For centuries we have been repeatedly told that the colonizer ventured abroad into distant lands to ‘bring [the benefits of] civilization’. The images brought to us from those eras however, far from endorse this. Do any of them speak to you of a civilizing mission? Note in the very early images we see (when there was no shame at their raping and pillaging) how the brown man is generally pictured carrying burdens for the white man? Often he can be seen sitting in the canoe while the brown man paddles it. Or reclining on a stretcher of sorts while the brown man carries him. And yes the hijacking by these people of free labour was not confined to non-whites, in the case of the British, they also enslaved their own closer to home. The Irish and Scots were forcibly dispossessed of their lands, made homeless and even shipped abroad, all to make way for more profitable sheep farming. The 1600s saw the sale of 30,000 Irish prisoners into slavery.
The people who were forced into labour by the colonizers were by all accounts paid either a pittance or not paid at all, their hospitality taken complete advantage of. Indigenous people shared their lands for the newcomers to dwell on and frequently helped them to survive in the new environment, only to find their hospitality was repaid with wholesale theft. Note also that the latter crimes came only when their numbers were enough to ensure they could successfully overrun them.
NZ’s Dr Hirini Moko Mead describes three phases in the process of colonization. The first phase he called the ‘friendly accommodating phase’, then the ‘wars of domination’ and finally the ‘myth making phase’. During the friendly phase everyone got along, trading with each other and enjoying a fairly mutually beneficial relationship. It was set to become more symbiotic however and the wars of domination enforced that. The settlers wanted land, and the owners didn’t want to sell. From there sprang land wars and covert methods of genocide including policies of assimilation.
The myth making phase refers to the cover up of the whole process whereby everything is officially written into histories that are more palatable, histories that celebrated European murderers as heroes and saw streets named after them.
They took the children and forbade them to speak their own native language. In some countries they were plucked from their parents and raised in prisons and labour camps masquerading as boarding schools (see Ward Churchill’s ‘Kill the Indian, Save the Man’) trained specifically for menial jobs. There they were subject to all manner of atrocities and abuse from which many little ones tried to run. Australian Aboriginal mothers lived in terror and fear of the arrival of Police on horseback to take their babies, never to be seen again, known as the ‘stolen generation’. Such trauma as separation from family and subsequent horrific abuse has produced generations of wounded, damaged people who resort in adult life to such self medication as alcohol and drug abuse. They are of course blamed for their predicament, however it’s a well known fact that trauma continues to visit its devastation upon each succeeding generation (PCSD) until some kind of intervention and healing takes place. If you find PCSD difficult to accept (mainstream delight in debunking it and saying ‘there is no excuse’) see the more recent and stark example in the 1970s of the forced relocation of the Chagossian people from their homeland Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. One woman’s husband collapsed and died of stroke when he heard at the travel terminal that the British authorities had forbade them to return home. Her two young children died soon after the trauma of relocation. Many many more of her people also died from suicide, addictions and deprivation. This is raw PCSD that cannot be argued with. It is one thing to be relocated through disaster or war, but quite another to be forcibly relocated by persons motivated by lies, greed and power.
The missionaries (knowingly or otherwise) were very much a part of the friendly phase. In NZ’s case, Henry Williams, who translated the Treaty of Waitangi into Maori, reminded everyone at the signing of the Treaty that ‘were it not for the missionaries they would not be here this day, nor be in possession of a foot of land in New Zealand’ (Colenso, cited by H. Mead p103). They would later be accused of raising Māori eyes heavenward whilst their lands were taken from under them. This was reinforced by the fact that when the land wars broke out some missionaries were seen to be on the side of the military and not for them. For this reason Rev Thomas Grace would have no part of the wars and refused to be even a military chaplain.
The following images demonstrate nothing of a civilizing intent. It is all about the powerful lording it over those who had land and resources. What is particularly distasteful is that these powerful ones came with the Gospel preaching that ‘righteousness exalts a nation’ (in the case of Great Britain). Their warfare was deceitful in that they gained entry with an initially friendly posture and a Gospel of peace. It was later that the true intent became evident. It was noted that they fought on Sundays and burned churches and Bibles.