Invisible Scientist:

The Apartheid regime?Man,that is soooo 1980's,Islamic terrorists are the new trendy oppresed group we're gonna liberate from imperialismcolonialismcapitalistismracismsexism.

The Brits were in India for 300 yrs and most of Africa for only around 100-200 yrs.You need to pull your head out of your ideology,buddy.Africa's big probelm was the post-colonial rise of marxist strongmen exploiting primative tribalists,supported by western twits who love any 3rd world thug with a red bandana and an AK47.

The future is not global,it's tribal,better get on good terms with your tribe right now.
Mass terrorism is coming here and the backlash will be huge and unpleasant for those on the wrong side.

Jake said at September 24, 2004 6:22 AM:

"Tom: I gave India as an example for those who successfully built a good country with
democracy and a good educational system after colonialism, without any excuses,
and without any rancor against the British."
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Uh, well, fair-minded people can debate the pros and cons of British colonialism in India but I can tell you with certainty that the last part of your statement isn't true, at least for a sizable fraction of Indians: There is tremendous rancor against the British from a lot of angles. I'm not arguing one way or another if that impression is fair or justified, but it's definitely present. One thing you need to remember is that in the late 1700s, just prior to Plassey, Clive, and the first sustained British and French military operations, India was the world's 2nd-richest country after China, both of which together accounted for 35-40% of the world's economy. (I know India wasn't technically a "country" then-- the connected politico-cultural unit roughly corresponding to the Mughal Dynasty on the Subcontinent, if you like, had this distinction. Respectable levels of wealth, literacy, and all the other goodies of civilization.) At the time of independence in 1948 following the destruction of the British Empire from the World Wars and increasing nationalism, India was a basketcase in many respects, and the Brits get a lot of blame for this. You can call it the spoils of empire if you want, but the Brits did indeed take a lot of the region's most valued treasures back to the palaces and estates of the aristocrats in the Isles, and the continuing British possession of the Kohinoor provokes a terrifying rage in many Indian people if you mention it: This was their crown jewel in many ways, and now it's among the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London. In some respects the Kohinoor's also a proxy, a representative focus, for other grievances as well, but whatever the reason, Indians (and that includes expats in the USA, wealthy, professional kids who were born in the 50 states) are quite furious about Britain's possession of it. And it's not just looted goods.

During the period of British rule there were a number of truly horrific, Biblical-scale famines in many portions of India, with the 2nd half of the 1800s (basically after the Sepoy Rebellion and British imposition of direct rule) seeing some of the worst ever mass starvations in recorded history-- 30-40 million killed. And the Bengali Famine of 1943-- 2-3 million killed-- is cited by some Indians as a "British genocide" since it took place at the same time as all the mayhem in Europe. Now, again, one can argue substantially about who was to blame for the famines here, but in the eyes of many Indians British rule (or misrule) was at the heart of it. Although representative institutions were beginning to gel at some levels, India at this point was undoubtedly *not* a republic-- not a representative democracy in any sense-- in its own right. Whatever the UK did in its own Parliament back home, India itself was effectively a dictatorship, ruled by British administrators and pliable proxies. There was inevitably some mucking around with food prices and shipment of South Asian harvests to other outposts of the Empire (a la 1840s Ireland during the Potato Blight), plus the East India Company was never particularly happy about competition from native industries on the Subcontinent, with the resulting suppression of local commerce. (Apparently the Indian cloth and weaving industries were hit especially hard.) So large portions of India were maintained at barely sustenance level, in the perception of many, as a result of deliberate policies, and when the ground on the farms became stingy, the British were hardly in a hurry to remedy the problem or transport food. These famines probably enrage Indians more than any other single factor, and they blame the famines squarely on the British.

There are some other irritants too, with the use of Indian youths as cannon fodder in British wars also ranking pretty highly. (WWI rankles Indians just as it does Anzacs, though in the case of India, they seem to be more pissed off about that horridly blundering defeat the British suffered in the Anglo-Afghan War in 1842, when a British army of nearly 20,000-- many Indians-- was almost entirely wiped out retreating from Kabul.) But whatever the specifics, there's a lot of residual anger among Indians today toward the British, both within the Subcontinent and among the expats. I learned this the hard way myself in college when I tried to argue about the positives of the colonial period including the roads, banks, and at least the seed of democratic institutions. An Indian acquaintance spent 10 minutes dressing me down about that belief and filling me in about the Bengal famine and the looting (which, frankly, I hadn't studied in my world history texts). The French, after all, built many nice roads and institutions in Vietnam, but that didn't stop the Viet Minh from rebelling against them and ruining their party in 1954. The same goes for India.

