Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Good diary, thanks for posting it.

Shorto believes one of the biggest gifts the Dutch gave to the United States was the notion of tolerance
part of the Dutch legacy that became encapsulated in the notion that all humans are created equal and that all people should be free.

Interesting to read that, especially given that the Dutch colonial legacy in southern Africa was exactly the opposite.

While the British in Cape Colony certainly win no prizes for their humaneness (for example, they created the world's first concentration camps), the Dutch settlers were the original importers of slaves, and their descendants (the Afrikaaners) were the ones who codified the policies of apartheid 300 years later.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed May 9th, 2007 at 11:55:04 AM EST
Still, the violence and exploitation standard of Dutch colonists was relatively modest in most places. They did not even impose the Dutch language in Indonesia and most other colonies - they would have rather learned the local languages. The Dutch cultural imperialism was minimal.

South Africa is apparently an exception. Even the Afrikaans version of the Dutch language developed - though I do not know how much coersion was involved. Still, plainly sadly, were there any colonies in Africa treated better? Arguably, Bostwana fared the best in Africa, largely due to colonial ignorance towards it.

by das monde on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 12:51:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some might argue that colonialism is colonialism, no matter the "shades". C.R. Boxer has an interesting chapter (8) titled Assimilation and Apartheid in The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600-1800 (first published in 1965).  He starts it off with a quote:

David Hannay in an admiring reference to the Dutch novelist Couperus's De Stille Kracht calls this book 'a convincing study of that "hidden force" of the East which permeates and disintegrates the European, who cannot, or will not, stand apart from and above the races which, be their natural merits what they may, can never combine with his but only poison and corrupt.'[f.n.]  This definition and defense of apartheid, made long before its official application in South Africa, reflects a school of thought which can be traced back to the pioneer days of European settlement in the tropics, but which seems to have been stronger among the Dutch and the English than among their Portuguese and Spanish.

It is well worth a read.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne

by maracatu on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 09:50:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see a few problems with arguments like "colonialism is colonialism no matter the shades". Would you object any kind of idea of colonization?

Perhaps most consequentially, the argument restricts your options "to make the world better". You leave yourself only a radical measure: uncompromising rejection of a phenomenon, ethical imperative by a decree. That may work with some issues, or at a proper time - like it happened with the abolishment of slavery in the US. But radical "good intentions" go awry often, right?

History and "empirically" realistic possibilities of a given culture should not be ignored. People change their behaviour most easily by following an example. When you say "any colonialism or violence is the same", you compell to ignore any differentiation of behaviours, so people are free to ignore mounting evils of most "effective" examples. Evils like violence and greed evolve, and these evolutions thrive on attitudes like "there is no difference". Why obstruct opposing evolution of more "humane" colonizations, etc?

As I said, forcing a radical imperative is possible at a right time. But to keep best opportunities to make that time and not spoil it, it is wise to appreciate and keep best examples of already available (or previously known) "decent" colonizations or whatever.

The attitude of "no shades" often implies "the worst" human nature or prior history, by effectively ignores whatever was nice or decent in other cultures. Ironically, this is kind of colonist attitude towards the past - "people are typically barbarians, etc". Seeing more shades might help to see more positive perspective of humanity (even if it is uncomfortable to "most civilized"), and inspire ideas that have more chance to be accepted smoothly.

by das monde on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 10:44:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Got an exampe of decent colonization?


Q: Is Minke's nemesis, the sinister Robert Surhoff, based on a real person?
A: I got him from a newspaper article about a Eurasian gang the Dutch had organized to terrorize the people of Jakarta. The Dutch devised a racial classification system similar to the American and South African apartheid scheme. "Indo" was the name for offspring of Dutch and Javanese. The Indos were born into a complex psychological problem, and Surhoff symbolizes the psychological and social confusion felt by many of this ancestry. He felt he was a true Dutchman, but the Dutch did not see him as such, and he thinks of the natives as dirty and low. This causes him to take extreme measures in expressing his racism.


by rootless2 on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 09:08:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colonialism & Imperialism (of the kind that gave rise to the scramble for Africa) has been almost universally condemned (due to the heroic resistance of African peoples) and the world has (seemingly) moved on.

