posts 16 - 26 of 26
sand
Posts: 13

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

In my mind, there is no justification for colonial control over a nation. Justification implies that the ends justify the means, or that the pros outweigh the cons, and that simply is not true to me. The “justifications” only ever come from the colonist nation, because for them there are no cons that need outweighing. It is not their people, nor their language, nor their culture, nor their environment that suffer; their nation thrives without consequence. The colonized receive generational trauma, a depletion of resources, and longstanding instability. There is no balancing act- the goal for the colonizing country is to tip the scales in their favor, and the best way to do that is to break off the opposing side.


What is described in Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is not the extremes of colonialism, because I frankly believe that colonialism in and of itself IS the extreme. He describes how African labor was not used to make themselves money, but for the white man to “rescue” them “from their indolence”. This was slave labor, and it was deemed an appropriate method- hell, it was a praised method, and the norm. Even Africans who weren’t working in ivory gathering or other physical labor weren’t safe. Merchants would be held at *gunpoint* to accept extremely low prices from Europeans. CHILDREN who did nothing wrong but *laugh* were given FIFTY lashes by a horrifying Hippo hide whip that was designed to be particularly painful. They pushed so many terrifying ideas and condoned unspeakable crimes against humanity. Hochschild described it as draconian, but honestly even that harsh of a word doesn’t even begin to describe the extent of the everyday horrors that took place across the continent. It would be a disservice and a disgrace to chalk it up to “extremism”, because this IS colonialism.


I think that many of the short term effects of colonialism quickly turned into long term effects that hindered the development of African nations and their modern status. They were stripped of their natural resources with ecosystems ravaged and environments on the road to destruction. On top of that it is impossible to ask people who have undergone such severe trauma to not just rebuild, but to do it all from scratch. So many western European countries are considered very modern and wealthy because they’ve stolen it, and continue to profit from their theft. I know particularly the British Museum is notorious for having taken countless items from their colonies and refusing to return them to their countries of origin. They will use them to put on display and gain revenue from tourists, but the vast majority of their artifacts are *hoarded* away in private archives. The tourism/travel industry is the largest global industry by size of employment and 5th largest in terms of revenue. Just imagine what gaining back cultural artifacts and increased tourism revenue could do for some countries. Oftentimes the colonizing nations will argue that- oh well we CAN'T give you back your things because- because you just can’t take care of them properly like we can :(( (bs). An obligation of the colonizing nations and frankly the very least they can do to their former colonies is to give them back their damn stuff- not withhold something they have no right to possess in the first place.


Answer to Babybackribs: I think while recognizing the role African elites played in facilitating the slave trade, it’s vital to acknowledge that the type of slavery introduced by Europeans after the “discovery” of the Americas was unlike anything anyone had ever seen or even thought of before. I think the distinction between what they knew and what was truly going on is important, because there was no way for them to know the scale of the effects.


Question for the next: How do you think schools should approach teaching this topic within classrooms? When and how much do you think is appropriate to cover? Should the time spent differ? For example does it make a difference if it’s an American school vs. a British one? What would you say to those who oppose this in the curriculum altogether?

green64
BOSTON, MA, US
Posts: 11

The justification for the people in power was their greed and inhumane beliefs, they would do anything for wealth even if it means killing and even rape. In order to somehow get some sort of justification for it so they had to come up with ideas such as the White man's burden which was the belief that the “Europeans” had a burden of conquering the “savages” and civils them. But really it was flawed logic to deceive the public of the crimes that were being committed.