You can't use the excuse in India that the British "brought civilization and a functioning society there" since India already *was* a pretty wealthy and advanced society in the first place, and however you try to spin it today, most Indians see the British period as one of humiliation, looting, and suffering, in which the losses to India by far outweigh the gains. To the extent that India is modernizing today, they give about zero credit to the British; in their eyes, they were on the way to modernity in the late 1700s before the British came in and, in their opinion, robbed the place like a career felon who woke up one day in a jewelry store, setting India back severely in the process. You can agree or disagree with these perceptions, but you should never, ever assume that Indians today feel no bitterness about the Raj, or do not resent the British. Your mileage will vary depending on whom you discuss this with, but there is at least a sizable fraction of Indians who, if trot out the claim that their country benefited from British rule, will tear you a new asshole. This is still a very sensitive issue for them, and they'll make sure you know about it.

Invisible Scientist said at September 24, 2004 7:09 AM:

Jake:
Thanks a lot for the enlightening data. I did not know that the suffering, famine under the British
rule was so bad. In any case, I did not mean that the European culture was superior to Indian
culture, since when I was a high school student, I used to belong to an Indian meditation cult ().
ALL I am saying is that from my interaction with Indian people in the US,
I see that the Indians managed to build a successful country with a good ecucational
system that incorporates both the British system and their own local culture, with a very good
future in science and technology, not to mention culture. And I STILL maintain that the Indian people
I meet, are NOT full of hatred or rancor against the West, although they surely remember the past.
Instead, the Indians are able to move forward with a new culture, instead of looking for revenge
against the Crusaders. India is a nuclear country, but it is not preparing to nuke and colonize
UK for revenge, and the Indian immigrants in the US are very assimilable.

Randall Parker said at September 24, 2004 12:33 PM:

Jake,

Before the Brits ruled in India famines were commonplace. In fact, for most of the world for most of human history famines were commonplace.

India was a larger percentage fo the world's GDP before industrialization took off in Europe. It then shrunk as a percentage of GDP. But was that shrinkage due to colonialism? I don't think so. It was a consequence of an enormous European success whose own explanation has many causes that all came together. India didn't possess the requisite set of conditions to duplicate European success and still doesn't.

Yes, Britain did bring civilization to India, if by that one means liberal democracy. That the Indians deny it and get angry about it does not prove the contrary. The fact that the Brits were not trying to produce exactly what they created also does not prove the contrary. See Stanley Kurtz's essay on the British Raj, post-WWII Japan and Germany.

Randall Parker said at September 24, 2004 12:34 PM:

Invisible Scientist,

I do claim that European culture is superior to Indian culture.

Invisible Scientist said at September 24, 2004 1:24 PM:

Randall Parker,

I disagree with you. Although I left the Indian meditation cult I used to belong in high school,
I still have good memories. I believe that the Indian culture is superior to the European culture,
and not the other way around.

Even the Nazis basically copied the Indian swastika which is a magical sign of power.
In fact, when the Nazis discovered that a French philosopher wrote a book which claims
that "Israel" was the ancient Indian God "Ishvra-El" (get this: Ishvra-El is claimed
to be the god of Intellect and Finance, very Jewish), then the Nazis burned all these books when
they invaded France during World War II. I have found one of the surviving original copies of this French
book in a library in California, but recently, the French publisher managed to publish more copies also.

In any case, the Indian computer scientists and physicists are making major discoveries now,
and they will surpass Europe in a few decades. Incidentally, the regular map of the world that
is the most popular in most American and European high school class rooms, was designed by the
racist German mathematician Mercator, who projected the 3 dimensional sphere in a distorted form
to make Europe bigger than the Southern counties... which means that if you look at the corrected
"equal area map", India is actualy bigger than ALL of Europe.

Tom said at September 25, 2004 5:09 PM:

So India has a superior culture because of a. the swastika b. a goofy French philosopher who makes assertions not based on facts and c. It's land area... okay...

Brenda said at September 25, 2004 9:11 PM:

Invisible Scientist... Culture is more than having a few productive scientists cranking out patentable items. I find Indian culture to be despicable in the extreme for its brutal treatment of women and girls.

India is home to an ongoing genocide against women and still has the gall to claim itself as a spiritual icon. There is an enormous surplus of Indian men because females are so despised that they are killed off. Sixty Minutes reported in 2000 that India is missing 22 million women and girls because of sex-selective abortion, infanticide and the murder of adult women by their husbands for insufficient dowries. Others, including Nobel prize winning economist Amartya Sen, have estimated that the number is twice that or more.

