From the author of The Colonial Mind

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From the author of The Colonial Mind

If you had gone to school in Europe or Euro-America 150 years ago, (mid 19th century), you would have learned:

  1. The most important things that ever happened to humanity happened in Europe (Europe being the greater Europe, from the Bible lands to the geographic continent of Europe).

  2. You would have been taught that God created man in this region. The Garden of Eden was the beginning of human life 5,000 years ago.

  3. Some of your teachers would have told you that only the people in this region are really human. Other people in other places are different and perhaps an infrahuman species.

  4. All of your teachers would have agreed that non-Europeans are not as intelligent, not as honorable, and not as courageous as Europeans.

  5. You would have been told that God made the others inferior, and He does not show the same favor to non-Europeans, or non-Christians that He shows to people who worship the True God.

  6. You would have learned that people who live in Africa and Asia are not only inferior but in some sense evil. They were the people who had refused God’s grace and so fell from God’s favor. Africans are cruel savages. The best fate for them is to put them to useful work and Christianize them.

  7. You would have learned that Indians and Chinese people somehow built barbaric civilizations, but they are stagnating and regressing and the people are cruel and not really civilized.

  8. Your teachers would have concluded that only Europeans know what true freedom is.

Ideas change:

If you had gone to school 50 years later, around the turn of the 20th Century, you would have been taught:

  1. The earth is very old and humans have been around for a long time, much longer than 5,000 years.

  2. However, everything important in history still happened in Europe. The first true man lived in Europe, agriculture was invented in Greater Europe, and the first real civilization began in the Bible Lands.

  3. You would have learned that humans emerged into two Caucasian groups who made all of history.

  4. The Semites invented cities and empires and had monotheism and even Christianity, but they fell into Oriental decadence and decay.

  5. The Aryans built on these foundations and migrated through geographical Europe and created the first real civilizations.

  6. You would have learned that Africans are savages.

  7. You would have learned that Oriental societies are decadent and tyrannical.

  8. Your teachers would have taught you that non-Europeans can rise to a civilized level – nearly as civilized as Europeans – if they are taught by Europeans, and especially if they are under European control.

Film: This Magnificent African Cake


  • Colonialism – is defined as the active possession of foreign territory and the maintenance of political domination of that territory.

  • Colonialism has existed in various degrees probably since agriculture began as a subsistence strategy. But Euro-American colonialism, between the 16th and the mid 20th century was on a different magnitude than any other time.

  • Euro-American colonialism has been called the development of the west, and the degradation of the rest. Its purpose was to extract resources and harness indigenous labor to facilitate industrialization and a capitalist system for Euro-American accumulation of wealth and power.


Neocolonialism is the extension of colonialism but through corporations, industrialization complexes, and modernization efforts – most of which benefit the original Euro-American economic complexes much more than they benefit Third World nations.

1) In neocolonialism the corporate colonial power declares that continuation of its dominance, through economic progress, is a “necessary evil” if the Third World nation is to develop and modernize. Corporations declare that they are helping people in other countries progress and become more civilized, more like Europeans or Americans.

2) The question is, are corporations really helping other people, or are they taking resources and exploiting cheap labor as colonists did before? Is this colonialism without responsibility to the people in these countries?

If Europeans believed unfair treatment was wrong, then to take lands, force people into labor, and kill people …

… Europeans had to dehumanize people, demean them so that they could be seen as inhuman as possible.

It seemed only logical to make one’s self and one’s country wealthy while you were in the process of civilizing and Christianizing the ‘heathens.

The ‘heathens’, after all, didn’t know enough to make the most intensive use of their resources.


Self rule often resulted in greater hardship

  • People’s identities were often about being in opposition to the Europeans

  • Conditions had changed too much to go back to the older ways

  • Elements of a healthy nation state did not exist either.

  • Colonialism was extended through corporations, industiral complexes and modernization efforts.

  • Colonial powers continued to be involved in the economics of their former colonies.

  • They continue to extract resources and wealth and often make it difficult for local people to participate equally in economic ventures.

What of the colonial mindset now?

One of thousands of examples that are occurring now.

  • The Republic of Panama, in partnership with U.S. company AES

  • To build 107 dams so Panama can become the regional energy hub

  • In many areas of the world hydroelectric projects bring costs to indigenous peoples that greatly outweigh benefits.

  • Ngobe peoples have lived for hundreds of years on the lands that will be dammed.

  • If you lose your land, you lose your source of food and other sustenance

  • You become vulnerable, dependent on labor jobs. Moved to cities. Most people who are moved from their lands become destitute

  • Forced to relocate without consultation or negotiation

  • No equivalent land and resources being provided

  • Government claims these aren’t ‘real’ Ngobe people and so are not protected by United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – a declaration Panama signed and approved.

Peaceful demonstrations have resulted in harsh police action.

Land is owned by kinships, not individuals, but company is coercing individuals to sign papers that they can’t read to deed the land to AES
Allied Energy Systems
“The Power of Being Global”

On March 30, more than 100 Panamanian police officers in riot gear leveled a Naso village.

The leveling was a response to a peaceful protest by Naso and Ngobe villagers who oppose hydroelectric dams that threaten their homelands.

May 12 UN Special Report

  • The Changuinola River dam in western Panama threatens the homelands of the Naso and Ngobe people.

  • UN report confirms that the actions of the AES Corporation are violations of human rights

  • The company and the government made no attempt to involve the Naso or Ngobe in plans for the dam

  • They used tactics to trick or force the Ngobe people out of their homes

  • Have encouraged Panamanian police to participate in forced removal

  • The report urges the corporation to use international standards for corporate social responsibility and not contribute, even directly, to violations of human rights.

