My ponderings about colonial rule

“My feelings dominate my thoughts about colonialism. These are about the loss of personal freedom and political independence; the imposition of foreign religio-cultural values and the consequent denigration and attempted destruction of the cultural beliefs and practices of the con¬quered and oppressed people; and the subversion of the local economy and much of the way of life of its workforce to suit the trading and other economic wants of the coloniser. After all, the interloper was not there for the benefit of the so-called natives; for instance, to teach us how to govern ourselves (as an English friend of mine was taught at school).

My family’s exposure to empire was somewhat prosaic, until I pushed a young British police officer through a hedge at about 2 am one night. … … “

(The above are extracts from ‘On empires gone and going’ in ‘Musings at Death’s Door.’

No human being will accept being forcibly controlled by foreigners. Recently, and strangely, a member of an English family which had ruled one of the African territories during the colonial era accused me of being ‘biased’ against the British.

I had to point out gently that I had been brought up not to dislike or have negative feelings about the British people. But, like the rest of those who had lived under the thumb of British colonial officials, we hated colonial rule. We were anti-colonial, not anti-British.

A former British colonial official then told me recently that the leaders of a newly-created African nation had thanked him and his fellow colonial rulers as they departed for Britain. I doubt that he would contemplate the reality that he was being thanked for leaving.

I am happy to say that the few retired British colonial officials I met in Australia were nice people; we socialised with some of them. Indeed, in my work, I met a former deputy governor of an African territory who, having been a vice-chancellor of an Australian university after that, was then the chairman of a committee involved in migrant settlement issues. This erudite urbane man did change my mindset about the human quality of colonial rulers.)

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