Please watch this video, followed by the following video:
I have read many books on India preceding and during British rule from many different perspectives and as a child spoke to many old people who were nostalgic about the British. What does nostalgia mean? It means that they all celebrated independence and had a nuanced bitter sweet understanding of the English. They spoke about the English as they were, warts, strengths, good aspects and all. Aspects of English policy and English colonization of the mind are mixed or negative; but the Anglo people themselves enriched India greatly. Anglo means English nationals who lived a large part of their lives in British India and mixed English/South Asian ancestry descendants. One of the great tragedies of South Asian history is that many Anglos left South Asia. India would have been better off had the English lived on in India as patriotic Indian citizens and continued to serve in high positions inside India alongside their fellow Indians. Hence the bitter sweet.
It is incredibly sad that most young people who now discuss “colonialism” aren’t deeply curious about history and don’t carefully study and analyze all aspects of colonialism as it was, reading writers in the 1700s, 1800s, and early 1900s; interpreting what they read from the perspective of the authors. Too many young people today see colonialism and analyze most of their problems in day to day life through the irrational prism of structuralism, post modernism and marxism. This leads to bad analysis, bad problem solving, and less successful careers and businesses. Which in turn lead to lower standards of living and greater poverty.
What is a rational framework to analyze the success and failure of colonialism? This previous Brown Pundit article outlines a methodology to analyze colonialism. The question isn’t whether colonialism was “just” or “right”, but rather understanding how South Asians (referring to South Asians as historic Indians in this article) were effected by colonialism in great granular detail. Many panelists emphasized that the English didn’t do the “good things” they did for Indians and this is mostly true, but I think irrelevant from an Indian perspective.
Many negative aspects of English rule were discussed in the prior article, but I would like to summarize mixed to positive aspects of English rule:
- The whole world owes England immense gratitude for re-uniting India into a single united country; and a great force for global good. British India in this did God’s work.
- England brought enlightenment philosophy to India, as discussed in the previous article. I believe that enlightenment values were inspired by ancient eastern philosophy.
- England liberated India from Islamist rule
- England replaced Indian Shariah law with English common law
- England worked with Indian reformers to ban slavery. Slavery has existed almost continually in almost every country since the beginning of history, including historic India. But slavery was greatly exacerbated by Islamist rule.
- England worked with historic Indian reformers on child marriage, sati (to be fair this was never that common in historic India), and many other important social reform issues.
- England built strong historic Indian institutions which continue to benefit South Asians and the entire world today.
Of course there are a great many negatives too, including:
- Colonialism of the historic Indian mind with inferiority complexes, semiology , structuralism, post modernism, Fabian socialism, marxism; which continues to stifle Indian freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of art, freedom of music, freedom of creativity, freedom of intuition and freedom of feeling.
- The British should have started surging Indian capacity and institutions to prepare India for independence in 1858, including by providing modest foreign aid to India over two generations.
- British Indian institutions, including the ICS, Indian Railways, Indian Army, Indian Police, Indian Postal Department, Indian judiciary, were not completely merit based in promotion until the 1930s.
- Licence Raj big government regulations stifled the Indian private sector, Indian creativity, Indian intuition.
- The British abided by an informal code with Indians until WWI. Which is one reason most Indians patriotically helped the British and Allies win WWI. [Maybe in another article I can articulate why I think India “WON” WWI for the allies.] But then the English betrayed India by not giving India dominion status. This betrayal of the British informal contract with Indians is what set off the independence movement and correctly so.
- The British suddenly decided to rush out of India as fast as they could in 1945, without any regard to the welfare of Indians. Once the British decided to leave, they should have left in an orderly gradual fashion that benefited Indians at a timetable selected by Indians.
- Real per capita income growth in India was extremely low between 1858 and 1947. To me this is a very big deal and tragedy, but this point alone deserves an article.
- Too many other things to mention
One aspect that worries me about the above two panel discussions is how many young people comment with such certainty, without nuance, without the humility of what we don’t know, and without bothering to carefully study historical sources from many different historic authors who lived during the times in question. But the past is the past, all young people are free to their own opinions, and I am glad they even slightly interested in history. 🙂
The most worrisome aspect of the above two panels is how people blame colonialism for the challenges of today without a deep understanding of what they speaking about. By far the worst aspect of colonialism is the colonialism of the mind with inferiority complexes and post modernism. And the worst victims have no idea how much their minds have been colonized or how colonialism is still hurting them.
See 5 minutes 30 seconds into this video. Dr. Kehinde Andrews represents the worst legacy of colonialism and empire. To be fair he is by far the most extreme example post modernist thinking and inferiority complex of the probably more than 30 participants in both panel discussions. I have no doubt the majority of English people of African descent and African Americans disagree with him. But it is none the less true that less extreme versions of his ideas have done enormous damage to English nationals of African heritage. On multiple occasions he blames colonialism and empire for the challenges English nationals of African heritage confront today. The irony is that the way English colonialism and English empire are hurting English nationals of African heritage is through colonizing his mind and through the ideas in his mind. To be completely clear this is not a personal attack against Dr. Kehinde Andrews but a respectful complete inability to understand his point of view.
Incredible, indescribable, immeasurable power [“Shakti” in Sanskrit] flows through every human. Any human can do anything. No group of people is powerful enough to oppress any single human being.
It is time for the worst residue of English empire to finally end. But how to kill it? Does anyone have any ideas?
PS. Addition below:
- Here are some Indian perspectives on colonialism:
- Quotes from Swami Vivekananda on the British:
- “No one ever landed on English soil with more hatred in his heart for a race than I did for the English, and on this platform are present English friends who can bear witness to the fact, but the more I lived among them and saw how the machine was working – the English national life- and mixed with them, I found where the heartbeat of the nation was, and the more I loved them. There is none among here present, any brothers, who loves English more than I do now”
- “India has to learn from Europe the conquest of external nature, and Europe has to learn from India the conquest of internal nature.”
- “You have not the capacity to manufacture a needle and you dare to criticize the English
- fools! Sit at their feet and learn from them the arts, industries and the practicality necessary for the struggle of existence.”
- “They (Western people) will, no doubt, be your Guru regarding practical sciences etc., for the improvement of material conditions, and the people of our country will be their Guru in everything pertaining to religion.”
- “It would be better if the people got a little technical education that they might find work and earn their bread, instead of dawdling about and crying for service.”
- “If I can get some unmarried graduates, I may try to send them over to Japan and make arrangements for their technical education there, so that when they come back, they may turn their knowledge to the best account for India. What a good thing will that be!… There, in Japan, you find a fine assimilation of knowledge, and not its indigestion as we have here. They have taken everything from the Europeans, but they remain Japanese all the same, and have not turned European.”
- Vivekananda, S.. The Complete Works of the Swami Vivekananda. Vol. 1. Advaita Ashram, 1915.
- Ashokananda, “The Economic Views of Swami Vivekananda”. Prabuddha Bharata. November, 1930.