Colonial truth: Seldom pure & never simple
14 February 2023
ADELAIDE - I am sure Phil Fitzpatrick is correct when he writes that Australia could have been a better coloniser.
That said though, I am sure that Australia was very far from the worst colonial power in history.
In my estimation, Australia's colonial model was perhaps the most fundamentally benign version devised during the European imperial era.
The truth is that it is not possible for those of us who were part of the colonial period to offer a completely balanced judgement on this matter.
There is simply too much of ourselves involved to be objective assessors.
A lot of time and academic reflection will be needed before an objective judgement finally emerges and enjoys more or less general support.
For example, when the history of the British in India is being discussed, the same facts are capable of sometimes quite radical interpretation.
Basically, it all depends on what point of view you start from.
If you start with the premise that the British Raj perpetrated many evils upon India, there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate this stance.
Similarly, if you start from the premise that the British brought many lasting benefits to India then there are also much evidence to support this assertion.
Happily, there are historians such as William Dalrymple who produced a history that strives to strike a balance between these two extremes.
His magisterial book, 'The Anarchy: The East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire', vividly demonstrates that neither the British nor the Indian ruling elites were especially virtuous or irremediably evil.
As is usually the case, the truth was surrounded by a fog of lies, misrepresentation, obfuscation and mythology.
“The truth is seldom pure and never simple,” wrote Oscar Wilde in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.
This adage is worth remembering when it comes to assessing Australia's history as a colonial power.
The widespread rot and corruption was all home grown. I don't see too many global corporate gangsters with their headquarters in Mosbi.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 14 February 2023 at 08:56 AM
I agree with Chris. Australia's colonial model was the most fundamentally benign of the imperial era.
Just remember back to Independence Day. There were no riots or insurrections, no 'Aussie go home' signs displayed, and no social disorder.
And remember the first working day after Independence Day? Nothing changed. Everyone just went to work like they always did and it was such a benign transition from colony to nation that nobody noticed.
The widespread rot and corruption and lawlessness which later happened did not occur under our watch. It was all home grown, and it still is.
I think we can be very proud of our colonial record.
Posted by: Chips Mackellar | 13 February 2023 at 02:30 PM
The essence of the argument about colonisation must surely rest on what one uses as a standard of measure. Overall, it also depends on one's own perspective.
The world is currently going through an immense turn over of cultures and society. Where everyone will end up is not able to be predicted but one thing is for sure.
The old world order is gone and there needs to be a new world order based on common rules that everyone agrees to. Balance is the objective that should be sought.
Where the bargaining table will be set up and who will preside is not yet known. Clearly the UN is way past its use by date and there doesn't appear to be a viable replacement on the horizon.
Who do you turn to in this situation? Currently, a coalition of like minded nations is preferable to anarchy. Dictatorships have never been know to favour the majority and the only way to stop a bully is to say no more or else.
Posted by: Paul Oates | 13 February 2023 at 02:21 PM