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Friday, May 16, 2014

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Colonialism

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Colonialism.

Quite a trending topic I would say given the elections for the European
parliament in a few days time. Not forgetting that the EU is the direct
product of the last big adventure by an European power to colonise its
neighbours. I say the last because today colonialism does not involve
land grab as I argue in my few ideas on the subject below.

In the meantime Ruel wants to share an essay with us he wrote some time
ago about the case of colonialism and the Philippines:

Hello Lawrence,

I decided not to write an essay this time on Sunday´s topic
"Colonialism" since I remembered I wrote a related article, "Feudalism
and Colonialism: The Case of the Philippines," which was published on
News Junkie Post sometime last year (August 8, 2013). I hope our
PhiloMadrid colleagues will find some relevant thoughts on the issue of
colonialism in my article. The said article may be accessed through the
following link:

http://newsjunkiepost.com/2013/08/08/feudalism-and-colonialism-the-case-of-the-philippines/
See you on Sunday.
Best,
Ruel

------

--Lawrence –Colonialism


I intend to argue that colonialism is not the product of political
adventurism but mainly the result of the follies and mismanagement of
the economy.

There are three key issues in classical economics that concern us
directly: resources are scarce, diminishing marginal returns and demand
supply equilibrium. Usually the very basics are also the most important.
Given that there isn't an endless supply of resources the implication is
that it is not always possible to meet demand. And even if there are
enough resources it still takes time to make these available. Economic
issues are not metaphysical ideals but empirical events in the lives of
people.

The principle of diminishing returns basically reflects the idea that if
you have a system of "production" but leave its mechanism the same
without adapting it to reflect its use, sooner or later the system will
come to a stop. A very basic example is a car, unless one adds petrol to
a car it will soon come to a stop.

Human beings have tended to get on the wrong side of these two
principles on a regular basis although this is not the exclusive domain
of human beings. The difference is that other biological creatures
always function within the raw parameters of nature and evolution. We
are also captive of biological parameters but we have also been able to
extend those parameters through our understanding of nature and ability
to make tools.

Thus when wildebeest run out of grass they migrate to other parts of the
African continents. On the other hand, humans have invented tools,
manipulated water ways, germinated seeds and husbanded animals to meet
most of our survival needs. The natural mechanism to keep the supply of
grass for wildebeest (or any other creature) and the number of
wildebeest is based on the number of predators and sometimes diseases
that decimate herds (or creatures). However, with better diets, tools
and medical science we are more likely to be the victims of successful
over population for example with mass migration to cities,
slash-and-burn policies that destroys the fertility of the land, wars,
and of course colonialism.

Colonialism can therefore be seen as an extension of the management or
mismanagement of these three principles: diminishing returns, scarce
resources and demand and supply. The British Empire for example, was a
quest for bigger markets, the Spanish empire was a quest for gold, the
Roman empire a quest for more land and so.

Maybe today we do not build empires by land acquisition but by the
ownership of the assets of other countries or their financial control.
We mustn't forget that the lubricating force of classical economics is
money. Indeed modern colonialism is sustained by a very clever language
game: in particular changing the referential object of the
economic/political term "capitalism." Capitalism used to mean the
ownership of the means of production to use for profit in a free market.
Today, we still call it capitalism, we still call it profit, and we
still call it a free market, but what we owe today are the means of
financing. Today financial institutions not only the control investments
through financing the means of production, but also the financing of
consumption. We can describe capitalism today as an endless loop of
money movement sucking in every non financial wealth. A car becomes a
financial instrument when the bank lends the buyer money to buy it.

Hence, the traditional meaning of colonialism has also changed by
stealth of hand. Today, the historical powers in Europe have no
expansion designs on their neighbours land, but more on their
neighbour's banking system and supply of capital investments. As recent
adventurism by the USA has demonstrated, it is not necessary to occupy
and control the land of a country for successful expansionism. It's
enough to create mayhem and stop the flow of resources to make it
possible for an outsider to benefit from the situation. The occupation
of Afghanistan and Iraq resulted in a state of mayhem and flow of oil.
But the benefit was that world oil prices have reached a level high
enough to make oil reserves in most (Western) countries profitable. Fear
and terror have always subdued societies; and these can today be
projected through proxy groups, long distance weapon systems and drones
that can linger over a country for hours on end.

At the philosophical/political philosophy level some argue that there is
a difference between imperialism and colonialism. Colonialism need not
involve occupying someone else's land; the original settlers who moved
from Britain to what is now the USA were colonialists; they did not know
the land was already occupied. Imperialism is basically expansionism by
a strong country over other countries. Whichever way we look at it,
colonialism has a negative meaning and as a political strategy it is
certainly unacceptable. We might call this occupation of land as
"classical colonialism." The "new colonialism" as I explained involves
controlling or owning the assets of a country and the financial markets
of that country. On our continent, obvious examples today of "new
colonialism" would be Ireland, Spain, Greece, and most most of Central
Europe.

We can look at colonialism as something inevitable given our human
nature; we might even accept that it is just a matter of time (even if
it is counted in millennia) before we literally drive ourselves to the
ground and disappear.

But at the micro level, biological systems do not necessarily colonise
other biological system with negative and devastating repercussions. Gut
flora that lives in the digestive tracts have a beneficial effect on the
host creature. Is it possible for human beings to be involved in
beneficial colonialism? Or are we more like a deadly virus?

If, hopefully, we have put classical colonialism behind us and moved on
to the "new colonialism", what beholds us for the long term? Benevolent
colonialism? Or universal enslavement?

And talking about enslavement, given that it is now practically official
policy of the Vatican that aliens can also be baptised, what are the
chances that there will be aliens to be baptised?

Whether human beings will ever meet aliens is a matter of speculation
and dinner party talk to while away the boredom of such meetings. And
the idea that the aliens will help us find a cure for cancer or give us
entertaining TV is just bonkers. But there is a more serious question
behind this mental exercise: why should the aliens help us with
anything? What if they just wanting to colonise us? After all, how many
countries we colonised did we help cure their cancer victims? Indeed,
how many countries have we colonised in order to cure their cancer
patients?

Best Lawrence



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from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Colonialism

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