posts 16 - 19 of 19
Boston , MA, US
Posts: 13

“The Conquest of the Earth… not a pretty thing”: Colonizing the Kongo

The most common justification is “salvation.” Colonizers claim that are simply doing the colonized a favor by rescuing them, “benighted people, from their indolence.” Colonizers see their culture and fundamentally themselves as superior. Furthermore, Hochschild points out that colonization originates from the belief that the colonized people are less than human. Europeans saw Africans as “inferior beings: lazy, uncivilized, little better than animals.” These notions of racial superiority were also backed by widely-believed social Darwinism.Nonetheless, this savior complex based on religious righteousness is a weak excuse. It is plainly the colonizer's greed for wealth and power. Thus, colonial control over any nation is always for the benefit of the conquering nation. And the quickest and most effective way of achieving dominance is through exploiting a nation's resources.

There are numerous benefits to colonialism…as long as you are the colonizer. The colonialist nation reaps enormous economic gain through the exploitation of the lands resources and people. The colonized nation, on the contrary, gains little to nothing. Entire ecosystems are destroyed and villages are eradicated. The nation may ultimately have better infrastructure from the intensive trading networks and rapid industrial development, plus interactions between two nations will certainly result in significant religious, cultural, and linguistic effects, but these benefits are ridiculously small compared to the innumerable degree of suffering and pain of hundreds of thousands

The normal is violence and fear. Colonialist nations repeatedly relied on military strength to force the people into submission. For example under King Leopold’s rule, whippings were frequently held to instill fear and set “examples.” These public displays of violence were solely to establish authority. Another commonality was the shared belief between colonizers like Leopold that “both vacant and nonvacant land [were their] property," thus, "claiming a right to all its products.” The extremes of colonialism would be the disregard for human life particularly through punishments. Reading the last page made me feel sick to my stomach. Colonizers did not hesitate to kill thousands, strand newborns, mutilate human bodies, force the consumption of rubber, or strip away all human dignity from the colonized.

Short-term effects were the rapid economic growth of European colonialist nations. Long-term is the distinction between "First world" and "Third World" countries. Many African countries are some of the poorest in the world. And decades behind their European counterparts economically and technologically. Obviously, it is impossible for colonizing nations to fully repay their former colonial subjects, however, it is their obligation to fully acknowledge and recognize their history together. Former colonial subjects should also receive some form of funding that prioritizes education and healthcare in these nations as well as initiatives for technological developments and infrastructure.

My answer to "I love pink" question (On June 8 2022, Belgian King Philippe expressed regrets for the colonization of the Congo free state (now DRC), do you think this apology was enough from the King? If not, what could he have possibly said to or done for DRC? Do you think DRC should forgive the state of Belgium?):

I think that it would be unfair to blame King Philippe for the colonization of the Congo. It's important for leaders and nations to recognize their history, especially the ugliest parts. However, a mere apology isn't enough for DRC to forgive Belgium and move on, because frankly they are struggling with the repercussions of colonialism. I think King Philippe could have better expressed his regrets and his desire to move forward through actions rather than words.

My question: In what ways could America better grapple with its own colonialist actions and history, if America needs to at all?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 12

I strongly believe that there are 0 justifications for colonization, regardless of what the colonizer says. All colonizers have motives rooted in greed and racism. I also believe that there are only benefits for the colonizers and none for the colonized. The colonizer will get power, wealth, and control, but the colonized doesn’t get any of those things, and hundreds are killed or enslaved, and their cultures are attempted to be erased through forced conversion and assimilation.

I honestly believe everything described here was the norm. It talked about the poor treatment of the native people, often resulting in death, the destruction of the ecosystem (killing the elephants for ivory), and the money gained by the man in charge. This description fits the Kongo, but it also fits French rule of Vietnam, American genocide of Natives, enslaved Africans in the Americas, and like the text compares, the Armenian genocide by Turkey.

It is clear that economically and socially colonization of African nations has had an extremely long lasting effect on both a small and large scale. Bloodlines were wiped out that would still exist today. These nations are thought of as less developed and racial stereotypes form in the minds of Westerners which stem from the original colonization of Africa. Portugal and other colonizing nations would not be as powerful as they are today if not for their exploitation of other people. Native species of Africa may not have gone endangered or in some cases extinct and might still be plentiful today. And many of these countries have issues like overpopulation, disease, famine and drought, and war that really could be traced back to European rule. Actually, colonization isn’t over, think about American occupation of the Middle East for oil or the fact that places like Senegal, Cote d’Ivorie, and Chad are all still technically in debt, according to France. In debt for what? You’d think it would be the other way around.

Question: Clearly the effects of colonization are still present. Should nations with more wealth in power such as Spain, Portugal, and the US make more of an effort to help these places or do you think that would only make the issue worse? What responsibility do we have?

Reply: Education is one of the most important things we can do. Think about it - most people only know about this event because of an optional elective at a specific high school. Most people don't have access to this information. Past and current atrocities like this need to be taught, and taught accurately, so that they don’t continue.

