Monday, 18 July 2011


‘It is necessary, then to accept as a principle and point of departure the fact that there is a hierarchy of races and civilizations, and that we belong to the superior races and civilizations, still recognizing that, while superiority confers right, it imposes strict obligations in return. The basic legitimization of conquest over native peoples is the conviction of our superiority, not merely mechanical, economic, and military superiority, but our moral superiority. Our dignity rests on that quality, and it underlies our right to direct the rest of humanity. Material power is nothing but a means to that end, (Harmand, 1971).’
The high point in the above assertion rests firmly on the dichotomy created by the imperialist at the turn of the 19th century for no other reason but total suppression of the ‘natives’ for their selfish end. The glut in their local market and the urge to expand their frontiers of commerce was the primordial reason for colonialism, not any moral obligation, which by all intent and purposes was not a factor either before the conquest of North America, Canada or New Zealand or for that matter the African or Asian continents. It was all part of the grand design to achieve better outcome, while at the same time factoring the misadventure with excuses to justify it.
Nevertheless one thing is certain; the adventurous escapade of the Europeans in these two continents inadvertently changed the economic, social, political landscapes of the ‘natives’. Probably it wasn’t the intention to fully educate and politicized the ‘natives’, but as a means of achieving their pre-conceived mission to ‘civilise’ in order to exploit.
The idea that the ‘natives’ were ‘illiterate’ and needed to be liberated through the European educational system is to some extent hollow and diversionary. The propaganda at the turn of the 19th century that ‘pre-literate’ Africa and Asia needed succour in the form of a writing system and education pre-supposed that there was no writing system or educational advancement in the continents before the advent of the colonialists. At the same time this notion gives credence to the conviction that a nation or community in a given country and/or continent must have the writing implement, paper and the scribal technology for it to be regarded as ‘literate’. This then suggests that literacy must go hand in hand with the scribal technology and a nation or community without it is backward and underdeveloped, an assertion rightly disputed by Jahn (1968). According to him the only difference in terms of development between Europe and some parts of Africa before the advent of foreigners was the writing system, but that Africans communicated and were civilized enough to have colonized others if not for the imperial interruptions as from the 15th century.
The misinformed sentiment that most African nations before arrival of the colonialists were ‘illiterate’, ‘backward’, and ‘uncivilised’ gave rise to the theorization of the escapade. If for instance one feels that the ‘economic-deterministic school’ is all out to subjugate our thoughts on the fact that colonialism came about for no other ulterior motive than the necessity ‘for raw materials as well as markets for their manufactured goods’, without the brouhaha of ‘civilising’ the ‘natives’ then one might say one is off-the-rack. Or on the other hand that colonialism was embedded in the thoughts of Europe, because the prism of the ‘survival of the fittest’ was, is and will continue to be with human kind for ever, not for any proselytizing as well as commoditization of the final outlook, then one again feels the whole scenario is off tangent. It is in this wise that one must with all modesty reassess the truism of these theories and reasserts that what ever was in the minds of Europeans at the tail end of 18th century about their ego trip into ‘native Africa’, was the same, when they ventured into North America, New Zealand, Canada and Australia many centuries earlier.
No European nation went into the countries of the ‘natives’ with the sole intent of ‘helping’ or ‘civilising’. The whole idea was to find an outlet either for economic exploitation, commerce, or trade. If in the course of it the bible replaced the land and other things belonging to the ‘natives’, so be it. And if on the other hand the mighty was able to show its valor and the atavistic show of shame took centre stage that is a plus. But one thing is clear, the expression that the ‘the expansion of Europe into Africa and Asia, and forcible colonization of these continents was… a moral duty Europe owed to the Africans and Asians, i.e. the moral obligation to raise them ‘up’ to the European level’. The question one might be tempted to ask is why should they have done that? Of course without the ‘natives’ being educated and healthy, without being instructed into the realm of modern agriculture, commerce, transportation and what not, how can the nations of Europe be where they are today! How come the ‘natives’ of Africa and Asia are still struggling to get out of the clutches of hunger and pauperization, despite the ‘civilising’ nature of colonialism?
The colonialists educated the ‘natives’ to a level that served its purpose. They helped in the destruction of the Kabba textile mills in Northern Nigeria for they competed with Manchester mills in Britain of that time. They drew a line as to where the rail lines begins and terminates, not for any reason but economic determinism. They sold the idea of a healthy body is a wealthy nation, not for the benefit of the ‘natives’, but the potentiality of more agricultural produce. They hoodwinked and subjugated the best of the agricultural land with free fertilizer, such that years after, no land can procreate without it and the fertilizers are now exorbitantly out of the reach of the local farmers.
One has to go this far into intellectualizing the motives for colonialism for one to be able to grasp the nature of how Europe concretized and centralized the creative potentials of the ‘natives’ into fictional and/or paper form. At the beginning of the phenomenon, the two levels were at par, while the Europeans were at the latter stage of fictionalizing their novels, they were at the same time busy teaching and instructing the ‘natives’ what they had dumped  centuries earlier. Of course they had to do that, because the ‘natives’ were not ‘literate’, by literacy we mean the European model, since most of the colonized nations (especially in Africa) that came into contact with Europe in the 19th century were far advanced in literacy than some of their European colonizers. Beginning from the scratch meant that the ‘natives’ were always behind their colonizers, as such most of their earlier attempts at fiction writing were oral narratives in scribal form. This is not without a foundation, as ‘the oral artists, freelancers or guild-associates, enjoyed reverence as "keepers of the people's ancient wisdom and beliefs." These oral artists frequently entertained their audiences dramatically, providing relaxation and teaching moral lessons” for many centuries before the coming of the Europeans. Even if they had wanted the colonizers could not have divorced the people from their oral traditions in their new found love- fiction writing, only to add that it suited the policy they introduced for that purpose. Which from all intents and purposes still subsist, or does it?

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