While many Americans view India as a culture with an admirable spiritual tradition, exemplified by yoga and meditation, it has other religious customs which are not so benign. Southern India is home to a religious practice known as devadasi, in which young girls of lower caste are forced into sexual slavery to local priests. But since they are "married to the god" that makes their misery socially acceptable. The girls never see their families again and are eventually sold as prostitutes, and these days often succumb to AIDS. Officially outlawed in 1988, the custom continues in rural areas.

India's traditional animus toward women has been aided by technology. Through fetal scans, a medical procedure designed to improve the health of mother and child, Indian parents are now able to abort unwanted female fetuses, a practice which has noticeably affected the nation's gender balance. The PBS Newshour reported in 2001 that five million sex selection abortions in India were performed the previous year, presumably a normal number. As a result, there has been a shortage of young women for marriage. But there is apparently little recognition at ground level that a society with a huge preponderance of males cannot work. Indians still hold to the traditional belief that the birth of a more than one girl indicates punishment for bad behavior in a past life.

Oh, and remember the noxious Indian caste system with 'untouchables' and other human rights travesties? It's still there.

As a former yoga student who thought Indian culture was wonderful, I was very disappointed to learn that the reality is quite different indeed.

Robin said at September 26, 2004 7:07 PM:

Invisible Scientist,

"Incidentally, the regular map of the world that is the most popular in most American and European high school class rooms, was designed by the racist German mathematician Mercator, who projected the 3 dimensional sphere in a distorted form to make Europe bigger than the Southern counties."

I thought only the most cranky Afrocentrists believed this.

Firsly, Mercator was Flemish not German.

Secondly, accusing someone of "project[ing] the 3 dimensional sphere in a distorted form" ignores the plain fact that this is true of all projections of a sphere onto a plane. The Mercator projection gained widespread use because it preserves angles. A straight line drawn on such a map can be reached on a fixed bearing, which is what navigators have traditionaly needed. It's not a way of making equatorials feel bad.


PS: Randall,
Great website!

Invisible Scientist said at September 27, 2004 11:53 AM:

Robin: Thanks for the correction. There are more than one Mercators,the Flemish one did the
"Mercator projection" from 3 to 2 dimension, but the way he did it, made the Northern Hemishphere
much bigger than the Southern Hemishphere. In the Mercator map, Even Greenland looks bigger than
many Southern countries. But the Equal Area Map, is another representation,where all countries are
represented with the correct surface area, in such a way that this distorts only the shape of the
countries a little bit, but it shows that India is bigger than Europe. In any case, note that some
people from the Southern Hemisphere, made a Southern version of the Mercator map, with things
written upside down.

Brenda, I do apologize for the misunderstanding, I was just trying to find an excuse to argue
with Randall Parker, if Indian culture was more sexist than European culture, then I am very
disappointed with this aspect of the Indian culture. Same thing with the caste system also... But until
recently, the European culture was also very bad, in its feudal and sexist aspects.

JM said at September 27, 2004 12:10 PM:

Jake is right. The British Raj was a holocaust to Indians - even worse than the Islamic barbarism. True, the Islamic barbarians ruled for 700 years and accounted for about 100 million Indians dead and enslaved - the worst genocide in history. But, the British were no better. They accounted for 30+M dead in 200 years, but they did something that the jihadi scum never did - reduced a prosperous land into poverty. BTW, when the 1943 Bengal famine was at its peak, the British (and Americans) did organize an airlift of food and supplies. But it took materiel away from India and dropped it on China!! The Raj was so culturally superior that in the midst of a famine that saw the deaths of ~3m people, it sought to undertake a massive airlift to China from India, but would not send food trains to Bengal within India itself.

http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwii/articles/airlifttochina.aspx

BTW, Bengal is where the second largest delta in the world is. There is no reason for Bengal to have famines except horrible misrule. There were droughts outside of the Gangetic areas in pre-British India, but they did not end up being famiines. I would like to see cites showing otherwise.

Brenda, the current treatment of females in India is bad, I agree. But it is a direct result of both the Islamic rule and the British rule. Social custom of pre-British India included a cash grants from parents to women at the time of marriage and property inheritance to sons. These cash grants were the property of the women to tide them over if they were widowed or if there were other crises. What did the "cultured" British do? They, of course, ruled that it was barbaric for women to hold property or cash and abolished the idea of female ownership of property. So the bride's property became the property of the groom in one stroke of a pen and this is how dowry became a demand on women. This is the origin of modern India's mistreatment of women and has nothing to do with Indian culture as such.