Certainly not for the country being colonized, sometimes the mother country would strike fair deals but most of the time the country was being used as a resource till the dry out. Often countries such as Britain will go into places like India and rip apart the infrastructure creating a reliance and market on the mother country. This led to a one-sided deal in which the colonized country became almost entirely reliant on the Mother country for almost every aspect of life whether its food or tea or even thing that are made in the country that got taken to be sold back to the people. What finally happens when they live isn’t like a dark cloud being lifted but rather further economic and humanitarian collapse. The colonist nation gets land which oftentimes has cash crops, gold, pivotal trading posts, and a whole bunch of people to tax into poverty. Almost all conquest was thought of as an economic endeavor allowed to be accomplished by any means necessary and with any force needed. Oftentimes the mother country would strike deals with people in power or threaten them rather than taking over the position themselves making it easier to control the people without causing an uprising. The only people in the colonized nation that would get any benefit would be the people already in power, the working class and poor would have horrible lives oftentimes forced into slave labor. As well as being killed whenever they tried to protest unfair treatment like raised taxes, or the taking of their homes such as in India during the Jallianwala Bagh.


What really stuck out to me is how strongly Leopold seemed to believe in the colonialism ideology and how driven he was to continue Belgium's conquering. Along with that was how he presented himself as a good dealing person but was truly just a monster, who saw Africans as savages who were in the way. On top of that, he struggle to keep the peace there was always rebellion or mutiny that lasted for years on end.


Europe destroyed the entire growth and hope of a Continent. They set them back 50 or 100 years just as the countries where starting to industrialize, this has to lead to an even further gap being growth between Africa and almost any other developed country. In the 20 years there has been 50 times as much technological growth as there was in the last 100, but this is reserved for the developed countries so countries in Africa who got set back by Europe are now even furth set back because they are reaching this incredible growth 30 or 40 years after everybody else.

bigbear
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

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

Colonialism: The policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically. In my opinion, colonialism is a practice that should never be done because we should never control other countries. However there could be some justifications and I think that the most reasonable would be if that country is struggling and not able to take care of itself, and needs resources from the colonizer. The nation that colonized another nation would be able to provide the people with the resources they need and the food they may need and support them in their time of need.

However it usually doesn't work out like this and they don't want to waste many resources on this colonized nation, and this happened when the US colonized other nations such as the Philippines, and people didn't want to take care of that nation and "waste" their resources. They made many posters, and graphics of the American people treating them as babies, however, the main reason a nation would colonize another nation is to get resources outside of its own borders and get materials you couldn't get before. As I said before the colonized nation would be able to get the resources from the colonialist nation, and they would be able to get the same materials they use, and the same materials they have because they were colonized by that nation. They would be supported by that nation, get the support they needed at the time, and have protection if attacked by an outside nation.

King Leopold's Ghost showed us why colonization is such a problem and shouldn't be done. People often worked for low pay or even no pay at all and had to struggle to survive in this rough environment. Women were used for sex against their will and weren't able to call for help because they were being attacked by the colonizers. These people in this country were viewed as less than human, and shouldn't be allowed to be at the same level as them, and instead should grovel at their feet. Last year in AP World I watched a movie about a colonized nation and playing cricket. The people in this nation had to pay high taxes either through food, or money and because they gave the colonizers their food they weren't able to feed themselves at times. they didn't see this nation as people on equal footing but instead as a nation that can be used for its resources. This showed me the horrors of colonization, how it affected the people in this nation, and how they had to grovel at the feet of the colonizers in order to survive this harsh environment.

Africa is a very underdeveloped country due to colonization, and they weren't able to catch up to the fast-growing industrializing nations due to being colonized and ruled by these developing nations. They didn't have the luxury of making machines or taking part in the industry market because they were forced to pay high taxes they weren't able to pay and didn't have the time to develop. I saw this through the news but as well as in cinema as well because if you look at their movies the people in Africa have not developed their movies to the point industrialized nations have, and it doesn't look like they are even close at all. Even though Indian movies are much better, and even able to compete a little better than African nations they are still lackluster in terms of the CGI used in these movies, and lacking compared to industrialized nations. This showed me how much colonization affected these nations looking at the difference in the movies as the difference in technology in African countries. Africa is slowly trying to catch up to the rest of the world, but because of this setback, they find it hard to catch up with the rest of the nations. Personally, I don't know if the former colonizers are doing anything to help these nations get back with the rest of the world, and to make it worse many of these countries aren't part of the league of nations continuing to not let some of them voice their opinions on matters concerning them.