That said, there still remains the issue of Neo-colonialism.  I don't want to get into a whole discussion about that here (perhaps on another occasion).

Actually, to address the issue as to whether there may exist cases of benign or even beneficial colonialism (or perhaps "neocolonialism" is the better term), my "country" - Puerto Rico is arguably such an example.  Puerto Rico's colonization by the United States, following the "Spanish American War", evolved into something that can only be categorized as sui generis because of certain historical actors and leaders that seized the historical moment afforded by US President Roosevelt's New Deal policies to (eventually) launch Operation Bootstrap.  In short, it was an experiment with "socialist" overtones that succeeded to some degree in lifting the island out of dire poverty.  However, such a case can almost certainly not be reproduced today [under current (US) circumstances, anyway].

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne

by maracatu on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 10:24:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to say that Americans seem to have a better understanding that American history was not very nice than Europeans have about their own much longer record of murder and pillage. The willingness of Europeans to pretend that while the Yankees are evil imperialists and those clowns in other European nations have shown bad behavior, our behavior was, on the whole, excellent (or didn't happen), is astounding. Amazing. A testimony to human kinds ability to live entirely in imagined reality.
by rootless2 on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 11:30:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We have had some (more or less) interesting pie fights over generalisations of euros vs. americanos.

Somehow contrasting groups of hundreds of millions has not turned out to be the (imho) most productive thing we have done around here. Amazing.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 01:49:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Europeans are also more sensitive about criticism. (sorry, couldn't resist).
by rootless2 on Sat May 12th, 2007 at 08:31:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This definition and defense of apartheid, made long before its official application in South Africa, reflects a school of thought which can be traced back to the pioneer days of European settlement in the tropics, but which seems to have been stronger among the Dutch and the English than among their Portuguese and Spanish.

Even if consequences are clearly evil, we should not see just a vile motivation or rationalization. Much evil happens of ignorant application of not just "good intentions" but of simplest instincts or emotions. In particular, the apartheid phenomenon has some sure basis in anxiety with a completely other culture. The differentiation between English/Dutch and Spanish/Portugese colonizers confirms that: Nordic people have more discomfort feelings in unfamiliar surroundings. Say, Noorse Vikings could not establish relations with local tribes in North America and Greenland at all. The Dutch are more reserved than Spanish and Portugese - this may explain their less aggressive behaviour in Indonesia and most other colonies; the "apartheid" worked out relatively benignly there. But it progressed in the vile direction in South Africa.

The anxiety feelings of colonists were obvioulsy rationalized wrongly way too often. But this is more a problem of ignorance than vile ethics. I would still argue that the Dutch demonstrated less greed and unconcerned exploitation than "the norm". I am also glad for Portuguese and Spanish if they succeeded in more smooth communication and integration with the locals than others - you can learn something from any positive side. We can't ignore evil sides of "civilisation" we had, but willful rejection of the best that accured is not good either.

by das monde on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 11:18:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How exactly did they demonstrate less greed? By bombarding cities? By exterminating whole nations? By organizing racial classifications? By creating prison camps?

Do you even know that there was a war in Indonesia in 1945-46 between the Dutch and the Indonesian forces that beat back the Japanese?

by rootless2 on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 09:31:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
war in Indonesia in 1945-46 between the Dutch and the Indonesian forces that beat back the Japanese????

The Indonesian forces did not beat back the Japanese. There was large-scale cooperation/collaboration (depending on one's viewpoint) between the different fractions of Indonesian nationalism and the Japanese. I don't blame the Indonesians, they were second-class citizens in their onwn country and the Japanese slogan "Asia for the Asians" would make a lot of sense to them.

by bastiaan on Sun May 13th, 2007 at 06:29:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am also glad for Portuguese and Spanish if they succeeded in more smooth communication and integration with the locals than others - you can learn something from any positive side.