Oh, I am sure that someone will bring up sati. Here is the lowdown on it. For 700 years, Islamic invaders would kill adult males and take women as sex slaves. This is how millions of Gypsies ended up in Europe. At some point, Indian women decided that it would be better to die than suffer as sex slaves. So when they knew that their men were defeated in a war against the Islamic barbarians, they would commit ritual suicide by immolating themselves. At some point, this went from a purely voluntary suicide to a sometimes forced burning and murder. This is the origin of sati. By the mid-1700s the Moghuls were defeated and there were no reasons for sati. The Hindus themselves campaigned against it and it took the British years to abolish it.

This is a pattern that repeats. India became free in 1947, ratified its constitution in 1950. The first order of business by Indians for Indians was Hindu reform. There was a Hindu Code Bill of 1948 and again in 1956. There was a pent up demand for change that the British simply did not care to do anything about. Indians did in a few years what the "cultured" British were unwilling to do in 200 years!

As for untouchables, I guess it was perfectly okay for the "superior" British to say, "Indians and dogs not allowed" and you don't have a cow over it. But a society under foreign domination with no chance for systemic reform for a 1000 years does grow detritus. Hindu society ain't perfect, even though it is aiming for perfection.

Randall Parker said at September 27, 2004 5:09 PM:

JM,

So you blame it all on the British and Muslims. Hindus unique among human groups once had a glorious past where there were not huge famines. This is fantasy. This is pure fantasy. Recurring famine was commonplace throughout the world until the Industrial Revolution. Then it became uncommon in parts of Europe and eventually in a number of other parts of the world.

You aren't going to convince me of your Hindu nationalist fantasy version of history.

JM said at September 27, 2004 9:04 PM:


Randall:

I am not interested in convincing you of anything other than the fact that both the Muslim rule and the British rule over India were utter holocausts for Indians. Your insistence on whitewashing the genocidal record of the British conquest is the one that is based on fantasy. Your Euro/Anglophilia has blinded you to the facts and robbed you of good judgment. Hindu rule of Indians has been far better to Indians than either the British rule or the Islamic regimes. This is true of pre-Islamic India and it certainly is true of post-colonial India as well.

Invisible Scientist said at September 28, 2004 3:43 AM:

THIS COMMENT IS FOR BOTH JM AND BRENDA:

JM WROTE:
-----------------------------------------------------
"Jake is right. The British Raj was a holocaust to Indians - even worse than the Islamic barbarism. True, the Islamic barbarians ruled for 700 years and accounted for about 100 million Indians dead and enslaved - the worst genocide in history. But, the British were no better. They accounted for 30+M dead in 200 years, but they did something that the jihadi scum never did - reduced a prosperous land into poverty. BTW, when the 1943 Bengal famine was at its peak, the British (and Americans) did organize an airlift of food and supplies. But it took materiel away from India and dropped it on China!! The Raj was so culturally superior that in the midst of a famine that saw the deaths of ~3m people, it sought to undertake a massive airlift to China from India, but would not send food trains to Bengal within India itself."
------------------------------------------------------------


Whether India has a good culture that is at the level as Europe or not, the point is that India IS
on a solidly secular path, and it is making great progress in that direction. But on the other hand,
a more radical type of Islam is gaining ground in most Islamic countries, and in the Far East,
India is the ONLY militarily significant ally of the US and Europe against the Al Qaeda based
Islamic war against the West. And some Islamic extremists are saying that they have the right to
conquer not only the disputed land in the North of India, but even ALL of India. Now if India
falls in the future, then the Europeans, and espicially European women, will have a lot to
fear just in case Europe also gets dominated by the future Islamic minority that will gain political
power when they become more than 50 % of Europe, because the rights of Women in Europe will be
even less than what they were in India. At that time, the European women would be even
better off in today's secular India than the Islamic Europe of 2050.

Pavel said at September 28, 2004 4:40 PM:

Discussions with hindu fundamentalists are futile. The hindu nationalists are as impervious to the truth as the jihadists. Until westerners introduced medical advances in their colonies, famine and disease kept the population stable. The problem with indian history is few records have survived. The records that do survive paint a complicated picture. Emperor Ashoka's army slaughtered a hundred thousand people in the battle of Kalinga.

JM said at September 28, 2004 6:10 PM:


I see responses with ad hominems ("Hindu Fundamentalist!") or "ad hand-wave-ems" ("India must have had famines"). How about some real facts? Do you dispute that Bengal had massive famines during the Raj? Do you dispute that during the last famine, there was a massive airdrop going from British India to China and no such effort to ameliorate the famine?

