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« So That's Who it Was! | Main | Aegean Folly »

May 22, 2006

Comments

Scott Wickstein

A thought-provoking and informative post. One of your best.

I have a question. I don't know anything much about Kenya, but they don't seem to be quite as full of resentment at the British in the way that Koreans are about Japan. Is this an accurate impression, and if it is, why did they 'get over it' quicker?

Abiola

Your impression is correct: most Kenyans are actually very favorably inclined towards Britain, as I can attest both from personal experience and a Pew global poll carried out not so long ago:

http://www.globescan.com/news_archives/bbcpoll06-3.html

As for why this is, I think a large part of it is that the Kenyan government hasn't gone out of its way since independence to aggressively promote a spirit of resentment of Britain in the schools, on the airwaves and on every political forum; looking at just how positively Japan is viewed throughout the rest of Asia outside of its two neighbors, or the friendly attitudes the Vietnamese and the Filipinos have towards America, it seems clear to me that the natural tendency of human beings is to forgive and move on, unless there are powerful institutional forces constantly prodding them to stay angry.

Wayne

I did have the impression that while British imperialism was fraught with oppression and violence, relative to other European colonialists it was much milder. However, I'm not so sure now.

Of course, that doesn't reduce the severity of the imperialistic rule coming those like Spain, Portugal, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and others.

Interesting post.

Steve Edwards

I met a bunch of Kenyans when I was in Hong Kong (Kowloon seemed to have thousands of Kenyans, Nigerians, Ghanians, etc as well as Pakistanis, Indians...basically anyone who was ever ruled by the Brits was there!) and they didn't really have anything bad to say about the British. Certainly they were upbeat about their own prospects in Kenya, in any case.

You'll probably find that there is more anti-British sentiment in Australia than half the "non-white" places that were ever colonised by the Brits. This is particularly absurd as the majority of Australians are essentially Britons, and have a pretty damn easy life as a direct result of British imperialism. I suspect a lot of Australians might take their Irish heritage seriously (and the political class, especially the republicans, have been keen to play the Irish card when it suits them), and thus feel the need to rail against Britain to fulfill their need for an identity.

emmanuel goldstein

Some reasons why Kenyans are thought to lack resentment:
1. Kenyatta's government, once in power, efficiently covered up what had happened.
2. Many of the camp detainees were sexually abused. The stigma attached to this (especially for men) in Kikuyu culture, meant that not many of them spoke about the camps after they left.
3. the Brits burnt vast amounts of archive material when they left Kenya, it's taken historians many years to reconstruct the story from the scraps left. Mau Mau has only recently become part of 'official' Kenyan history.
4. Mau Mau was also a civil (and class) war between (rich) loyalist Kikuyu, and poorer traditionalists. The loyalists basically won, so history in Kenya was taught their way. Until recently.

The Marmot

It should also be pointed out that like in Zimbabwe, a large number of white settlers (with one of whom I came very close to a bar fight in Kampalla) eventually stayed on in Kenya after independence, and the Kenyatta government was very keen to promote amicable relations between the country's African, European and Asian communities, especially considering the latter two's importance to the national economy. Of course, you also have guys like Ngugi wa Thiong'o (who wrote "A Grain of Wheat"), who were and still are very, very ill-inclined toward the former colonial power (and the United States, for that matter).

BTW, a couple of days ago, I noted on my own blog the very striking difference between Germany's liquidation of its World War II past and its failure to liquidate its colonial past:

http://www.rjkoehler.com/?p=2891

I found it quite pertinent given how the German example is raised each and every time Japan's handling of its history is brought up. If by "following the German example," one means belated and half-hearted attempts to address colonial misdeads, while at the same time keeping the general population generally ignorant of said misdeads, then I guess the Japanese really are following the German example after all. And to imagine that the Germans have actually been relatively pro-active in confronting their colonial past compared to the British and French (and Americans, for that matter). Sheesh.

Abiola---Keep up the brilliant work.