How long will it take these nations to catch up with the rest of the world despite these set backs.

bigbear
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

Originally posted by johndoe on January 19, 2023 19:46

RPossible justifications for colonial control over a nation can include the belief that the colonizer is bringing civilization and Christianity to "uncivilized" or "heathen" peoples, as well as the desire for economic gain and resources. In the case of King Leopold's Congo, the Belgian king justified his colonization by claiming that he was "civilizing" the Congo and ending the slave trade, but his goal was primarily to exploit the Congo's resources for economic gain.

There can be benefits to colonialism for the colonizer nation, such as access to resources, markets, and labor. In King Leopold's Congo, the Belgian king and his companies profited greatly from the rubber trade, which was made possible by the forced labor of the people of Congo. However, these benefits were almost exclusively for the colonizer, while the colonized nation suffered greatly from the lack of access to resources to trade, as well as the resource tax by the colonizer nation. The people were subjected to brutal treatment, including forced labor, torture, and murder. They also experienced loss of land, culture, and autonomy.

The reading from Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost is indicative of the extremes of colonialism. The atrocities committed in the Congo were particularly atrocious, with millions of people dying as a result of their treatment. The exploitation of the Congo's resources for the benefit of the Belgian king and his companies, while the Congolese people suffered greatly, is a clear example of the worst excesses of colonialism.

In the short-term, this led to the forced labor, exploitation of resources, and displacement of indigenous populations. Further into the future they ran into more issues, such as the borders drawn by colonial powers not taking into account ethnic and cultural divisions, leading to ongoing conflicts and tension between different groups. The colonial powers also imposed their own systems of governance, which often did not align with traditional systems, and this has led to ongoing political instability and corruption in many African nations. Additionally, the economic policies imposed by the colonizers, such as the extraction of resources and the suppression of local industries, have left many African countries dependent on a single commodity, making them vulnerable to economic fluctuations.

Responding to Martha $tewart, I do think that some of them felt appreciated, but that it was a false sense of security in their current positions/jobs.

Question: Stripping the valuable natural assets of these countries obviously made them more prone to disaster. Do you think that the current political situations of any struggling African countries be any different if they had more resources to compete in the international market?

I believe that the African counties would definetly have a better chance to catch up due to these resources but I don't believe that this is the only problem in these coutnries. Even though their resources are a big problem they also don't have the best economical situations, and sometimes not enough food in their nations. Also I believe that even if these people have the resources I don't know the reason why but I think the already industrialized nations would pulll away from these African coutnries quickly, but I don't know the reason why.

Martha $tewart
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 12

Reply to sand

Originally posted by sand on January 19, 2023 23:21

In my mind, there is no justification for colonial control over a nation. Justification implies that the ends justify the means, or that the pros outweigh the cons, and that simply is not true to me. The “justifications” only ever come from the colonist nation, because for them there are no cons that need outweighing. It is not their people, nor their language, nor their culture, nor their environment that suffer; their nation thrives without consequence. The colonized receive generational trauma, a depletion of resources, and longstanding instability. There is no balancing act- the goal for the colonizing country is to tip the scales in their favor, and the best way to do that is to break off the opposing side.


What is described in Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is not the extremes of colonialism, because I frankly believe that colonialism in and of itself IS the extreme. He describes how African labor was not used to make themselves money, but for the white man to “rescue” them “from their indolence”. This was slave labor, and it was deemed an appropriate method- hell, it was a praised method, and the norm. Even Africans who weren’t working in ivory gathering or other physical labor weren’t safe. Merchants would be held at *gunpoint* to accept extremely low prices from Europeans. CHILDREN who did nothing wrong but *laugh* were given FIFTY lashes by a horrifying Hippo hide whip that was designed to be particularly painful. They pushed so many terrifying ideas and condoned unspeakable crimes against humanity. Hochschild described it as draconian, but honestly even that harsh of a word doesn’t even begin to describe the extent of the everyday horrors that took place across the continent. It would be a disservice and a disgrace to chalk it up to “extremism”, because this IS colonialism.