BTW, a "Fundamentalist" is someone who holds that some sacred text or the other is literally true. What text(s) do you allege that I hold literally true?

Oh, Pavel... You forgot to mention what Ashoka did after Kalinga. Overcome with grief and horror, he repented, gave up on war and conquest and worked to improve the welfare of his subjects. There are any number of conquerors in history. But Ashoka is probably unique among emperors in his remorse over conquest, and that is the source of his fame in Indian history, not the conquest itself.

Randall Parker said at September 28, 2004 6:36 PM:

JM,

Before the British showed up the reason the Indian population did not grow much larger is that they all used birth control pills? Or, no, maybe they used diaphragms? Perhaps spermicidal jelly? Or maybe they were all celibate most of the time except when they wanted to have 2 children?

My mind boggles at the assertion that there was some golden age of Hindu rule in India during which there were no famines (if that is what you are asserting).

As for the reduction in hunger in India post-independence: I'd place more of the credit on Norman Borlaug and other agricultural scientists in America than I would in Hindus in India's socialist governments. India's population was able to grow because strains of rice, corn, wheat and other grains were developed that produced much larger yields.

Capitalism and science have lifted much of the world out of hunger. If the Brits had run the post-1947 governments I'm sure you'd now be blaming them for forcing socialism on Indians to keep them poor and hungry. But Indians did that to themselves. Though I'd blame anti-Imperialist Lefties in Britain for popularizing ridiculous Marxist dogma to Indian intellectuals.

JM said at September 29, 2004 11:49 AM:

Randall said: "My mind boggles at the assertion that there was some golden age of Hindu rule in India during which there were no famines (if that is what you are asserting)."

Your point would be much stronger if you could provide evidence of mega-famines in pre-colonial or pre-Islamic India of the scale that the British Raj perpetrated.

I don't understand the devotion to the British. It is not like India was the only place where British-caused famines took place. Do you tell the Irish that there must have been famines in the past and that British rule was great for them during the Potato Famine years? Also, it was with good reason that the Americans got rid of British rule.

BTW, as bad as the "Hindus in India's socialist governments" were to India, the much derided "Hindu rate of growth" was several multiples better than the British Raj's results. And this was in the two decades before Borlaug too. Borlaug, probably the most deserving Nobel prize winner, had nothing to do with the Raj.

sonya said at October 12, 2004 3:14 PM:

I Agree

Rajiv said at November 26, 2004 12:05 AM:

Just a series of observations on a discussion that was getting progressively nasty.

1. Europe ( especially Britain ) owes its industrial revolution squarely on the exploitation of India. The loot ammassed from India in the second half of the 1700s was one of the drivers to the nascent industrial revolution. Also british policy of actively discouraging Indian Industry / artisanship and peasantry at the same time positioning her as a market for finished goods from britain - this increasingly drained india of its riches ( it was not the the gems and valuables that were looted that counted for much ). These policies increasingly contributed to the declining GDP of india - on a global scale. A slightly different but very similar policy was followed in China ( as china was not totally under European control ). Please note that heavy taxation and exploitation resulted in in no less than a couple of dozen famines in Bengal alone within 200 years. Overall India suffered more than 50 famines resulting in a conservative death estimate of 30+ million. Some people claim that the overall count could be as high as 70 million. The first 'Great Bengal Famine of 1770' took 10 million lives - that of 1/3 of then most populous and prosperous state of its time. The state has never been able to acquire its economic pre-eminence since. In this respect please note that ever since India has won independence there have never been mass starvations of this nature during droughts.

2. Starting with the middle ages India became a more feudal state ( aka rest of Europe ). European feudalism got dismantled gradually as a result of first the french and then the industrial revolution and then the two world wars. If you consider that india has been industrializing at a scale of the European nations only recently you can count about as much time 50-100 years for feudalism to be totally eradicated from our society. Hence the indian society is still overwhelmingly agrarian in outlook. This is what has led to an environment which heavily discriminates against women, a society which still has huge fissures of caste and religion. However if any of you lives in india for a while would know the magnitude of changes taking place in india. The new and growing middle class is slowly breakng down all these barriers. It will take time for it to become visible. But yes it is there. An an interesting aside do you know caste discrimination was abolished by the constitution of the newly independent republic of india much before segregation was outlawed in the US.
. Yes there are horrible discrepencies in the Indian society. Social attitudes are appaling and yet if you look deeper you will see that ultimately it is a question of means. A society with more or less equitable distribution of money is able to guarantee irs citizens rights. It has the means to carry a social conscience and the power to enforce it. In a society where such a thing is absent there is a lot of strife. The indian society resembles the british and European societies during the late industrial revolutions. But mind you it is changing and changing fast.

