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Post Can Post-Colonial Nations Flourish?
Created by John Eipper on 04/15/17 4:32 AM

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Can Post-Colonial Nations Flourish? (Tor Guimaraes, USA, 04/15/17 4:32 am)

John Eipper commented on my 13 April post: "The Colonizer's chickens come home to roost. Indeed, but this fails to explain why some post-colonial societies flourish and others remain mired in permanent despair."

My post not only failed to explain it, but also had nothing to do with explaining why some colonized countries eventually are successful.

Out of the four alternatives for nations to rip off other nations, the only one which has potential for the colonized nation to prosper requires that it has the political power (not necessarily military power) to throw the colonizer out. In the case of the American colonies, the political power derived from military power. In India the political power came mostly from philosophical, logical persuasion, and incredible political discipline inspired by Gandhi. Also, as Gandhi stated, in the end there is little chance that 100,000 British soldiers can suppress the Indian population of close to a billion. Nevertheless, the English managed to leave a little departure political gift by inducing the India/Pakistan split, which cost close to a million native lives. Similar to what they have done in Palestine and Northern Ireland.

Besides the US, I don't know specifically which nations John had in mind when stating "some post-colonial societies flourish." Certainly not Australia, where the native population have been oppressed and marginalized at best, some say murdered at worst. John, which flourishing post colonial nations did you have in mind?

JE comments:  The usual suspects of flourishing ex-colonies--US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--all did so at the expense of their native populations.  They are still post-colonial countries, even if they act like replicas of the British metropole.

Tor Guimaraes's post inspires the larger question:  does the term "post-colonial" have any usefulness?  What do the US and Canada have in common with India, Pakistan, Ghana, Vietnam, Zimbabwe?  How about long-independent but still non-flourishing countries like Nicaragua and Bolivia?  Or former colonies that once flourished but now don't, like Argentina and (especially) Venezuela?  Where do you place Syria and Iraq on the spectrum? 

And what is meant by "flourishing"?  Anything beyond a robust GDP?  Can a poor country "flourish" if its institutions are solid and its people happy?  I hope we'll get a discussion going on this.

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  • Does the Term "Post-Colonial" Have Any Usefulness? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 04/16/17 7:14 AM)
    Commenting on my post of April 15th, John Eipper asked two interesting questions.

    First John asked, does "the term "post-colonial" have any usefulness?" Yes, it is useful to indicate that nominally, officially, legally, etc. the ex-colonized nation is now independent. Being post-colonial provides no assurance whatsoever that the nation will flourish. Further, a post-colonial status in most cases has little to do with de facto independence.

    Second, John asked, "what is meant by flourishing?" I think it should mean that the nation democratically elects its political representatives, there is well-established rule of law, a reasonably stable economy with low unemployment, and most citizens enjoy a decent health care and education systems. Most important, a flourishing nation should show that these critical factors are not being eroded away over time as we see today all over the world, including here in the great USA. Thus, "a poor country [can] 'flourish' if its institutions are solid and its people happy," and it satisfies the above conditions. Maybe Iceland does qualify.

    In my response to the first question, post-colonial does not mean truly independent, and without independence the likelihood for flourishing dissipates. In a world where governments and business interests operate globally, and major corporations have immense power over whole nations, independence is not easy to achieve. Even the most powerful nation in the world is now controlled by powerful global corporations and is not flourishing as it did a few decades ago. Perhaps that is what "US and Canada have in common with India, Pakistan, Ghana, Vietnam, Zimbabwe," etc.

    Concurrently, nations are constantly vying for power following their own agendas. Thus, in the Latin American context long dominated by the US government and corporations, "long-independent but still non-flourishing countries like Nicaragua and Bolivia, or former colonies that once flourished but now don't like Argentina and Venezuela" must operate in the powerful shadows of the US government and global corporations.

    Last, in the dimension of physical reality, nations become post-colonial in different states of health regarding their natural resources, available infrastructure, ability to earn future income, population level of education and skills, etc. Thus countries ravaged by war just before gaining post colonial status should be viewed as complete basket cases without something equivalent to a Marshall Plan. Even a nation like Vietnam with strong leadership still have a heavy burden to come out from under the rubble that we put them in. Libya, Iraq, Syria, etc., whose infra structures have been bombed out of existence and have no significant leaders, are doomed to perpetual manipulation by global special interests into the foreseeable future.

    JE comments:  Iceland is poor?  I must be missing something here.  It makes most Top-Ten lists for GDP per capita.  The IMF puts Iceland ahead of the US for both 2016 and projections for 2020.


    And what about "independence"?  As Tor Guimaraes suggests, there really are no such nations.  "Interdependence" is a more accurate term.  The most independent nation in the world is probably North Korea, and it is certainly not flourishing.  Or look at the other side:  French Guiana has no independence and is nominally the most prosperous state in South America.

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    • Post-Colonial Writers (John Heelan, -UK 04/17/17 3:39 AM)
      I became very interested in the impact of post-colonialism when studying the literature of the African continent (e.g. Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and more recently Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie), the various theories ranging from Victorian racist and "White Man's Burden" to Franz Fanon's "Negritude" and Wole Soylinka's mocking response "Tigritude."

      We have already discussed Derek Walcott's attempt to escape from the subaltern culture of Caribbean English that V.S. Naipaul accused of being "ashamed of its cultural background" and "seeking approval of a superior culture whose values were gravely in doubt." Edward Said commented about a "sense of place," saying "For the native, the history of his/her colonial servitude is inaugurated by the loss to an outsider of the local place, whose concise geographical identity must thereafter be searched for and somehow restored."

      There are many foremost Indian writers, such as Salman Rushdie, Amit Chaudhuri and Arundhati Roy continuing the battle to re-establish their indigenous culture. May their laptops be blessed with inspiration!

      JE comments:  This post is a Who's Who of Anglophone post-colonial writers.  Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria) has delivered at least two TED lectures, such as this one below with over 12 million views:


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