I think that many of the short term effects of colonialism quickly turned into long term effects that hindered the development of African nations and their modern status. They were stripped of their natural resources with ecosystems ravaged and environments on the road to destruction. On top of that it is impossible to ask people who have undergone such severe trauma to not just rebuild, but to do it all from scratch. So many western European countries are considered very modern and wealthy because they’ve stolen it, and continue to profit from their theft. I know particularly the British Museum is notorious for having taken countless items from their colonies and refusing to return them to their countries of origin. They will use them to put on display and gain revenue from tourists, but the vast majority of their artifacts are *hoarded* away in private archives. The tourism/travel industry is the largest global industry by size of employment and 5th largest in terms of revenue. Just imagine what gaining back cultural artifacts and increased tourism revenue could do for some countries. Oftentimes the colonizing nations will argue that- oh well we CAN'T give you back your things because- because you just can’t take care of them properly like we can :(( (bs). An obligation of the colonizing nations and frankly the very least they can do to their former colonies is to give them back their damn stuff- not withhold something they have no right to possess in the first place.


Answer to Babybackribs: I think while recognizing the role African elites played in facilitating the slave trade, it’s vital to acknowledge that the type of slavery introduced by Europeans after the “discovery” of the Americas was unlike anything anyone had ever seen or even thought of before. I think the distinction between what they knew and what was truly going on is important, because there was no way for them to know the scale of the effects.


Question for the next: How do you think schools should approach teaching this topic within classrooms? When and how much do you think is appropriate to cover? Should the time spent differ? For example does it make a difference if it’s an American school vs. a British one? What would you say to those who oppose this in the curriculum altogether?

I think that schools should teach about this topic in a way that doesn't try to disguise how terrible it was or excuse it as being something from a long time ago. The history of racism is important to learn about for all grades, but something as gruesome as the colonization of the Congo might not be appropriate for younger kids. Because of this I'd say it should start being taught in middle school. Normal history classes (like the ones that aren't Facing History) should discuss racism and the effects of colonization on the way we think about race and ethnicity throughout the curriculum instead of just having a unit on it. I don't think it should differ in British or American schools. Of course, King Leopold was from Europe, but America also has a history of colonization that should be addressed. To those who oppose having something like this in the curriculum, I would say that if the younger generation doesn't learn about the past, they are bound to repeat it.

ilovesharks44
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 12

The Conquest of the Earth.....is not a pretty thing.

  1. There is no justification for colonial control and the effects it has on the conquered people of any nation, however, one of the major arguments by colonizers was that it was their duty to ‘help’ the people in Africa and they were therefore just doing what they were meant to (by eurocentric ideas of God/'natural order'/social darwinism). They considered those they conquered to be uncivilized and in need of saviors to bring them into ‘their place’ in Europe’s social hierarchy. While this was their justification, in reality, their conquests had the opposite effects and worked as a massive setback for the colonized people more than anything.
  2. The benefits of colonialism are only felt by the colonizers in their gain of labor, natural resources, and opportunity to expand their economies. They get the benefits of expansion without using significant resources or efforts of their own to accomplish it (as seen in King Leopold's Congo where white Europeans saw the Congo as nothing but an opportunity to get rich). For those who are colonized, it’s the exact opposite. Their pain and suffering are exploited for the benefit of everyone but themselves.
  3. While the descriptions in this book seem like they must be as extreme as imaginable, they are unfortunately closer to the norm of colonialism. Colonialism is made possible by the exploitation of native people, and this can be seen with the atrocities not only committed in the Congo, but also in the Americas and much of South Asia. The groups of people in each of these places suffered greatly at the hands of their colonizers and were subjected to absolutely horrific treatment from the removal of hands described in King Leopold’s Ghost to the widespread enslavement of native people by Europeans in South America. Time and time again the pattern of atrocities committed against the colonized makes it clear that colonialism was designed with complete disregard for human lives other than the colonizers’.
  4. The short term effects of colonialism include the extreme violence that was mentioned in the book as well as the reduction of African societies to broken versions of their pre-colonial selves. In the long run, colonialism forced the ethnic diversity of Africa into defined categories that didn’t necessarily represent who they were. Likewise, it created borders and boundaries that created tension and barriers between people.