3. While I sincerely respect the achievements of the western civilization I beg to differ from the assumption that there is no other alternative. In Asia Japan has been one such nation which escaped the dragnet of imperialist countries. it has developed and has shown that it has been less than none - and all this without sacrificing the essence of its culture. While the British did bring administrative unity to India please remember that the same was the case during the Mughal period. India may have survived or flourished in some other form. Ignoring the benifits accruing from British rule would be ignoring history. However let us remember that such benifits were not really 'meant' for indians. Railways and an administrative system was meant to perpetuate colonial rule. An administrative systems existed during the Mughal and other periods - maybe such systems could have adapted to the changing realities as happened in rest of Europe and Japan. Again during British rule India was effectively a dictatorship - post independence India made a choice of becoming democratic unlike most of its contemporaries. India has stayed that course ever since inpite of - at times unbearable problems. That is a credit to India and not to Britain.

4. Lastly about what Indian culture is. Recently someone told me that the problem with India is its diversity. I retorted that that is her strength and her oppurtunity. Most other states are either monolithic or share some very common trait. India is one such state which does not. it is a shining example of how different people can live together. India has never been one nation or one people. It has always been a melting pot of many races, religions, creeds and ideas. If we start dividing India on the basis of all of these parameters there would be virtually no end to the number of divisions that may result. The solution of course is to live together. Of course we have not yet got this process right - that is why we have religious riots and caste tensions. However we hope to get it right - becuase that wil be a confirmation that different people can live together - it would be a hope for the unity of Europe, for reconciliation between Arabs and Israel and many other such things.
India has been an especially open nation - always ready to imbibe foriegn influences. it has been a melting pot - throughout the ages a kind of what America is now. India has been at the spiritual heart of Asia - with early Indian culture, religion and philosophy influencing much of Asia. India has had a multitude of religions that grew out of it and travelled outwards. India was also the last outpost for certain religions beleagured due to intolerance in various other parts of the world. India is the place where a majority of the worlds great religions, its great languages, its greatest cultures meet. India has also been a melting pot of a qualitatively different shade of Islam - which was tolerant and egalitarian ( and which preserved and coexisted with the many other religions for most of her history ) - this reached its hieght during the Mughal rule - and the ensuing arts and architecture have enriched us considerably.
The most recent example of India's cultural multiplicity is how European cultures, languages, and influences have been absorbed compared to other Asian nations.
There are many other instances of what indian culture is - but it cannot be encapsulated in a few sentences here. So I would not say anything definitive. I hope what I have already stated will help you build up a more favourable view of India.
Any opinions on the same - please feel free to write to me.

Randall Parker said at November 28, 2004 3:03 PM:

Rajiv,

Much has been written on The Rise Of The West and it had many causes. But the idea that riches from India caused England's rise has one big problem with it in my view: The riches of the New World did not drive a similar industrial revolution in Spain. The riches from Brazil didn't drive an industrial revolution in Portugal either. At the same time, nations in Europe which had fewer and less valuable colonies were also industrializing.

Trade certainly helped England and colonies expanded the size of the area in which England traded. But there were many other causes that were of equal or greater importance such as the existence of scientific societies to spread knowledge of discoveries and the development of coal mining techniques and better steam engines. The British Empire was more a symptom and result of England's industrial might than a cause of it.

Rajiv said at November 30, 2004 7:49 AM:

Randall

I wish by no means to belittle Britains achievements particularly in the scientific and other fields. What I wish to do is provide another perspective for the rise of the west . I certainly do agree that there was great deal more too to England's ( and the West's ) rise over the centuries.
Where I would disagree is that in belittling the impact of colonial exploitation on the rise of the west. I suspect that even though Spain and Portugal had huge colonies which abundant resources in the new world - non of the nations in the new world were established economies of its time - nor had they any significant contribution (purely in terms of wealth) to the world economy. Loot from the latin american colonies was basically plunder and land grab.
The word loot had peculiar connotations to Asia. The economic philosophy that caused the 'Great Irish Famine' was a tool that was sharpened over succesive decades in colonial India. One sided trade and descriminatory trade regimes finished off indian industries and tradecraft of its time. Indiscriminate and harsh taxation produced a series of famines - as I had mentioned. Further it was this same economic policy that had caused the 'Opium Wars' in China. All this when a Japan that was not colonized thrived - again perhaps by exploiting colonies abroad. Scientific especially technological progress does not occur in a vaccum - it is driven by demands and sustained by an economy. I have no doubt that colonization of India (amongst other colonies) which immediately preceeded the Industrial revolution was the essential and most important economic factor (but underappreciated) for Industrial Revolution in Britain.
When I say this I intend to take nothing away from the British Political institutions, its forward looking philosophy (at that time) and its enterprising people. What I would like to see recognized properly is certain unpleasant realities of that time.
And all this without rancour or bitterness for another people.

