The World of The Gunny

The Wasted World of Gunnery Sergeant DeShane
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 Post subject: Rant on the 19th & 20th Centuries
PostPosted: 28 Jun 2005 15:03 
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Sergeant Major of the USMC
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We are taught that the 19th century was the century of sexual repression, exploitation of labor and, above all, the evils of unfettered capatalism, colonialism, and oppression of the black and yellow by the white man. In dingy industrial cities, pallid-fleshed proletarians were forced to work horrendously long hours at backbreaking physical labor for meager pay. The dark clouds of coal smoke hung low over the cities of Europe and America...

"Was Jerusalem builded here among
these dark Satanic Mills?"


Using their advanced technology to overawe and, when necassary, slaughter the locals, the Great Powers conquered the rest of the world. In the colonies the natives were forced to hard labor in plantations and mines to make their masters wealthy; resources and products were stripped from the undeveloped lands to fuel the economies of Europe and America. It was, we are told, an era of oppression, racism and misery.

What utter nonsense! It is hard to believe that any rational person could draw these conclusions from the historical record.

We might compare the 19th Century to the 20th. Implicit in the criticism of the Victorian world is the idea that the modern world is superior, that we have solved all the ills of that era. The Victorian era was the era of the Pax Britannica; it was the era of peace. There were, to be sure, localized and relatively minor uprisings in South Africa and the Balkans, but Europe remained at peace. It was genuinely believed that the progress of civilization meant pan-European wars would no longer occur. As nations became more civilized, they learn to settle their disputes peacefully, so it was claimed. Wars might occur in backward areas, but as the rest of the world adopted civilized ways, wars would become less and less common, until the whole world was at peace.

The 19th Century was the last time any serious person could hope that war might be ended. And perhaps it might have been; no war has ever been fought between democracies. Oppressive government yields aggression. Had it not been for the rise of totalitarianism, perhaps it would still be possible to hope for peace.

The 19th Century was the era of hope. The 20th Century is the era of repression. In two geat wars close to 100 million people have been killed, slaughtered by weapons immensely more powerful the the war zeppelins the Victorians viewed with such distaste and horror.

The 19th Century was the era of liberalism, and I do not mean by that term the milk and water socialism it now implies. To a Victorian a liberal was one who believed in individual liberty and the free market. To a Victorian liberal the two go hand in hand, obvious corollaries of one another. If a man had the right to drink what he pleased, he had the right to brew what and how he pleased; if he had the right to write as he wished, he had the right to enter the publishing industry free of state interference. A liberal supported freedom of movement and migration, free trade, equality before the law, fair elections, democracy, elimination of state monopolies, progress, freedom, and peace.

The 19th Century was the era of the triumph of liberalism, for the liberal program brought incredible technological and economic advances. The workers in those 'dark satanic mills' were working far fewer hours than their peasant fathers had worked; they were earning more money and living better. They were living longer too, and were losing fewer children to infant mortality. They were far from hopeless in their plight; they knew things were better than they had been, and would get even better as society and technology advanced. Throughout the 19th Century, the wages earned by working men increased, as productivity increased. If workers were sometimes impatient with the pace of progress and struck for better wages and working conditions - well, that is only to be expected, is it not?

The 20th Century has been the era of totalitarianism. In Russia, China, Eastern Europe, Germany and Italy, insane tyrants have achieved power. All liberties had been abolished, and every citizen made a cowed, fearful cog in a monstrous war machine. In those lands, secret police would torture and beat, make midnight raids, murder, silence, and rape. In those lands, millions would be slaughtered for the most absurd of ideological reasons; in Russia, because there were peasants slightly wealthier than others; in Germany because they were Jewish; in China, because they were educated. The technological advances used by the Victorians to make life better for all were used by the tyrants to murder more efficiently.