Chuckles

Much of what has been said here WRT European imperialism in Africa is spot on. However, I hesitate, certainly not because I misread the intentions of The Marmot or Steve Edwards but because in contexts such as these it is only too easy to misinterprete the amicability of relations between Africans and their erstwhile despoilers as yet another example of how blacks always craved white rule and you know - they really wanted us there; borrowing many pages, in many ways, from Mister Johnson. In this sense, people on the other side of the fence can dismiss African attitudes and promote reactionary vindictiveness as the normal response.
The reality is that the comparatively mellow response to European Imperialism in Africa is seen as yet another proof of inate African docility. In a perverse twist, the amiability of Africans becomes proof that no crimes were enacted!
The continued Japan bashing thus becomes not so much an indicator of fear WRT Japan - or even of hypocritical sanctimoniousness, as it does of a general contempt for blacks (the ultimate Other): Let us recall that Japan's Imperial rise was as a vanguard for the darker races of humanity - and few countries treated the Jews more benevolently during the War than Japan.
Ishihara, on this point has something: That a non-white Nation has achieved great power status: This inflames Occidental anxiety in many ways and the Japanese are merely a proxy for something else.

Randy McDonald

"By all objective considerations, then, if we are to judge today's Japanese as latent ultranationalists and militarists because of their reluctance to play up the negatives of their imperial past to our satisfaction, and in the face of Japan's long historical record of isolationism outside of Hideyoshi's mad schemes and the 1895-1945 period, then the British people, who have been involved in too many military engagements to count in the last 30 years alone, let alone over the last millenium, must be Satan's personal representatives on Earth, with every UK citizen a Terminator-like specimen of utter ruthlessness and aggression."

Or, perhaps, we can judge that anyone--Japanese, British, other--who defends their country's imperial past without reservations has serious issues.

Chuckles:

"[F]ew countries treated the Jews more benevolently during the War than Japan."

In the Axis, yes. As it happens, the Japanese had other, more locally relevant, targets.

"That a non-white Nation has achieved great power status: This inflames Occidental anxiety in many ways and the Japanese are merely a proxy for something else."

Yes, the famous Occidental origins of the South Koreans clearly explains their hostility towards the Japanese. Yawn.

Above, you cautioned regarding the Kenyans and Britain that it would be "too easy to misinterprete the amicability of relations between Africans and their erstwhile despoilers as yet another example of how blacks always craved white rule and you know - they really wanted us there." Would that people tried to avoid this assumption regarding the subject peoples of all colonial empires.

Anyhow, here's a theory: Maybe Kenya's not so vocal about resentment of British wrongs not because Kenyans don't care, but rather because Kenya's in such a weak position. If Kenya was a newly-industrialized country as successful as South Korea, I suspect that the repression of the Mau Mau would be a significant issue in British-Kenyan relations.

Chuckles

Randy McDonald:

[...In the Axis, yes. As it happens, the Japanese had other, more locally relevant, targets...]

An observation that is entirely irrelevant since this thread features a comparison of European and Japanese Imperialisms: No matter how bad the Japanese were, Europeans always did them one badder WRT the Jews.

[...Yes, the famous Occidental origins of the South Koreans clearly explains their hostility towards the Japanese. Yawn...]

Awww, Rubbish. Awww Rubbish. Gaddemit man, pull yourself together. The statement which invokes your yawn was made WRT to Western criticism of Japan - the hostility of the West towards Japan (in some quarters) WRT to this issue has very little to do with the war crimes of the Japanese, and everything to do with Occidental anxiety. Gawd! Any loon could see that thats what the statement was about. After all, this thread only happens to be about British Imperialism with nary a Korean in sight.

[...Would that people tried to avoid this assumption regarding the subject peoples of all colonial empires...]

Would that vacuous statements like this actually had some evidence - you know - of an assertion - you know - that subject peoples of any colonial empire desired said depredation. Would that - you know - such evidence be - you know - adduced from this thread or any other where - you know - this topic has been under consideration.

[...but rather because Kenya's in such a weak position...]

Rat Rubbish. If so called "weakness" had anything to do with vocalizing said criticism, then widespread animus against the British would correlate with economic growth, no? So tell me - was this or was this not the case during periods of economic growth which followed African Independence? Furthermore - based on this theory of yours - should we expect to see a renewed hostility towards the British from India, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc (since after all, these are either or soon to be, very industrialized regions)? Put some predictions and testability behind your theory and maybe I will take it more seriously.

Abiola

Chuckles,

You ought to have spared yourself the trouble; when it comes to Japan, Randy is a broken record, impervious to even the most rudimentary logic or incontestable evidence ...

Chuckles

So it seems.

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