Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Post Colonial Hangover 3: The Modern World

This is the 3rd and concluding part of the series on Colonialism in the Modern World. The previous part can be found here : http://reflectionsvvk.blogspot.in/2013/10/the-post-colonial-hangover-our-colonial.html

The age of Empires was over; the age of colonial style exploitation was over; the age of plunder and loot was over; the age of easy money was over; the age of forcible subjugation of Asia by Europe and America was over. The 50s marked the beginning of an era wherein all nations were viewed as equal; wherein all people were one and equal; wherein each nation could survive and grow basis its own economic, political and social policies and experiments, with the better nation winning out in the end. This is best symbolised in that iconic Hindi Song Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein, Kal Ki Baat Puraani; Naye Daur Mein Likhenge Mil Kar Nayi Kahaani, Hum Hindustani! / Aaj Puraani Raahon Ko Hum Chhod Chuke Hain, Aaj Puraani Zanjeeron Ko Tod Chuke Hain... Nayaa Daur Hai Nayi Umangein, Ab Hai Nayi Jawaani (Let history be; it is an old, old story... we Indians will script a new history for the coming generations... / We have broken the chains binding us, we have changed the path... it is a new era, with new desires and dreams... It is a new youth for us Indians!)

67 years have passed since 1947, and, as we saw in my last post - we have achieved a lot, and we have gained a tremendous amount of lost ground. In some ways, we have managed to fulfil the promise contained in the song of the 60s mentioned above. In more than a few ways, we have indeed scripted a new and proud history for our children. But take a look at the second line contained in the song... indeed, a new era with countless new desires and dreams with a motivation to excel.This gives us, theoretically, a limitless horizon to excel and grow... with one caveat. And that is that there are no chains binding us... 

The concept of a free world implies no intervention, and freedom to implement ones own socio-politico-economic policies without undue pressure from external vested interests, a world where each nationality can implement its own policies basis its own internal processes and procedures for doing so - be they democratic, or be they autarchic in nature. Or, in other words, a Utopia, a never-never land - as any economist or business person will readily testify. While lobbying friendly interests in the host country can and is an acceptable strategy, the modern post-colonial world goes far, far beyond mere lobbying. 

State Intervention is and has been the mainstay of economic and political growth in the post-colonial world; be it arm-twisting developing countries in Farm Subsidies in bilateral and multilateral talks, or the creation of an uneven playing field in the name of protectionism - even by developed countries. You cant wish it away... examples are a dime a dozen. In the past 12 months alone, we can spot pressure tactics aplenty that go far beyond "lobyying" or influencing: opposition to the 30% clause in FDI, Farm Subsidies, Pharmaceutical generics and the battles over it, US business houses  and vested interests getting together to calcuate "losses on account of Indian Policies", Nuclear Liability clause etc. Subtle and not-so-subtle pressure tactics are the mainstay of the day, and are pretty much standard. 

Most critically, the controlling powers in the post-colonial world remain the same colonial powers - USA, UK, France, Germany, Japan etc. That is where the wealth resides; that is where the power resides, almost as a direct consequence. And what of Asia, and especially India? Relatively, it finds itself in the same position: although we may dream of a world where all are equal, this is not going to come about any time soon. We may feel pride of our achievements, and rightfully feel we have earned the world's respect (which we have, in more ways than one); yet, when you put the entire socio-economic picture together, the conclusion is inescapable: we are the outsiders, from their perspective;  a mere market of 1.25 Billion People. 67 years later, this fundamental fact has remained unaltered: then, we were a huge resource base to be looted... now, we are a huge market to be tapped into. Witness the various utterances, policy measures and objections from the USA. Nothing has changed for us. Time we woke up to this reality. 

While the balance of power has shifted from UK to its son, the USA (The USA is essentially of British history, isnt it?); the same buccaneering spirit portrayed by the Europeans in the colonial era is in evidence, wherever you look at it. They call it their version of "free market". Strange, methought a free market meant I could make my own policies, without serious repercussions and threats in totally unconnected areas, without being hit under the belt?  This new, free world is a world where an economic folly and criminal stupidity in the west (remember subprime?) can impact lives 5000 kilometres away, of people who have nothing to so with the original event. This new, free world is a world where these innocent people have no recourse to any options, and have to simple wait out the bad times, till the global atmosphere improves. 

There is nothing wrong with a globalised world; India thrived on free trade for over 4 millennia. But it takes on an entirely different hue altogether when a state, or a set of states, gang up on another, deny access to capital and/or technology on frankly flimsy grounds. It becomes a buccaneering loot when you fight the ability of the state to provide for its own people as it may impact your profit lines. And that is precisely what the entire Farm Subsidy, Green House Gases, Pharmaceutical drug battles are all about. There are other examples, but these 3 would suffice. In each case, the richer states, instead of sacrificing for the other, poorer states - and trying to find a solution, are instead re-packaging business as "aid", and negotiating a heavy (at times) toll  in return - which may vary from market access, to lower duties, to preferential access etc. 

These richer states would do well to remember that they became rich on the back of the plunder and loot from Asian countries and Africa. Without the resources, the loot and the plunder, and the manpower (Africa) The much-touted West would not have been even a shadow of its current self. But the moment you raise this point, people of all hues cry blue murder, and say be practical! It is acceptable for these gentlemen (and ladies) if the very same colonial powers push frankly unfriendly terms on their negotiating partners, to the damage of their own countries. But no, dont mention the C-word! It would serve us well to remember the extent to which the West puts pressure - in the Aircraft deal, there were quick calls in the Media for suspension of aid; so much so that it required as acerbic reply and rejoinder from the Indian Government! 

Which brings me to the central point of my 3 articles: nothing has changed. The Post-Colonial World is still, fundamentally, and at a very basic level, colonial in nature. The power still vests in the colonial powers, who use it to the maximum extent that they can. This extends to Business as well as Security and Political matters, as shown in the support to Pakistan because of its so-called strategic utility, and never mind the damage you are doing to India, On another plane, you are talking to the very same India for greater market access, friendlier terms etc... amazing double speak! This is evident in the racialism that is still extant and prevalent across the West, as demonstrated by racial attacks on Indians in Australia and The UK. This is evident in any number of other examples that are exposed to us through our news; racism is alive and well in the west. As I said, nothing - absolutely nothing - has changed. 

The only change is that there is now a softer form of colonialism in prevalence, where the West can rule without sending a soldier, and without looting, allowing their conscience to breathe free. For true equality, for true freedom, it requires the Asian Powers of India, China and Japan to stand proud, tall, and confident with a comparable Military, Economic and Political Clout. Then and only then can a truly balanced world come about. Then and only then can the ghosts of colonialism be laid to rest, and forgiven, forgotten and buried. Not before...

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