Response to @bigbear: I think that it's difficult to quantify the time that it will take for the effects of colonialism to fade, but it is very important to recognize them and understand the complex history that has contributed to their current states. In the end, it's less of a question of how long it will take, but rather if the world will ever get to a point where those responsible own up for their mistakes and make an effort to help where damage was once done.


My question is: what are the effects of the division and boundaries created by the Europeans? If they hadn’t ‘carved up’ the continent in that way, would political lines be the same or at all similar to as they are today?

fancyclown
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

Colonizing the Kongo

I’m not sure I think that colonial control over another nation is ever truly justified, unless the nation itself isn’t doing well and requests another, more powerful nation to assume political and economic control over that country. However, I don’t think that’s a case that comes about too often. I understand the motives to assume control over another country from the colonizer’s political and economic perspective, but the reality of how incredibly destructive colonization can be to entire cultures, government systems and the people themselves is much more prominent. The colonialist nation in charge can use and sell the resources from the nation they control, that could be rare or not found elsewhere, and they also gain political and economical control over the pre-existing government and funds there. Not only all that, but there could also be a military advantage of having territory elsewhere, disconnected from the nation doing the colonizing itself. A sort of built in ally, militarily speaking.


The biggest thing I got from Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost was the sheer ignorance in the colonizer’s perspective. The white men assumed charge over areas of the country almost immediately, completely ignoring whatever existing government or rulers there were there. And even if the colonizers didn’t strip those existing rulers of their power they would still have more power than the existing rulers, and the existing rulers would almost just act as a familiar face to the people who used to respond only to them. As well as the “foremen,” African soldiers led by the white colonizers who were given the job of oppressing other Africans, giving chicotte blows. Essentially turning them against each other. I think some of the longer-term effects of colonization in Africa can be seen culturally, European-looking buildings, languages mixed with European languages, and a general blend of African and European styles. In addition, there’s definitely still a lot of distrust towards Europeans in Africa, rightfully so. I’m not sure there really are short-term effects of colonization, since it essentially changes everything about a country. Changing the culture, government, and oppression of the people has long-lasting effects. Do you think colonization is at all possible without oppressing the people who were already residents of the country? Is it unavoidable?



fancyclown
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 14

Originally posted by ilovesharks44 on January 20, 2023 10:18

  1. There is no justification for colonial control and the effects it has on the conquered people of any nation, however, one of the major arguments by colonizers was that it was their duty to ‘help’ the people in Africa and they were therefore just doing what they were meant to (by eurocentric ideas of God/'natural order'/social darwinism). They considered those they conquered to be uncivilized and in need of saviors to bring them into ‘their place’ in Europe’s social hierarchy. While this was their justification, in reality, their conquests had the opposite effects and worked as a massive setback for the colonized people more than anything.
  2. The benefits of colonialism are only felt by the colonizers in their gain of labor, natural resources, and opportunity to expand their economies. They get the benefits of expansion without using significant resources or efforts of their own to accomplish it (as seen in King Leopold's Congo where white Europeans saw the Congo as nothing but an opportunity to get rich). For those who are colonized, it’s the exact opposite. Their pain and suffering are exploited for the benefit of everyone but themselves.
  3. While the descriptions in this book seem like they must be as extreme as imaginable, they are unfortunately closer to the norm of colonialism. Colonialism is made possible by the exploitation of native people, and this can be seen with the atrocities not only committed in the Congo, but also in the Americas and much of South Asia. The groups of people in each of these places suffered greatly at the hands of their colonizers and were subjected to absolutely horrific treatment from the removal of hands described in King Leopold’s Ghost to the widespread enslavement of native people by Europeans in South America. Time and time again the pattern of atrocities committed against the colonized makes it clear that colonialism was designed with complete disregard for human lives other than the colonizers’.
  4. The short term effects of colonialism include the extreme violence that was mentioned in the book as well as the reduction of African societies to broken versions of their pre-colonial selves. In the long run, colonialism forced the ethnic diversity of Africa into defined categories that didn’t necessarily represent who they were. Likewise, it created borders and boundaries that created tension and barriers between people.

