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Western Civilization? A Good Idea

By Thomas Mountain

The Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi was asked what he thought about western civilization. His answer? “I think it is a good idea”.

In June 2020 the French government announced that it would release 19 skulls of Algerian freedom fighters that it had been storing in museums in France to the Algerian government so they could be buried in Algeria on its Independence Day.

These skulls of Algerian freedom fighters had been taken as trophies by French Generals during the colonialization of Algeria in the 19th century. Before being sent to France for “safekeeping” the newly severed heads of these resistance martyrs had been displayed on pikes in public by the French as a lesson to the Algerian people.

Cutting off heads and displaying them on pikes for all to see? Is this the act of a high degree of civilization? I think not. Maybe more civilization in the western countries would be a good idea?

The British did the same in South Africa when they were suppressing the Zulu uprising against their conquest of the country in the early 20th century. The Zulus, without modern firearms, had still managed to inflict a series of defeats on the British colonial army only to finally succumb to the firepower of the British military.

The British general in command of the suppression campaign against the Zulus ordered the Zulu leaders head to be cut off and publicly displayed around the country to terrorize the indigenous population. Was this an act of a civilized society or was this a barbaric act marking a society that still needed a strong dose of civilization?

Slavery, subhuman bondage, is not a practice condoned by civilized society. It is a remnant of a period in history best described as barbarism.

To put is simply, western imperialism was, and is, a society marked by the commission of barbaric acts (the ultimate act of barbarism remains Hiroshima and Nagasaki) and those in the west who still claim it as high civilization are apologists for the society they benefit from materially.

The great African scientist and historian from Senegal Dr. Cheik Anta Diop wrote about African genius and the assault on Africa by western “civilization” in his classic work “Civilization or Barbarism”. In it he detailed the magnificent accomplishments of ancient and medieval Africans and the systematic attempts by western civilization to claim,

steal really, the credit for them.

When it comes to stealing, the theft of physical property, the euro-imperialists just couldn’t resist the obelisks along Africa’s Nile River, in today’s Egypt. The French, the British, even the Italians, all stole these magnificent monuments to African genius.

Never mind carving these giant, one piece monuments, the Euro-Imperialists could only boast about what a feat of “modern engineering” it was for the looters from the capitals of white supremacy, London, Paris and Rome to transport the obelisks to their present day resting places at the heart of the mental illness known as racism, white supremacy, the capitals of western empire.

In founding the “modern democracy” of the USA the slave owners at the heart of the revolt against the British, who had outlawed slavery in Britain, fought and won independence for the British colonies and successfully preserved slavery for almost another century.

If the institution of slavery, subhuman bondage, marks one of the main demarcations between civilization and barbarism, and the “Founding Fathers” of the USA were almost entirely slave owners, than wouldn’t the USA qualify under western civilization being a good idea?.

The denial of African genius goes so far as to attempt to deny anything positive about Africa, which nutured high civilizations going back many, many millennia.

One of the fathers of modern African centered history, W.E.B. DuBois, described Africa’s Nile Valley civilizations, particularly during the time of the enlightened Pharaohs, as an early form of socialism.

Africa’s Nile River flooded for 3 months every year, forcing the entire population to pick up and move to the highlands during this annual event. The social organizations needed to organize and carry out this annual migration had to have been very advanced, moving up to half a million people to a new home and back for three months every year. A mobile governing structure was needed to provide for the population and what was created was basically about social equality and “human rights”, the provision of food, water, shelter etc. for a people no matter the natural events taking place.

When a society is organized around meeting social needs rather than individual advancement than that is “socialism”, or at least a precursor to this next step in humanities survival.

Socialism is anathema to “western civilization” it would seem, with the word being disparaged or distorted beyond recognition so as to deny it anything really essential to human kind.

As global climate disaster begins to rear its fearsome head it is clear the planet will no longer tolerate the sort of greed and destruction presently being practiced internationally. You can call it what you want but it started out as “western civilization” and doing something about getting rid of it and replacing it with some sort of social cooperation and equality is far overdue. Western civilization? Definitely a good idea.

Thomas C. Mountain is an historian and educator living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. Reach him at thomascmountain at g mail dot com.

Your Comment
 
 
 

Chuma Anierobi | 11/5/2020 2:40:00 PM
It is bad because it is full of lies and deceit, too decadent.