The New Colonialism/May 6, 2009 report

  • Many of the world’s richest and biggest countries are buying or renting huge swaths of farmland in the world’s poorest countries.

  • The rich are seeking food security by acquiring land in Africa and Asia

  • Mostly in Africa where the soil is fertile, costs are low, and the owners are weak

  • Critics call it the “global land grab” with neocolonial overtones.

  • Madagascar is a prime target

  • Zambia, the Sudan, Tanzania, Mali, Kenya

  • Millians of peasants and nomads are likely to be dispossessed by the land acquisitions

  • Food will be exported from countries that are suffering drought and hunger

  • Unequal power relations put the poor at risk

  • The state often formally owns the land and pushes the poor off of their farming plots without consultation or compensation

  • Madagascar’s recent seizure of the government was over a deal with a South Korean company who signed papers to rent 1.3 million hectares of land for 99 years

  • The new leader cancelled the secret deal, a deal that was made without any consultation with the people

  • The land is sacred for the Malagasy people, said the land reform minister. There is a need to protect the land of our ancestors.

Bolivia: What western people decide to want has a great deal of influence on third world lives and economies

  • Opium, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin handled through criminal corporations

What has been the impact of the market for cocaine on the lives of Bolivians?

“They say you Americans can do anything. So why can’t you make your own cocaine and let our children come home from the cocaine plantations in the Chapare?”

  • Quechua Indians grew their own food in the highlands and traded potatoes for the foods they did not grow.

  • The coca market was devastating in the back villages in many ways.

  • Hunger became a way of life, with much of the food going to the Chapare to feed the coca workers.

Cocaine became a major contributor to a fall in living conditions and economic welfare of Bolivian people

  • A few got rich

  • Most grew hungry

Tens of thousands of young Bolivians look like lepers with permanently disfigured hands and feet.

The Price of Progress

How is the Ngobe, African land grabbing, and Chapare neocolonial experience different from the colonial experience in Africa?


  • Annihilation

  • Forced labor

  • Moved off their lands

  • Loss of means to support selves

  • Violent confrontations

  • Elite class that benefits

Bolivia example?

Africa land grab example?

Ngobe Panama example?

Assimilation effort was a simplification of human reality

In the film “Clash of Worlds” (Russian Orthodox priest & scholar Father Michael Oleksa.

Annihilation: destruction of one group by another. Demographic or cultural disappearance of target population.

Assimilation: absorption of minority group into the dominant culture. The dominant culture remains essentially unchanged.

Amalgamation: mutual adaptation and mixing of culture/ethnic groups. “Melting pot”

Accommodation: maintaining cultural/ethnic distinctiveness among different groups, which results in cultural pluralism.

Ethnic reorganization occurs when changes to social structure, boundaries, and when dominant culture demands changes

  • Social reorganization: involves the modification, addition, or elimination of social structural norms, governing group membership, kinship, family organization, social relations, etc.

  • Economic reorganization: involves the modification, addition or elimination of economic norms, activities, and organization

  • Political reorganization: involves the modification, addition, or elimination of political structure, forms or organization, and patterns of participation

  • Cultural reorganization: involves the modification, addition, or elimination of the content, practice, or transmission of material or ideational culture.

The stresses and pathologies of culture change

From Canadian Journal of Public Health

Aboriginal research in Canada by Judith Bartlett
Health status in relation to increased levels of morbidity and mortality are clearly related to effects of sustained contact with an external society that brought dramatically different cultural norms and practices. The impact of massive cultural change as observed (and can occur in any society) leads to health changes.
J.W. Berry writes that change can occur at seven levels:

1. Physical - place to live, type of housing, increasing population density

2. Biological – nutrition, new diseases

3. Political – loss of autonomy

4. Economic – move away from traditional pursuits to new forms of employment

5. Cultural – loss of original linguistic, religious, educational, and technical institutions

6. Social relationships – alternations in intergroup and interpersonal relationships

7. Psychological – values, attitudes, abilities, and motives

Types of adjustments to culture change

  1. Adjustment (to increase congruence)

  2. Reaction (retaliation against the new environment)

  3. Withdrawal (removal from adaptive arena, often because of forced exclusion or voluntary withdrawal)

Assimilation (relinquishing one’s cultural identity and moving into larger society)
Integration (some maintenance of cultural identity and movement to become an integral part of a larger society)
Marginalization (loss of culture and psychological contact with people’s traditional culture and the larger society by exclusion or withdrawal)
Pathology results from culture change circumstances – especially when culture change is involuntary.
Disease flows from stress phenomena.

Products of forced acculturation. Many indigenous peoples all over the world have experienced the stresses inherent in involuntary acculturation processes.
Acculturation stress behaviors include:

  • Lowered mental health status

  • Feelings of marginality and alienation

  • Heightened psychosomatic symptoms

  • Identity confusion

  • Homicide

  • Suicide

  • Substance abuse

  • Family violence

Stressors are defined as demands (from the social environment) to which there are no readily available or automatic adaptive responses. People are expected to know how to respond and fit into a new cultural arena even though they have learned very different life skills and coping strategies. Every activity and goal is full of stress because knowing what to do in particular situations is not automatic.
Majority society controls forces or coerces people to change in the ways that the dominant society thinks are appropriate. When the assimilation does not work, the dominant society tends to ‘blame the victim’.
After several generations of people have experienced feeling like ‘failures’, revival of cultural identities has been increasing rapidly in many places. For many peoples the result is improved health.

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