Response to @bigbear: I think that it's difficult to quantify the time that it will take for the effects of colonialism to fade, but it is very important to recognize them and understand the complex history that has contributed to their current states. In the end, it's less of a question of how long it will take, but rather if the world will ever get to a point where those responsible own up for their mistakes and make an effort to help where damage was once done.


My question is: what are the effects of the division and boundaries created by the Europeans? If they hadn’t ‘carved up’ the continent in that way, would political lines be the same or at all similar to as they are today?

I think there is a lot of internal conflict within Africa now as a result of the division and boundaries created by the Europeans, and the cultural differences existing now as a result of the different European countries that colonized different areas. I think that it's hard to know whether or not political lines would be different or similar than they are today, but I think they would most likely be defined more so by natural barriers, mountains, rivers, things that separated original communities in Africa.

the_rose_apple
Posts: 13

Colonialism has always brought about the destruction of culture, peoples, countries, and languages. It has never (and will never) benefit the colonized peoples whose populations severely decrease because of it. There is no amount of power and money that can justify the deaths of millions of people and severe abuse (sexual, physical, mental, and emotional). Colonizers, like King Leopold, claimed to be doing the “right” thing by putting his colonized peoples to work (and making a profit off it), but in reality, all he did was murder both the people and the nations that he colonized. No nation should have the control or power to invade another nation, unroot those cultures and nations, and then claim it was for the right reason. Even if a country doesn't force the colonized peoples into forced labor and/or make a profit out of it, they have no right to impose their culture, customs, or rule over other people.


The only benefit of colonization is the spreading of ideas/inventions. After that there is no benefit, especially for the people colonized. If the colonizers try to spread their inventions, ideas, or medicine, then it would benefit the colonized but nothing else would. Being ruled by foreigners impacts their lives in some way, and in the case of Africa, it was never in a positive way. Most times throughout history technology, medicine, and ideas aren’t spread to the colonized, unless it directly (and most times monetarily) benefits the colonizers. The oppressed peoples didn’t receive any aid or advantages, but abuse and violence was never missing. In the Congo, European colonizers beat, whipped, murdered, and cut off limbs of the colonized peoples (without shame or hesitation), if they inconvenienced them in any way, big or small.


Hochschild describes the extremes of colonization as the slight, but significant, distance between the officers and the peoples they unjustly rule over. That distance allowed the Europeans to have no sympathy or care about/for the Africans they brutally forced into hard labor. It’s a small distance, which was supported and encouraged by the era’s racial superiority beliefs. Hochschild compared their distance to Nazi commanders being used to violence and brutality happening in concentration camps: “To tell you the truth, one did become used to it.” It’s extreme and sadly it was common. The colonization “norm” was to profit off, or at the very least boast about, their colonized peoples and land. That territory would be used for harvesting favorable goods, hard factory work, and giving the colonizers (mostly Europeans) bragging rights over each other.


Imagine two children who each have a toy. But they’re children, so they want more. After one child is successful in getting another toy from the pile sitting across the room which they were told did not belong to them and was clearly labeled with other people’s names, they show it off. They’d say to the other “haha, I have another toy, and you do not.” The other child gets jealous and walks across the room, grabbing an armful of toys and brags to the other child that they have even more. Without the permission or care about the people whose toys they just took, they repeat this process. That is European colonialism.


Short-term effects of colonialism would be the death of millions of people and the abuse they lived through during the time they were colonized for. It includes the people who bled to death after having limbs cut off or due to the cultivation of rubber in the fields, those who were left exposed to the elements and hunger, those who were shot, those who didn’t survive the new and dangerous diseases brought by the Europeans. The long-term effects of colonialism started before colonization became a common practice. It started with the birth of racism and the racial superiority. What Europeans felt that justified their merciless acts was African and other race’s inferiority. They felt that their white/lighter skin color made them better in every way to those who looked different or had a darker skin color. The belief of superiority drove them to colonization and it, unfortunately, still exists today. Many people view Africa and other non-white countries as less “developed” (even though those “undeveloped” countries had rich cultures, traditions, and societies - they could’ve lived perfectly content without the help of others). The destruction of beautiful cultures, peoples, and of important land - which is very important in many of those cultures, is and was caused by colonialism.


