In the twentieth-first-century direct colonialism has ended and but the legacy of the colonial ideology still lives on in the identity of both the ex-colonized and the ex-colonialist. Colonialism in simplest terms is the forced invasion of a sovereign land by another. The colonial ideology rests on the principle of economic and political domination and helps create a system of social, cultural and racial hierarchy. The main motive behind the colonization of a country and the subjugation of its people is economic but the colonizers justify this aggression in the name of bringing civilization and religion to uncivilized savages. The major feature of the colonial ideology is economic, political, and social domination. Colonialism, according to its most vociferous critics is basically an ideology of racial and cultural hierarchy. The military, the police and forced labor are the essentials of colonialism. Aime Cesaire locates the origins of fascism in colonialism (9).
In the nineteenth-century Europe controlled thirty-five (35) percent of the earth’s surface while by 1914 they controlled approximately eighty-five (85) percent of the earth in the form of dependencies, and commonwealths etc. The target of the colonial powers was not only the acquisition of land but also the resources. The growing European industries needed cheap raw material and the colonies provided them that. The other benefit was that they discovered new markets for these products. In addition, these colonial powers had unlimited supply of slave labor in the shape of the natives to harvest their plantations and run their factories (Memmi 56).
Colonialism because of its pervasiveness in the economical, the political, and the social spheres has been the pivotal force behind creating identities both of the colonizer and the colonized. Colonialism has destroyed lives and disrupted social, racial and the cultural harmony, by implanting a culture upon both the colonized and the colonizer. This way colonialism, it is not wrong to emphasize, has not only created physical but psychological problems (Marger 132).
Colonialism has created the issue of distorted identities both for the colonized and the colonizer. The social identity crisis is the result of the economic, the political, and the legal domination by the colonizer. In addition, institutionalized racial and cultural inequalities, the enslavement of the natives and the economic and the political dependence perpetrated by the colonizer are also potent sources underlying the identity issue (Said 8).
The imposition of the colonist’s culture and cultural norms and values not only dismantled the native culture but also led to the destruction and the distortion of the indigenous cultural norms and the native lifestyle. The colonized in order to resemble the colonist often discarded their native language, dress and cultural values which in the ultimate analysis was detrimental to their identity as free people, once (Memmi 15).
In order to justify and rationalize their illegitimate rule the usurper colonialists created images and perpetuated myths about the colonized. The universal and the most powerful image and the accompanying myth was that of the lazy no good native. Contrary to the lazy native is the ever active Westerner. The white man’s burden as Rudyard Kipling put is wholly dependent upon the benevolence of the colonist, who in keeping with the Evolutionary theories is to help these savages climb the stairs to civilization. Accompanying this beautiful justification to prolong the white man’s privilege was the dependency complex.
The dependency complex stresses that the natives need the white man in order to harness and harvest the abundant natural resources. The slave natives or those paid extremely low wages were made to cultivate cash-crops instead the much needed food items making the natives dependent upon the colonists for the procurement of the very basic necessities of life (Fanon 108).
The social identity of the colonized was emasculated, castrated and rendered unrecognizable by means of oppression, both physical and psychological. The natives were malnourished, and lived in unhygienic conditions. Education was denied to them so were any other means of social, economic or political advancement. They lived in the shanty-town and died there. Uncared for while alive and forgotten as soon as they were dead (Fanon 39).
On the other side of this social divide was the privileged colonial usurper. A fact that must be emphasized here is that majority of the colonist that came to the colonies belonged to the poor or working class. Back home they had no chance to make money or advance socially. The colony, however, was a completely different story. Here in the colony they lived a life of luxury and privilege. Majority of them did not care about inhumane condition of the colonized as long as they and their families lived like royalty back home. Torture, killings and other unseemly facets of life in the colony were a necessary part of life (Fannon 39).
There were a few among them whose conscience pricked them daily. These few had but only to options available to them. One, fight the injustice and in a way loose favor with the authorities, often at the risk of losing their lives. Two, leave the colony and all the privileges behind and return back to the homeland where they had no chance to accomplish anything or to become anyone in life. The choices were hard but a decision had to be made because it is impossible to live a life with so many contradictions (Fannon 39).
The countries that had been forcibly invaded and occupied became pariah of the world community. These countries lacked the very basic necessities of life. These colonized nations had no infra-structure. They had no civic amenities and no powerful federating units nor a central government. These countries were controlled from metropolitans, which often were the seats of power of the colonizers. The rulers and the legislatures there cared the least about the welfare of the colony. Every piece of legislature was enacted to further the ends of the empire. The main economic concern of these colonial powers was to come up with new plans to increase their profits at the expense of these backward barbarians Fannon 3).
No help was given to provide these wretched countries in the form of social welfare and health. The Mother and child mortality especially during birth was high. The capitalist employer was least concerned about the health of his work force which in most of the cases was slave labor (Said xi)
The criminal justice in these colonies was inequitable and very harsh. The death penalty was mandatory and often employed to curb all and sundry except of course to the privileged white population. The death penalty, the ultimate penal sanction was used to silence any dissent and to teach a lesson to the living so that the accumulation of profits from the work done by the slave labor continued unabated (Fannon 156-158). The provision of education was last on the list of priorities of the colonial despots. It was in the interest of the colonizer to keep the colonized illiterate in order to accomplish their results. Religion was the tool used to subdue the colonized and to keep them in line. The priests towed the official stance to the hilt (Said xxviii).
The favorite and the most effective policy of the colonial power was that of divide and rule. It was a sound tactic to keep the colonial subjects disunited. Infighting was tacitly encouraged so that the majority may never rise against the ruling minority (Said 39).
The colonial power on its part behaved as the benevolent, paternalistic authority essential for the right guidance of the savages. The colonial masters strongly held the belief and it was inculcated into the minds of all those governed that the colonial power was help them ascend the evolutionary stairs keeping in view the Social Evolution Theory. The colonialist saw it their God-given mandate to help these savages into civilized people (Fannon 8).
The colonizers deem themselves to be selflessly working for the betterment the colonized and looking after the sick and the invalid and spreading culture. The colonist pose themselves as the noble adventurer. This is but a shallow rhetoric on the part of the dominant oppressor because the truth is the reverse. The standard of the living of the colonizer is high because that of the colonized is low who are exploited at will (Fannon 3-157.
Cesaire, Aimé. Discourse on Colonialism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 2000. Print.
Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1965. Print.
Marger, Martin. Race and Ethnic Relations: American and Global Perspectives. 5th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth Pub. Co, 2000. Print.
Memmi, Albert. The Colonizer and the Colonized. Boston: Beacon Press, 1965. Print.
Said, Edward W. The Edward Said Reader. New York: Vintage Books, 2000. Print.