Paul said at January 7, 2005 10:17 AM:

I join this debate after having read the speech of President Thabo Mbeki, Moeletsi's brother, in the Sudan in which he asserts that Brtish colonialism has contributed to causing the present problems in Africa! This from a man to whom we gave asylum to protect him from the tyrannical Afrikaner Apartheid regime in South Africa. As an exile here in the 1960s he attended Sussex University and then worked in the London office of the ANC - we treated him as one of our own! Now, having enjoyed our hospitality and taken advantage of the education structure that British culture had to offer, he turns round and blames our forefathers as the cause of most of the ills that are affecting Africa today!

I may be in a minority here but I have to say that I am very proud of the Empire my forefathers' developed and ran - especially on the educational, cultural and administrative front. OK some of our military and political leaders made incompetent decisions and cruel racist acts were committed on the natural people at times, but overall I contend that the Empire provided our ex colonies with a solid framework for democracy and administrative efficiency.

The fact that the democratic infrastracture has been abused, misused, and corrupted by certain power-crazy African leaders since is no fault of ours - it has simply been the victim of tribal warfare, incompetent administration, racism, religious fanaticism, and out-of-date political dogma!!

Moeletsi Mbeki is bang on the ball when he says that 'Africa was better governed under colonial rule than it is today.' My forefathers did indeed build its roads, railways and cities and introduce efficient farming methods but there's one thing you can't do as the ex coloniser, after independence, and that is impose a leader that you think is the best man for the job.....that is up to the people via the ballot box! >> And thereby hangs another tale!!

Klaasvakie said at June 16, 2005 7:04 AM:

Paul, you wrote "the tyrannical Afrikaner Apartheid regime in South Africa". Please remember that whereas "apartheid" refers to a terrible political ideology, "Afrikaner" refers to an ethnic group. It would be wrong to condemn an entire ethnic group because of the actions of a few tyrannical nationalists. Remember that many Afrikaners also had to go into exile (just like Mr. Mbeki) in order to escape the apartheid regime.

Norman said at November 22, 2005 3:54 AM:

i read a speech by Mr Mbeki, as a South African, I agree with some of the points that he makes. Many elitist black South African are benefiting from their connections to further enrich themselves.

But let us also take a practical way in which the new beneficiariess could help to develop the economy. New ideas, as Mr Mbeki says need to be encouraged to create new products and services. But history has taught us that the rich to not have the motivation to think about brilliant ideas and value adds. They instead use their money to bully other and buy companies with their money because their intelect could to create new welath.

Now, in South Africa we have an ideal situation where the new beneficiaries could put down a fraction of what is their earnings to startup and promote new special creative products. They can also help by becoming consumers of the selfsame products. In this manner internal economic expansion will take place.

Very often, developing countries like ours, look at foreign capital and markets to buy and grow them. If they educated and supported their own we would broaden consumerism at home as well as production. Its a pity that our black countrymen prefer rather to adopt a charitable approach that Western countries have held us so long with. If you are spoonfed you develop no hunger to create for your own needs.

To other Africans, If you live in a thriving economy, it becomes so much easier to spend your moeny because everybody has thier own money.

Norman said at November 22, 2005 3:54 AM:

i read a speech by Mr Mbeki, as a South African, I agree with some of the points that he makes. Many elitist black South African are benefiting from their connections to further enrich themselves.

But let us also take a practical way in which the new beneficiariess could help to develop the economy. New ideas, as Mr Mbeki says need to be encouraged to create new products and services. But history has taught us that the rich to not have the motivation to think about brilliant ideas and value adds. They instead use their money to bully other and buy companies with their money because their intelect could to create new welath.

Now, in South Africa we have an ideal situation where the new beneficiaries could put down a fraction of what is their earnings to startup and promote new special creative products. They can also help by becoming consumers of the selfsame products. In this manner internal economic expansion will take place.

Very often, developing countries like ours, look at foreign capital and markets to buy and grow them. If they educated and supported their own we would broaden consumerism at home as well as production. Its a pity that our black countrymen prefer rather to adopt a charitable approach that Western countries have held us so long with. If you are spoonfed you develop no hunger to create for your own needs.