My Question: What kind of reparations do you think should be forced upon European colonizers at the benefit of the colonized?

Response to fancyclown: I think colonization always brings about the oppression of people. Even if the colonizers are tolerant and only lightly oversee its colonized territory, they’re still leaving an impact on those people. Overseeing that nation could, and probably would, limit their economy and their policies. A more extreme view of oppression would be the murder of millions of people through acts of violence, disease, or ethnic cleansing.

Bolt
Posts: 11

Colonizing the Kongo

There is no possible justification for colonization. There are reasons for why a country might want to colonize another, but there is nothing that justifies colonization. In the reading, it didn't even seem like King Leopold tried to justify what he was doing, like he knew it was wrong but didn't care, and believed his own wealth was worth it.

There are a lot of benefits to the colonizing nation, especially if they are colonizing somewhere like the Kongo that has a lot of natural resources that they con profit off of. The Kongo was hugely beneficial for King Leopold and Belgium, and it made millions of dollars. It provided free slave labor, many natural resources like ivory and rubber, and political power. In exchange, the people of the Kongo got their land destroyed, their families murdered, and a society that would never be the same.

The language that Hochschild uses depicts what happened in the Kongo as pretty much the norm of what happened in colonized nations. I think that he did a really good job emphasizing how awful the things that happened in the Kongo were, especially by including personal accounts of what happened. Ilanga's story really hit home for me how awful what happened was, and all the things she had to go through just because white people wanted power and money. Her village tried their best to avoid conflict and keep peace with the soldiers, and the soldiers still treated them worse than animals and just had absolutely no compassion or care over what they were doing to these people.

Colonization completely impacted the way that the countries within Africa developed and how Africa as a continent is seen by the rest of the world today. During class, we did the activity with the map, where we tried to name as many of the countries and where they were on the map. I think this activity really highlighted how Euro-centric our education is in the United States. Often times, people forget that Africa is a continent, and that there are many very different countries and climates throughout the continent. It is also assumed that African countries are all not developed, and don't have modern technology, and sometimes will even go so far as to think they are inferior to the rest of the world. The nations that colonized carry some of the responsibility for this, as well as full responsibility for the trauma that people who were colonized had to endure.

Question: How do we begin to fix or try to make right colonization not just of Africa, but also of the United States? Obviously nothing will ever make up for the atrocities that occured, but are there changes we can make to try?

Sharka
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 10

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

There have been many arguments made in justification of colonialism, but all of them are fundamentally untrue. For example, many people have argued that European colonization has brought “civilization” to cultures that didn’t have access to different European innovations or standards. However, this argumentally is essentially positing that the civilizations brutalized by colonial Europe were “uncivilized” and therefore deserving of their subjugation by an inherently superior people, quickly leaning into white supremacist ideals. The fact of the matter is that there is no real standard of what a civilization should or shouldn’t be, and to impose upon another peoples’ right to freedom of choice is to impede on their rights on human beings. On top of this, the only possible way to believe this argument and support it is to misunderstand what colonialism is. Many people who take this side either have a watered down perception of what colonialism has been, or are biased against the colonized people in question in a way that makes them feel the brutality is insignificant. In order to justify the actions of the Belgians in the Kongo, one must either not know the full truth of what the Belgians committed or they must think so lowly of the Congolese that the torture, rape, displacement, brutalization, exploitation, and murder of their people is beneficial. As there is no real justification for actions so despicable and sadistic without violent bias or misinformation, there is no real justification at all.