The passage I cited was not characteristic.  The author then goes on to say why you can poke holes through this characterization.  Sorry!  That is why I urged people to read the entire chapter.

In academic circles here in the Caribbean (as well - I'm sure - as elsewhere in the "colonized" world) we have been arguing these things over and over again without end with regard to slavery.  Was there really a difference between French slavery versus British slavery versus Spanish slavery?  The emerging consensus is that slavery is evil no matter who implemented it.  If you want, you can call ours "the view from the south".  I have no problem with that just as long as you recognize that we are entitled to call it what we want, being the victims.

Furthermore, we are entitled to criticize the Northern or Eurocentric view, if you want, of slavery.  I for one can say that I am utterly disgusted by those two intellectuals (Robert William Fogel & Stanley Engerman); the former that won the 1993 Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for supposedly demonstrating the economic benefits of slavery for the enslaved in that book Time on the Cross.  I am loath to call myself an economist after I read that piece of shit.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne

by maracatu on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 02:21:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting, because at least as portrayed in Shorto's book on New Netherlands, there seems to have been a lot of contact between the Dutch settlers and the indigenous populations of the area. The communities in New England   seem like they were more cut off, an island unto themselves.  Shorto does, however, describe the actions of the West Indies Company leader of the Dutch colony, who basically started a war against indigenous groups who inhabited the area, in the face of protests from many in his community, and as others were making peace.  
by Panhu from Wuling on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 08:39:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is, I'm sad to say, rather self-serving and typical for europe where colonial history is deeply whitewashed. Visit the Rijkmuseum and see a small part of the proceeds of large scale looting. For an example of the "modesty" of Dutch  imperialism, consider the Banda Islands (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banda_Islands) where an entire nation was put to the sword for the crime of selling nutmeg to higher bidders.
by rootless2 on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 12:15:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ouch... Couldn't they do without that?

That is other fascinating instance of collonization clash.

Before the arrival of Europeans, [the] Bandanese had an active and independent role in trade throughout the archipelago. Banda was the world's only source of nutmeg and mace, spices used as flavourings, medicines, preserving agents, that were at the time highly valued in European markets; sold by Arab traders to the Venetians for exorbitant prices.

[In 1512, Portugese were the first Europeans to reach the Bandas.] Maintaining their independence, the Bandanese never allowed the Portuguese to build a fort or a permanent post in the islands. Ironically though, it was this lack of ports which brought the Dutch to trade at Banda instead of the clove islands of Ternate and Tidore.

[Dutch]-Bandanese relations were mutually resentful from the outset, with Holland's first merchants complaining of Bandanese reneging on agreed deliveries and price, and cheating on quantity and quality. For the Bandanese, on the other hand, although they welcomed another competitor purchaser for their spices, the items of trade offered by the Dutch--heavy woollens, and damasks, unwanted manufactured goods, for example--were usually unsuitable in comparison to traditional trade products. [As] much as the Dutch disliked dealing with the Bandanese, the trade was a highly profitable one with spices selling for 300 times the purchase price in Banda.

Until the early seventeenth century, [nutmeg] was one of the "fine spices" kept expensive in Europe by disciplined manipulation of the market, but a desirable commodity for Dutch traders in the ports of India as well; economic historian Fernand Braudel notes that India consumed twice as much as Europe.

[The] Bandanese soon grew tired of the Dutch actions; the low prices, the useless trade items, and the enforcement of Dutch sole rights to the purchase of the coveted spices. The end of the line for the Bandanese came in 1609 when the Dutch reinforced Fort Nassau on Bandanaira Island. The [leaders] called a meeting with the Dutch admiral and forty of his highest-ranking men, and ambushed and killed them all.