The 19th Century was the era of colonialism. Colonialism has a bad name, but reputations should not deter us from examining it dispassionately. The colonies were plundered? "They took the tea from India and the rubber from Malaya," goes the refrain, but precisely the reverse was true. Britain introduced tea, indigenous to China, into India, and brought rubber, indigenous to South America, to Malaya. European capital was used to 'modernise' the third world, to build plantations, mines, and industries there. Before the colonial era, most of Africa did not even have the wheel. By the end of the colonial era, most of Africa had profitable export crops, profitable mines, sanitation and medicine, increasing literacy rates, and efficient government. The colonial powers ran roughshod over local traditions and cultures - by abolishing slavery, tribal warfare, genital mutilation, human sacrifice, the practice of immolating wives on the death of a prince, and cannibalism.

The colonial powers took over the rest of the world, and brought it into the modern era, benefitting the masses of Asia and Africa tremondously. "White man's burden," some say with a sneer, and talk about Victorian racism. But Victorian racism was paternal and benevolant, not vicious and contemptuous. Victorians believed that their superiority did not imply a right to exploit; instead, it implied an obligation to uplift. Yes Europe and America benefitted from the trade, but so did the colonies; it is possible to do well and good at the same time. When Kipling wrote "White man's burden," he did not have racism in mind - read the poem:

"Go bind your sons to exile
to serve your captives' need..."


The purpose of colonialism is not profit, but the extension of civilization.

"To seek another's profit
And work another's gain..."


As Kipling predicted, those who benefitted the most by colonialism have not been grateful:

"Take up the White man's burden
And reap his old reward
The blame of those ye better
The hate of those ye guard."


When the French spoke of "La mission civilatrice", they were serious. The facts are that, with the notable exception of India, few colonies were profitable for thei owners; the cost of administration and defense was far greater than any profit realized by increased trade. Why adopt colonies then? To extend civilization, to add luster to the nations honor and reputation. To gain prestige in "the judgement of your peers."

Ah but in the 20th Century we knew better. We abandoned the third world to the tribal hatreds we had previously suppressed, to petty dictators who murder and oppress their own people. People talk with approval of the end of the colonial era, but fail to realize it's consequences. Does the United Kingdom not have a responsibility for Imin's brutal dictatorship in Uganda? Does not the United States have a responsibility for Marco's dictatorship in the Phillipines? After accepting responsibility for those lands, did we not commit a crime by abandoning them while, apparently, they were still unready for liberty and democracy? For the third world the 20th Century has been an era of tyranny and increasing poverty. So what was wrong with colonialism?

The 19th Century 'oppressed' the underdeveloped lands, thereby introducing them to advanced medicine, education, and an improved standard of living. The 20th Century 'freed' the colonies, thereby condemned them to petty dictatorships and economic decline. That, it seems to me, is what the historical record shows. Most of what the people 'know' about the 19th century is wrong.

Why is this so? The only reason I can find is this; the 19th Century was the era of liberalism, and it's successes show the superiority of democracy, individual liberty, and the marketplace. But the western world has, since the 30's, been dominated by modern 'liberalism' a form of socialism that seeks to limit individual freedom in the name of a mythical 'common good' and bring the economy under the control of government. Modern 'liberalism' is the antithesis of 19th Century liberalism, and tries to discredit it whenever possible. Thus we have the myth that industrial workers were miserable serfs, that colonialism was an evil exploitation of the rest of the world, that capitalism progressively enslaved its own workers and the inhabitants of Asia and Africa. This is a pecularily selective view of history - one which, I believe, only an idealogue can believe.

Each generation views the world in a different light, and its understanding of historical events is necessarily different from that of past generations. As historical events fade into the past, they can be viewed more dispassionately - although, simultaneously, a gut understanding of motives and events becomes more difficult. I believe the time has come for a review of the colonial era, a revision, and in some cases, an outright rejection of post-Victorian era theories of colonialism. Such a reinterpretation must see the grandeur and genuine altruism of the Victorian era, as well as its darker side.




Thorgrimm

_________________
Benno the Mad Wrote:
man, you gotta realise that thor and bos fell out of the patriot tree (like the ugly tree, but instills patriotism instead of ugly) and hit every branch on the way down.