There are no benefits to colonialism, because the only benefits are gained by an oppressing party at the cost of an exploited party, and therefore all of the benefits are self motivated and come at the expense of anothers’-- making any gains sacked from the people immorally and unethically sourced. The Belgians got away with enslaving and butchering the Congolese for years, fueled by violence and racism that still exists today. Their monuments, palaces, great sculptures and archways of marble and precious metal all rest on the graves of millions of innocent people. Can that truly be considered a benefit? Absolutely not. Colonialism can only ever be considered beneficial with a self-absorbed, “first-world”, and discriminatory mindset, and that is only an opinion. The murder and enslavement of innocent people can never be justified or considered beneficial.


I think that the reading indicates the norm of colonialism, which is an extreme in and of itself. Adam Hochschild was writing to expose the reality of Belgian colonialism in the Congo, where atrocities that shocked the world were committed. King Leopold’s Ghost has been widely acclaimed as a source that effectively demonstrates the crimes committed by the Belgians under King Leopold and counteracts the lack of acknowledgement of the atrocities that occurred in the Congo. However, as horrific as it is to say, this is far from an extreme in the broad history of colonialism. Too many times has colonialism quickly turned into genocide, into slavery, into war. The atrocities in the Congo were extreme, and they were despicable, but colonialism has historically been fueled by racism and violence just as it was in the Congo. The Europeans in the Americas, the Europeans in Africa after the Berlin Conference ((and even before that during the Middle Passage and African Slavery), the Americans in Hawai’i, the Europeans in Australia and the broader Oceania, and countless other instances of colonialism and imperialism being established– all of these events resulted in mass death, brutalization, and displacement. It was under these colonial powers that people were forced out of their homes and into chattel slavery, into the Encomienda system, into residential schools, into inhospitable deserts and forests, into concentration camps, and into destitution that would wreck indigenous populations and cultural preservation for centuries to come. Colonialism has always been exploitative, violent, and cruel. Colonialism has always set countries up for failure, for how can a country thrive once stripped of its materials and thrust into political turmoil in the wake of generational, brutal loss? Why do “third-world” countries or the “global south” exist, despite being geographically situated in some of the greatest material hotspots on the planet? The answer is because they have been invaded and imposed upon by colonial powers for years. The violence under colonialism is so deeply scarring that its effects reverberate throughout history for ages to come, and the oppressive institutions formed under colonial rule take hundreds of years to rework and abolish until a halfway just system is formed. Congo was only one of the regions of Africa claimed by the Europeans. In Africa, European rule resulted in literal genocides spanning years of occupation. Colonialism normalizes the extreme under the premises of racism and white supremacy, condoning violence and destroying the extension of empathy towards the innocents under colonial rule.


The short term effects of colonization of Africa is the mass death that occurred. The immediate result is the damage that the Europeans committed while they were the colonial power. However, the long term effects of that damage are issues that Africa struggles with to this day. Many African countries did not gain independence until as late as the 1990s. The African countries that experienced colonization were forced into racial apartheid by white settlers. The systems set into motion by the colonizing parties were inherently oppressive towards the indigenous Africans and led to continual discrimination and mistreatment. Many of the indigenous Africans who were forced off of their native land have not been able to return to it. Many African countries have fallen into political turmoil in the aftermath of European colonization and constant destabilization from European or American forces. Despite all that they have taken from them, plenty of former empires still hold their former colonies responsible for debts, keeping many places impoverished. The reality is that colonization never died, it just changed its shape. Plenty of these countries are still exploited today, through sweatshops, factories, plantations, mines, and more. Africa is abundant with natural resources, and yet people starve and thirst and struggle and die. Africa isn’t “poor” and Africa isn’t full of “third-world” countries, Africa had everything and everyone taken away continually over hundreds of years. The only way that colonizing powers can ever begin to account for the damages they have caused are by redistributing land to indigenous people, paying reparations to the descendants of those who they murdered and enslaved, and by working to fix the institutions in place that have upheld violent racism within Africa since their rule. At the very least, European countries could work to cancel Africa’s debts. In 2019, more than 30 African countries were forced to prioritize paying off debts above healthcare. It does not have to be this way. Colonialism is very much alive, and it has to stop.


posts 16 - 26 of 26