[The] English had built fortified trading posts on tiny Ai and Run islands, ten to twenty kilometres from the main Banda Islands. With the British paying higher prices, they were significantly undermining Dutch aims for a monopoly. [In] 1615, the Dutch invaded Ai with 900 men and the British retreated to Run where they regrouped. That same night, the British launched a surprise counter-attack on Ai retaking the island and killing 200 Dutchmen. A year later, a much stronger Dutch force attacked Ai; [after] a month of siege the defenders ran out of ammunition and were slaughtered. [European] control of the Bandas was still contested up until 1667 when, under the Treaty of Breda (1667), the British traded the small island of Run for Manhattan, giving the Dutch full control of the Banda archipelago.

Newly-appointed VOC governor-general Jan Pieterszoon Coen set about enforcing Dutch monopoly over the Banda's spice trade. In 1621 well-armed soldiers were landed on Bandaneira Island and within a few days they had also occupied neighbouring and larger Lontar. The [leaders] were forced at gunpoint to sign and unfeasibly arduous treaty, one that was in fact impossible to keep, thus providing Coen an excuse to use superior Dutch force against the Bandanese. The Dutch quickly noted a number of alleged violations of the new treaty, in response to which Coen launched a punitive massacre. Japanese mercenaries were hired to deal with the [leaders], forty of whom were beheaded with their heads impaled and displayed on bamboo spears for display.

The population of the Banda Islands prior to Dutch conquest is generally estimated to have been around 13-15,000 people. [The] actual numbers of Bandanese who were killed, forcibly expelled or fled the islands in 1621 remain uncertain. But readings of historical sources suggest around one thousand Bandanese likely survived in the islands, and were spread throughout the nutmeg groves as forced labourers. The Dutch subsequently re-settled the islands with imported slaves, convicts and indentured labourers (to work the nutmeg plantations), as well as immigrants from elsewhere in Indonesia. [Some 530 of enslaved surviving Bandanese]  were later returned to the islands because of their much-needed expertise in nutmeg cultivation (something sorely lacking among newly-arrived Dutch settlers).

A sudden potential for huge profit makes people insane. You can have centuries of slowly building trading realtions, and then a kind of whooping globalization...

by das monde on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 04:25:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm sorry, but there was no centuries of building relationships. The Dutch and Portugese arrived in South Asia as the owners of cannon and an irresistable greed. They were like locusts except locusts go away after eating everything.

The subtleties of colonialism were explained by the British poet:

They don't like us
But we have got
The Maxim Gun
And they have not.

by rootless2 on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 09:35:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With "building relations", I was referring to the first paragraph of my citation.
by das monde on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 08:21:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, the British museum doesn't even bother to whitewash the looting: it's spelled out right there on the plaques next to the exhibits. A case in point:
British Museum: Stories of royalty in brass
There are over nine hundred plaques of this type in various museums in England, Europe and America. Many of the plaques now in The British Museum were collected during the British Punitive Expedition in 1897. They are thought to have been made in matching pairs and fixed to pillars in the Oba's palace in Benin City.
A 300-year-old heirloom of the Benin culture was "collected during the British Punitive Expedition". WTF? The plaque in the museum actually explains the context, which is one of petty revenge, and the value of the bronzes. From Wikipedia:
The Benin Bronzes are a collection of more than 1,000 brass plaques from the royal palace of the Kingdom of Benin. They were seized by a British force in the "Punitive Expedition" of 1897 and given to the British Foreign Office. Around 200 of these were then passed on to the British Museum in London, while the remainder were divided between a variety of collections.

The seizure of the Bronzes led to a greater appreciation in Europe for African culture. Bronzes are now believed to have been cast in Benin since the thirteenth century, and some in the collection date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Previously, all pre-European art from the continent, outside North Africa, was thought to be tribal art, using less complex techniques.

The Punitive Expedition of 1897 was a military excursion by a British force of 1,200 under Admiral Sir Harry Rawson that captured, burned, and looted the city of Benin, bringing to an end the highly sophisticated West African Kingdom of Benin. During the conquering and burning of the city, most of the country's treasured art, including the Benin Bronzes, was either destroyed, looted or dispersed.


