Friday, March 4, 2016

Colonialism, Racism and Liberalism

Let em start this off by saying I am not a supporter of any racist theories. In my mind, race is actually a relatively invalid concept. First, it is both too broad and too narrow, and even then, had we better defined it, it would be useless except for a few specific purposes1. I am a bit more ambivalent towards colonialism. Colonial powers did often mistreat locals, but then again, the colonized lands often had colonized closer nations themselves, or would have done it had they possessed enough of a technological or military edge. Most nations throughout history thought nothing of subjugating someone less powerful, and it is only in relatively recent times that such actions have come to be seen as wrong, and that only thanks to Western, enlightenment era thoughts that most liberals now denounce, oddly enough, as parochial, xenophobic and racist -- quite far from the reality. Still, many colonial powers did bring the good with the bad. I grant, the Belgian Congo, for example, saw a lot more harm than help, but, say, British India, did get quite a jump start on modernization, as did many African nations. And some even managed to maintain many western ideas of individual rights, rule of law and the like that have served them pretty well. This is not to say this justifies subjugating them and so on, but you need to be honest, and the colonial era did a lot to level out the world in terms of development. Were it not for the British Empire, it is unlikely many nations now competing with the West would be anywhere near where they are today.

But let us ignore that debate for now, as I am not going to write about my thoughts on race, or racism, or colonialism. No, what I want to discuss here is the mainstream (and sometimes far left) liberal take on these matters, as I think it is an interesting contrast to some of their other beliefs. And so, it really does not matter what I think.

So, let us look at the mainstream view.

To a liberal, it was wrong to colonize other nations. Even if they had oppressive governments, people suffering and endured terrible poverty and technological backwardness, it was not our place to tell them what to do. They are sovereign individuals who should be able to make their own decisions, even if we think them wrong, even if we believe them to be harmful. We must respect their rights to decide for themselves.

Likewise, for liberals, other races must be allowed to plan their own future. We may want to help, but we cannot know what is best for them, only they can. So we must let minorities do what they want, the only thing we can do is get out of their way2. What they choose may look like a mistake to us, but we are in no position to judge and must do no more than let them decide for themselves. To tell them what to do would be condescending and intrusive, and perpetuate the harmful myth that whites must care for minorities, which led to many injustices.

I did not mention it above, but much the same is also said of women, that we need to allow them the same freedoms to plan their own destiny, and that it is not the role of men to tell them what to do, to intrude under the guise of helping or otherwise interfere.

I mention all this for one reason, because it flies in the face of how liberalism treats everyone else. While supposedly determined to allow colonized nations, minorities and women decide for themselves, liberalism is determined to tell the rest of us what to do. We cannot eat this, cannot smoke that. We must put away this much for social security. We cannot choose to work for this wage. We cannot take this medication. We must be protected from ourselves and supposed exploiters because we are too weak and stupid to decide for ourselves. In short, liberal policy is exactly what they denounce in terms of colonialism and race.

So, why, if it is bad for people overseas and minorities at home, is it ok to try to tell the rest of us what to do in minute detail? And why must we be saved from ourselves, when others have an inalienable right to plan their own future?

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1. Some races are too broad by far, such as black and white and Asian, which cover so many disparate groups that they are almost meaningless. When you can include everything from the Irish to Afghans to Swedes to Italians in the same group, it is a pretty big tent. Likewise, any race that included absolutely every sub-Saharan race, or another which can include the multitude of peoples living in India and China, along with Korea and Japan, those too are exceptionally large. On the other hand, some efforts to create "nationalist' races, such as "Jews" are also absurd, especially considering that the Jewish "race" is almost inevitably defined by matrilineal participation in a religion which allows intermarriage and conversion, making it an odd definition for a race. Though no more odd than the German nationalist efforts to define a Germanic race by picking everyone who spoke a Germanic language regardless of ancestry. No, "race" is, by and large, meaningless, whether broad or narrow. And then when we consider the many absurd uses to which theories put these concepts, it becomes even more absurd.

2. I am describing here the official position of many social justice websites. In practice many liberals adopt a much more patronizing, intrusive policy toward minorities, treating them almost as wayward children. But even those who do often espouse this position, so I assume it is the majority liberal position.

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