"Gone now, dispersed by the brutal destruction of this one day, was the belief that the Darkman and his army of the dead were so superior as to be invincible. By attempting to destroy the morale of the Marines, the Darkman had restored it to full vigor. Dia De La Muerto had failed in its objectives."
The Gunny: Stand of the 300

Si vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war

Gunny's color #FF2400


Last edited by Þórgrímr on 23 Apr 2007 18:28, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: 28 Jun 2005 16:43 
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Company Sergeant Major
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I'd disagree with your views on colonialism, the ends don't justify the means. Alright we had an Empire but we gave it up for all the wrong reasons, you don't take something at gunpoint and then give it back next day expecting to be forgiven.

Conquest I can understand, sheer greed etc I have no problem with, but this obligation to uplift was sheer bollocks, you can disguise it with all the fancy terms you want but it boils down to thinking you're better than others and wanting to contol their lives. It's an attitude that's still around today but governments have to limit themselves to implementing it on their own citizens for the most part.

It goes back further than the 19th century right back to the first christian missionaries from Rome and later Ireland. It's the attitude of I'm white, christian and wear more clothes than you so I'm better and you need to be like me. The benifits of colonialism are subjective, the first worlds viewpoint on what improves life was and is skewed, other than plumbing there's not really anything that has been invented, that was really needed. Sure better medicines and surgical methods now exist, but now we all live longer and there's too much overcrowding, so it's swings and roundabouts. Too much of the old ways have been lost and we all lose out in the end.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: 28 Jun 2005 17:01 
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Sergeant Major of the USMC
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Req, it may be sheer bollocks to you, but to the Victorians they truly thought they were bettering the natives by bringing them medicine, education, the ending of tribal warfare, a better standard of life, all of which today's modern liberalism has tried to say as evil. What you believe, as even you have said, is ingrained by the, "Pinko commie's who have infiltrated our schools."

So you think they were better off in loin cloths and eating each other? Along with the internicene tribal warfare that was endemic before the coming of colonialism?

Also, can you name me one period in the history of mankind where they actually thought they were going to help others? Or just conquest? Like you have said, you can understand conquest, a very 20th Century attitude, where as the 19th Century attitude was to try and improve the standard of living of all of mankind. Aka Spread civilization.

If the attitude of the 20th Century had been prevelant throughout the ages of man, we would have maybe 4 pockets of civilization, and the rest of mankind would be stuck in stone age barbarism.



:nuke: Cheers Thorgrimm :nuke:

_________________
Benno the Mad Wrote:
man, you gotta realise that thor and bos fell out of the patriot tree (like the ugly tree, but instills patriotism instead of ugly) and hit every branch on the way down.


"Gone now, dispersed by the brutal destruction of this one day, was the belief that the Darkman and his army of the dead were so superior as to be invincible. By attempting to destroy the morale of the Marines, the Darkman had restored it to full vigor. Dia De La Muerto had failed in its objectives."
The Gunny: Stand of the 300

Si vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war

Gunny's color #FF2400


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: 28 Jun 2005 18:02 
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Company Sergeant Major
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Whatever reasons they deluded themselves with, justifications they gave doesn't mean they were right. I don't defend conquest but at least it's up front and honest, unlike the desire to bring civilisation which is a sop to their morals and just covers a desire to make everyone conform to their will. And the teachers never ingrained this belief in me, this is just something I've come to realise over the years. Remember I said we didn't do this period in history at school. :bs

As to the 4 pockets of civilisation, well that depends on how you define civilisation, sure living in mud huts doesn't sound promising after growing up in a society with all our mod cons but civilisation isn't about mechanical items and democracy isn't all it's cracked up to be. They were spreading their version of civilisation, again that doesn't mean it was the right way of doing things.

Quote:
Also, can you name me one period in the history of mankind where they actually thought they were going to help others?
All the missionary expeditions beleived they were going to help others by spreading their religion. Though really the idea of going to help others is how you are defining colonialism by saying "the 19th Century attitude was to try and improve the standard of living of all of mankind. Aka Spread civilization."

Quote:
Or just conquest? Like you have said,
Gengis Khan, numerous Roman Emperors, they were carving out empires, The Elizabeathwns, The Spanish.

I was always amazed at the audacity of previous generations who thought they could stroll into another country and tell people that they are doing things wrong and to do it this way instead. The Europeans and British didn't invade North America, they just started squatting there like modern day travellers.


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