In 1896 a small armed force led by a British officer, Lt James Phillips, British Acting Consul in the Niger-Delta, was sent to Benin under the authority of Ralph Moore, governor of Britain's West African Niger Coast Protectorate, to demand an end to the customs duties collected from British traders by Oba Ovonramwen, ruler of the then independent Kingdom of Benin. Oba Ovonramwen advised the British that the meeting would have to be postponed due to the annual yam planting and fertility festival taking place in the capital, but Phillips did not want to wait for an official invitation and decided to go anyway. Phillips entered the Kingdom of Benin without official escorts and was thus not met by representatives from the royal court as he advanced towards Benin, the capital. Just before entering the capital, the British delegation was ambushed by a group of warriors. Only two persons in Phillips' party survived. Shortly thereafter, a British force consisting of 1,200 men was formed to revenge the ambush.


War Booty

After the destruction of Benin, the British Admiralty confiscated and auctioned off the war booty of art to defray the costs of the Expedition. The expected revenue from the looted art was discussed already before Phillips set out on his ill-fated journey to the city of Benin in 1896.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 04:48:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess you have to credit them for being honest about it.

I have to say, after years of hearing how wonderful the British Museum is, I finally visited last year... and I just found it disturbing.  It was like wandering around in the mansion of some big-game hunter, filled with "trophies," stuffed lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

Partly, my discomfort was probably because most of my previous museum-going was when I was younger, before I'd lived in Africa and the Arab world, so now I know considerably more about the civilizations these artifacts came from and the British colonial history in them, and about how the artifacts were obtained.

But partly it was seeing, for the first time, artifacts from my own country displayed in a foreign museum, especially one in a country that colonized mine.  I know, it sounds weird, and I felt weird thinking that way, and I'm aware that my own government was far more brutal ane exploitative toward the indigenous population of the Americas than the British were.  So I don't know why, but seeing Native American items in the British Museum is very differet than seeing them here.  It was just... jarring.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 05:33:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is the word. We went there some time two years ago, shortly after coming to London, and I don't feel like going again, even though it's a wonderful building, too.

What realy shocks me is how matter-of-fact they are about looting. Yes, "honest", but still...

The African exhibition has some nicer artifacts, such as the Tree of Guns and the Throne of Weapons:

The throne was made by the Mozambican artist Cristovao Canhavato (Kester) from decommissioned weapons collected since the end of the civil war in 1992. Since the overthrow of Portuguese colonial rule in 1975, Mozambique offered both inspiration and a safe haven for activists opposing apartheid in South Africa and white minority Rhodesia. The civil war in Mozambique was fuelled by those regimes in their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to destabilize the country.

The throne is a product of the TAE project - Transformaçaõ de Armas em Enxadas (Transforming Arms into Tools) - whereby weapons previously used by combatants on both sides are voluntarily exchanged for agricultural, domestic and construction tools. The project was established in 1995 in Maputo by Bishop Dinis Sengulane of the Christian Council of Mozambique with the support of Christian Aid.

But if I remember correctly the Tree of Guns is very near the Benin Bronzes, which made the cognitive dissonance unbearable.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 05:39:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, I actually really enjoyed seeing the Tree of Guns, mainly because I'd met a number of the artists who worked on it in Mozambique.  The guns-to-sculptures program there is really very impressive.  The sculptors work out of a studio/gallery/workshop in a converted old house on a side street, near downtown Maputo, and on weekend evenings all the young arists in town hang out, drink beer, listen to music.  It's great.  And they were just thrilled when the British Museum commissioned the Tree.

At any rate, that's not really an artifact, it's a commissioned work of art, and the people who made it were compensated as any artist would be.  I don't have such a problem with that.

But yes, the bitter irony of a Tree of Guns, with everything it symbolizes, being displayed alongside historical artifacts obtained through centuries of looting a continent at gunpoint....

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 06:01:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Rijksmuseum when I visited many years ago had all sorts of amazing Indonesian Budda heads that had clearly been torn off the rest of the statue - with big jagged metal fragments at the neck.