To other Africans, If you live in a thriving economy, it becomes so much easier to spend your moeny because everybody has thier own money.

Norman said at November 22, 2005 3:54 AM:

i read a speech by Mr Mbeki, as a South African, I agree with some of the points that he makes. Many elitist black South African are benefiting from their connections to further enrich themselves.

But let us also take a practical way in which the new beneficiariess could help to develop the economy. New ideas, as Mr Mbeki says need to be encouraged to create new products and services. But history has taught us that the rich to not have the motivation to think about brilliant ideas and value adds. They instead use their money to bully other and buy companies with their money because their intelect could to create new welath.

Now, in South Africa we have an ideal situation where the new beneficiaries could put down a fraction of what is their earnings to startup and promote new special creative products. They can also help by becoming consumers of the selfsame products. In this manner internal economic expansion will take place.

Very often, developing countries like ours, look at foreign capital and markets to buy and grow them. If they educated and supported their own we would broaden consumerism at home as well as production. Its a pity that our black countrymen prefer rather to adopt a charitable approach that Western countries have held us so long with. If you are spoonfed you develop no hunger to create for your own needs.

To other Africans, If you live in a thriving economy, it becomes so much easier to spend your moeny because everybody has thier own money.

Zuleigha said at March 14, 2006 5:32 AM:

i just wanted to comment to Paul, when he mentioned that the president studied in the UK, used the education and now insults the way the UK colonized Africa and India.

The truth is simply that the British had the ideology that they were better than the savages in Africa and India. THat is what some of them still think because that is how they were brought up. Its an ideology, a way of thinking.

Firstly, Islam is NOT terrrorism. There just so happens to be a few of them who are terrorists. Similarly one cannot accuse all whites of racism, or all British as thieves.
Islam is actually the most liberal of religions if studied properly. You are not forced to do ANYTHING. The woman are treated with repect. we do not give dowries, instead the male is required to give the woman something of value when they get married so she has her own wealth. the money she earns is HERS.
He may not marry another wife is she does not want him to. We do not have to wear scarves and be covered from head to toe. these are all choices for our benefit cause God knows best. When we say God knows best, he does. Honestly, what do mere mortals know?? he created EVERYTHING so to try and question to understand why he says what he said, is like explaining the Black Scholes formula to a new born baby. there are things that God ordered for our own good.

i am not saying do not question and explore, but i believe in a god that cares for his creations. do i sound like a terrorist?? So please dont asociate all muslims as terrorists cause we arent.

Secondly, im also Indian, im a muslim Indian. My father was very happy when i was born, he didnt want to bury me alive. We have traditions, which the West might not always understand. Family is most important to us. We try everything to protect and love them. Our traditions are not babaric, but your ideas of Islam and Indians are way out dated. Its the new millenium please!!!

Thirdly, back to the comment where the President accepts the UK education but then insults the country, oh please, i stdied at UCT, 3/4 of the students are white, and whats their comments " oh after my degree im going to the UK to work cause there are no jobs in Sa for white females"

"Honey, if you think its so rosy over there, why dont u get ur bloomin education over there as well" i dont work hard and pay tax to send spoilt racist kids to university if they cant appreciate SA. i mean then why not stay here if you think the UK is so bloomin gorgeous?

i think whoever doesnt want to be in SA should just move out, and if you want to make all this comments about colinization having no negative comments on South Africa you fantasizing.
We can build our own roads, actually we did, Africans did all the hard labor anyhows, the british just played Boss and pretended to own something that wasnt theirs.

i may not have some fancy history degree or use big words to describe whats happening in South Africa and the ROW but please dont generalise its so cliche!

lightbearer said at March 25, 2012 4:17 PM:

What is all this clap trap about India. The only favours The British did to India was to put the final nail in the coffin of the Turkish raping Mughal Empire. India experienced "ZERO" famines before the British Raj. Mughal Emperors ruled with impunity sometimes murdering and sometimes raping. But they never once allowed people to starve en masse. The great famines of India were caused by the British as a policy of population redistribution and also as a revenge move in response to the FIRST WAR OF INDEPENDENCE or as you may call it The Indian Mutiny... There really is some garbage stuffed in the heads of the sons and daughters of Abraham... Its very very amusing to see unaccomplished Colonisers acting like experts... Wonderful thing this Internet... Wow... India is no comparison Africa. Even Gandhi didnt even secure rights for Africans when he did for Indians in South Africa...


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