Tuesday January 18, 2022

New colonialism

December 24, 2021

I am 72 years old and next April I will be 73. So, I have been aware of what’s going on for some 50 years. Part of this awareness is gathering new data and information, and part of it is thinking – which is the most important way one gathers knowledge. Thus, I have witnessed the ebb and flow of countries, states, societies and so much more.

I was born two years after Pakistan came into being. I have witnessed the many starts Pakistan has made, and lived through all the pain and sorrow of failure. We never could forge a basic law that is called a constitution that is workable – not in the sense that it trundles along but which can actually give us a workable political, economic, educational system. I have learned of the change in the world order from an Anglo-French dominated world when British colonialism reached its peak to the independence of many colonies and their struggle afterwards to make things work.

I would say that so far many of them have worked in the sense that they have not collapsed. I have seen them all lumped into one category, called the ‘Third World’. I have seen how post World War II the victors created the Bretton Woods system to breathe life into a destroyed European economy under what was called the Marshall Plan. After this was done, they shifted their focus to the Third World, the former colonies. The amazing thing is that not a single one of the states that fell into the Third World category has risen to join the ‘First World’. Colonialism may have gone on the face of it but slavery still persists and now the new chains of slavery are the debts that the Third World owes to donor agencies and other states.

The essential equation of exploitation between the colonial masters and the colonised still exists in the form of the First World lording it over the Third World and forcing them to act in accordance with their desires. So, welcome to the new world order which we’ve had for over half a century. But essentially it is not so new as we are still colonised; call it new colonialism. In the old colonialism the coloniser would appoint his own viceroys, governors, commissioners and the like to control the natives. In the new colonialism, they don’t appoint their own people as our viceroys but they control our own people to be their viceroys. They control them through debt, armaments, forcing conditions of war or near-wars and making them do things that are against their interests.

Today, ‘regime change’ has become as dangerous as a British warship rising over the horizon. In the beginning, they would control the poor by encouraging coups and foisting military governments on them. Then they found another illusion for the Third World to chase – democracy. In the pursuit of democracy, the Third World did not understand that what they call democracy is basically elections controlled directly or indirectly by the neo-coloniser that suited him but not the Third World.

We are still in search of a universal system of government that works for everybody; right now, it only works for the coloniser. In the old days we used to be puppets mouthing the coloniser’s pet phrases, in return for high honours from him, getting estates as their fiefs and important jobs in the coloniser’s governments. They became the new ruling class who continued to lord it over the natives. Ask them now where their famous forebear got the title of lord so-and-so and some of them have the decency to squirm with embarrassment.

Even our freedom leaders allowed themselves to be adorned with such titles like our great poet-philosopher Iqbal who became a knight. I think he is still a great poet and great man but the ethos of the days railroaded him into accepting this ‘honour’ because he could not separate it from his poetry; if you bend before the foreigner, you lose your heart and body – he had said. He didn’t realise that in accepting the knighthood he, in a way, contradicted himself.

Sadly, this continues to this day. They pick up leaders of the colonised and praise them to the hilt, by for example, making them lords in England. If they made me a lord, I could never have written this article. That is a form of control we do not recognise or understand. They help our children to get into their universities for which we become indebted emotionally. In the end, I would suggest that we read the first page of Frantz Fanon’s incredible book ‘The Wretched of the Earth’. Then you will get my drift.

The writer is a veteran journalist, political analyst and author.

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