I've never seen it, but according to Adam Hoschild, the ultimate is the Congo museum in Belgium which innocently contains no mention of the unsavory aspects of King Leopold's little venture.

by rootless2 on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 09:01:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hum. I sort of share your discomfort, on one hand.

On the other, to pick a random example, why does the current Egyptian state have a right to those treasures which are the results of oppression and slavery by its predecessor states? There's a whole set of assumptions about nations, national myths, rights of succession and such things that I'm not comfortable making and haven't thought through. Should the Egyptians apologise for their colonial days first? When does the statute of limitations run out on these things?

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 06:25:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The looting of Iraq's archaeological heritage is a much more present concern.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 06:39:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Absolutely, and a completely different issue: that stuff isn't going to public museums but very private collections, if we're lucky. If we're not lucky it's just being destroyed or lost.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 06:41:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Apologize to whom?  The ancient Israelites?  Moses?  Themselves?  (Because many of the ancient Egyptians' slaves were... Egyptian.)

If I had to make a judgment call, yes, I'd say the modern Egyptian state has more "right" to them than the modern British state.  They are Egyptian, and a part of Egypt's cultural heritage, the bad with the good.  That said, they are also clearly parts of British history, at least in the obtaining of them, although they are not generally displayed as such.

I wonder... if the Beowulf manuscript were housed in the Louvre, do you think the British government would be asking for it back?

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 07:22:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, they would be launching a punitive expedition.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 07:23:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also see here...
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 07:39:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The statute of limitations is always the hidden reef in the sea of indignant moral posturing. After one has decided not to strip the Belgians of every penny to make up for some of what they did in Congo and return most of Norway (and the oil) to the Lapps, because of the deep moral principles of (a) it was a long time ago and (b) you and whose army?, catching the wind of righteousness becomes more complicated.
by rootless2 on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 11:24:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the Dutch settlers were the original importers of slaves, ...

I'm not trying to be dense, but please tell me what you mean to say. Certainly slaves had been imported by the Romans and most every 'civilization' for hundreds of years before and after.


Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 06:23:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Dutch were the original importers of slaves to South Africa.  I think it was fairly clear in context.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 07:34:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It should have been, but I was confused as well.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 07:45:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for any confusion, I was certainly not trying to imply that the Dutch invented the practice.  

I think many people are unaware that there were slaves (mostly Asian) imported to South Africa.

The Dutch slave trade, incidentally, was quite robust and not limited to the Cape Colony.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 08:16:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was about to make the point that dominantly Asian slaves were put to work in the Cape colony. If these figures are correct (quick Google search), they constituted more than 70%.
by Nomad on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 09:00:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Dutch are as complicit to slave trading as most of the European powers of that time; and yes, Van Riebeeck at the Cape began buying slaves himself.

The mentality of apartheid eerily slots in with the late nineteenth, early twentieth century notion of race supremacy which was a dominant illusion raging practically everywhere through Europe. Though I disagree that the blame for apartheid should be put solely on the Afrikaners: the Pass Laws, a firm step towards segregation, were introduced as early as 1809 (the Hottentot Law), under British colonialism in South Africa. (And Pass Laws were no stranger in Australia as well). Although the request for the SA pass laws apparently came from the Boers... In history, it just all stacks up against the whole of western imperialism.

by Nomad on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 08:39:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The apartheid mentality was not just a matter of racial superiority -- it was an actual religious belief, the belief (supported until the bitter end by the Dutch Reformed Church) that Afrikaners were "the chosen people."

Yes, many of the practices of apartheid were in place before the National Party came to power in 1948, and yes the laws put in place by the British were discriminatory in the extreme, as they were in other British African colonies.  (And elsewhere, as you point out.)

But the degree to which the Afrikaner-led NP solidified and systematized (is that a word?) the separation of the races bordered on the pathological.  Actually, forget the border, it was pathological.  It was also long-planned and carefully orchestrated, based on an ideology of total domination.  (See Broederbond and baasskap.)