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 7

In almost every case, the concept of colonialism is going to be a bad idea. Taking away the sovereignty of a nation is always bad, just generally, but there are some exceptions. If there is some government or institution at the head of a country that is actively harming part of their population, this could justify some invasion. However, this of course is not the same as colonialism, which would require some sort of colonization of that conquered country, which would include the exploitation of that place economically, which is basically never going to be morally positive. Therefore, there are really no cases where colonialism is a good thing. While it could help remove an authoritarian leader, or bring technology to a country, in all cases you are still exploiting the people that live there and not letting them decide for themselves what their country should be doing. Because of that, there are no reasons for colonialism to be used.

In situations of colonialism, like that of the Belgium control of The Congo, the colonists gained a massive amount of resources from slave labor of the native people in the Congo. On the other hand, the people in the Congo gained very little, and were treated incredibly poorly, with terrible living conditions, living under tyranny and terror. Many, especially those that lived in states that were colonizing others, believed that their colonization was necessary, and that it was actually helping those in the colonized states. However, while some new technology or ideas might be brought to those areas, the downsides are much, much worse. This also brings up the argument for colonization, which is that the people being colonized are “uncivilized”, and that Europe needs to come and “help” them through colonization. This continues to feed into the social darwinism that claims that black people, especially Africans, are genetically inferior, and that they need help from the genetically superior Europeans.

As for King Leopold's Ghost, as terrible as this story is, I really don’t think that this is much worse than most of the colonization that went on in Africa. Even with all the torture, imprisonment, maiming and terror that the Belgiums inflicted on the native people, in reality, it was most likely very normal for the European invaders into Africa. If this treatment was normal for those who were actually doing these actions, and it didn’t horrify themselves, then they must believe that there is actually nothing wrong with it, and because of that, it must be normal. Many of the people that went down to Africa from Europe believed that they were “escaping” from the society up there, and used the oppression of the African people, and here specifically people from the Congo, to do this.

The colonization of Africa has severely weakened African states. Throughout the years that they were colonized, massive amounts of resources and money were taken from these states and used to build and expand on different European states. These African states, who relatively were only just recently released from colonization, have had little to no ability to actually grow. They lack resources and money, and because of the time that they were under other countries' control, they lack strong political institutions. In general, the colonization of these countries have drastically harmed Africa, and massive amounts of work is required to help many countries in Africa to succeed.

Reply: At this moment, the US spends massive amounts of money helping developing countries, with around 350 billion dollars since World War II. However, this seems like it just isn’t enough. While this money is incredibly important and should continue to be funded, there needs to be some other solution to actually help build up African states that have been held down for years by other countries.

Question: Do you think that people living back at home in colonial European countries would actually care if they knew the brutality their own country was inflicting on others? If so, why was it happening in the first place?

Boston, MA, US
Posts: 5

There are many reasons why a militarily powerful country would choose to colonize another nation as it often greatly benefits the mother country, greatly boosting its resources and power (usually at the expense of the colonized peoples). There are undoubtedly benefits for the people doing the colonizing, but it often doesn’t outweigh the suffering that the people being colonized go through. The native peoples that are colonized are severely mistreated and thought of as lesser by the colonizers. The severity of it differs on each nation and time period, but Belgium’s colonization of the Congo is especially brutal. Resources are funneled from their land to a distant land while they toiled in scathing heat and conditions for little to no pay. If they didn’t cooperate, their hands would be cut off or tortured to death. Rebellion was difficult due to the overwhelming power of the Belgian military and how they would set the native peoples against each other.

The colonization of the Congo by Belgium was heinous, horrific, and a crime against humanity. But this was commonplace across Africa, by the various European powers that wanted a piece of the power and resources of the continent. The colonization of the Congo was especially brutal however, and stood out with how willing the soldiers and governmental powers were to mistreat the native peoples. Mutilation, chicottes, torture, these were all acts that shocked even other European colonists and Belgian citizens themselves. This kind of terror was unique to the Congo amidst the whirlwind or colonization across Africa.

The legacy of Africa’s colonization is still with us today. Time and money won’t ever repair all the blood spilled and wealth stolen from the continent. Not only was the colonization a horrifying affair, the attempted decolonization of Africa was equally discordant. Arbitrary lines made by white men have separate cultures and traditions from one another, wars fought over people and ideology. Europe invaded Africa, took much of its wealth, and left it reliant on its power and strength.

To answer the previous question, it’s difficult to say how the populace would react due to how varied the responses had been across Europe. For example, the citizens of Germany had a fierce outcry once they had learned of the genocide being committed against the Herero and Nama peoples. In another case however, they wouldn’t care about the health of some distant far off land as long as they grow more wealthy due to it. It’s extremely difficult to predict how people will respond due to the multitude of factors that impact the public conscious.

This is my question for the next person: How do you think Europe should be held accountable for their colonization of Africa and the whole world? Do you think the response has been enough, or do you believe greater action should be taken? Is Europe the only continent guilty of colonization?

posts 16 - 19 of 19