The "separateness" divided not just racial groups, but ethnic/language groups within racial groups, to the extent that the "white neighborhoods" were either Afrikaans-speaking or English-speaking or mainly Jewish, while the black "group areas" were ethnically segregated, so one area of a township was mainly Xhosa while another was Sotho and the single-sex hostels might have been Zulu, etc....

But back to the Dutch legacy in South Africa...  I don't think it was necessarily an isolated example (the Indonesians, after all, inherited a discriminatory dual legal system from the Dutch colonizers), but neither can you say that what the Afrikaner nation became is entirely a product of its Dutch legacy.  Yes, I think the Afrkaner apartheid pathology grew from European seeds (British and Dutch and Huguenot), but it developed domestically in South Africa into what it became, nurtured by an isolated (and, initially, largely illiterate) Afrikaner population, in much the same way that the Afrikans language evolved out of Dutch -- a product of both its ancestry and its environment.

In history, it just all stacks up against the whole of western imperialism.

Yeah, it does.  You should hear me rail on about the Belgian Congo, or what Germany did in Namibia.... Oh, and it's not quite analagous, but the Americo-Liberians' treatment of the Malinké was nothing to brag about...

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 12:46:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That pathology, hmm. It got me thinking.

Most white-supremacists groups argue that white people are under the threat of being erridacted, that is they are arguing from fear of others doing to us white folks what white folks has done to others. This fear also goes further then just the white-supremacists groups, it is the same in all those movies white aliens attacking and slaugthering humans (a theme invented by H G Wells as a criticism of the way white folks were treating others) and it is the same source that Bush and Sarkozy taps into when they evoke fear of brown people.

Now, the Boers was once on the receiving end of an colonial army. Maybe that is what got them pathologically afraid of loosing control again.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu May 10th, 2007 at 05:36:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought it was Desmond Tutu who said he considered apartheid the worst crime against humanity after the exterminations in the concentration camps in the second world war. And hadn't they been necessary to uphold the construct of white capitalism, one wonders what would have ultimately happened to the black communities in SA.

Reading your comment, I can't help but think that the parallels to nazism still remain so many - and I don't think it's too far a stretch that also nazism held a belief - the one of the superior Aryan race. Though the religious aspect of the chosen Afrikaner people is new to me, and rather chilling. It does lift the self-righteousness of it all to a whole new plane of illness.

I chewed on the whole development of apartheid in the light of the Dutch and their much hailed (modern?) tolerance when I walked back home yesterday (I'm living in Killarney now, BTW). The Machiavellian divide and conquer set-up in Indonesia is not surprising to me in the light of the colonial history - I suspect it's a global trick.

This could turn into a psychological and completely incoherent ramble now...

For all their cultural heterogeneity, the Dutch are a relative homogeneous lot with a common set of values. If I can call that Dutchness for this moment, I really am starting to suspect that one of the basic tenets of Dutchness is that the Dutch prefer to stay in control of what Dutschness should look like. So even while they could be tolerant toward other cultures, the Dutch will not easily accept influences of other cultures seeping into their definition of Dutchness (even while it evolves with time). And it worked out nicely while they were the imperialists riding roughshod across other cultures up until the twentieth century.

Because then, the immigration of the foreign workers (who were expected to leave and of course didn't) into the Netherlands after the second world war has smashed the whole thing to pieces. Dutchness was "endangered" by the influx of different cultures. Which is why the multi-cultural model in the Netherlands has now been declared dead (courtesy to Pim Fortuyn) and interestingly the Dutch are moving towards the assimilation model of France, in an attempt to keep control of their Dutchness. I remembered that the very same discussion had taken hold in Great Britain, concerning "Englishness" or Britishness, also lauded for their multi-cultural approach.

Tolerate cultural diversity as long as it can't control you. Suppress when you no longer can't control it. All in all, it sounds very control-freakery...

Paraphrasing eecummings:

Where is this s
going. It's
going to


Returning to the development of apartheid, I agree with your very succinct sum-up: a product out of its ancestry and its environment - apartheid to me feels just as another version of nazism, stemming from the same seed of twisted ideology/belief, evolving differently in another cultural background.

by Nomad on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 01:44:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All these things are part of a generic colonial mentality which shares much with slaver mentality. The apalling injustice requires that the slaver/colonist think of his victims as subhuman and the ever present danger of revolt generates an atmosphere of paranoia and violence.
by rootless2 on Sat May 12th, 2007 at 08:46:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Dutch tolerance, at least in the early 17th century, is often overstated.  The "Republic" that emerged was a patchwork of competing Protestant faiths.  The Catholic south quickly slipped back into Spanish(Hapsburg) control until the French revolution, when it had been ceded to the Austrian Hapsburgs.

Perhaps the central figure in molding the Dutch reputation for tolerance is Hugo Grotius also known as a founder of International Law.  He put forward that the only necessary laws were those for maintaining public order, and that religious doctrine should be left to the private beliefs of individuals.  

In an attempt to resolve the theological disputes between followers of Arminius and Gomarus he was asked to draft an edict expressing an official state line of tolerance.  However, this lead to local rebellion which nearly undermined the Republic.  The danger provided Maurice of Nassau, who supported the hard-line Calvinist Gomarus, a chance to assert his authority.  Grotius was arrested and imprisoned.  Other proponents of openness and tolerance were executed.  

Even today, I understand some towns in Eastern Holland retain their conservatism, while Amsterdam and Rotterdam have their own deserved reputations.  

Popularly, at least when I was in elementary school, the Netherlands was known as the place which gave refuge to the Puritains who eventually founded the Massachusettes Bay colony, and gave England Cromwell. Dutch settlement in the Hudson river valley instilled the Patroon system, one of the most feudal arrangements of the colonial period.  It continued well into the 19th century.

The Dutch Republic does hold the distinction of being the first European nation to recognise the American Colonies as a nation independent of Britain.


by kagaka (karel.k.rehor [zav] email [tecka] cz) on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 07:05:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great points. I think the point--at least in terms of Shorto's book--is not that "The Dutch" were or are more tolerant or liberal than other people. Shorto's discussion of Dutch tolerance that he feels made an impact on later American notions, stems from two issues. One is the Dutch fight for independence, and then the acceptance of different, mostly protestant groups (Pilgrims, Puritans, etc., but also Jewish). The other is the place of Leiden University at the time, and as you say, figures like Grotius and Descartes. One section of his book discusses one of the prominent members of the New Netherlands community--Adriaen van der Donck--who had studied law at Leiden and then made the adventurous journey to Manhattan. He called for a new society in which people had representation; van der donck was also a constant thorn in Peter Stuyvesant's side.
by Panhu from Wuling on Fri May 11th, 2007 at 08:54:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no contradiction between the internal religious tolerance in Amsterdam and rapacious imperialism in the colonies or a fundamentally very restrictive and conservative culture. Consider classical Athens: home of liberty and imperialism and some of the most punitive measures to control women. Or consider the US.
by rootless2 on Sat May 12th, 2007 at 08:42:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sometimes it seems like freedom for the core requires oppression of those outside. In Blood and Belonging, Michael Ignatieff says that cosmopolitans can exist because they enjoy the protection of strong states, which I found intriguing.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 12th, 2007 at 11:17:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A strong state is definitely required. Weak states expose citizens to external threats. But the combination of internal tolerance/freedom and external violence is complementary in the sense that it feeds the justifications of the citizens - read Pericles or speak to any European citizen about how the humanistic nature of his/her nation must inform its foriegn activities, or note how Americans are suckers for the argument that we are defending freedom abroad.
by rootless2 on Sat May 12th, 2007 at 12:38:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When one is aware of the "external violence", it becomes possible to realise that there is a system of internal violence limiting the internal freedom to that which doesn't question the system of external violence.

Bush is a symptom, not the disease.
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat May 12th, 2007 at 02:03:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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