Follow

The ethno-nationalist self-importance that underlies began long before Europeans set out to "civilize" the world in the 15th century. The ancient Greeks had four words describing all non-Greeks. "Keltoi", from which we get "celts" was their word for the "barbarians to the north", Libyans were the "barbarians to the south", etc. They passed it on to the Romans, who mixed it with Christianity and spread it across much of Europe, leading to the mass murders of the crusades. (1/2)

European colonization in the age of sail was just the metastasis of this cultural tumour, as it continued its spread beyond the organs of Europe. The "scientific racism" of the Victorian era was an ideological reaction to the beginnings of anti-racism in forms like the movement against human slavery. The only thing new about contemporary white supremacy is that it's not the "common sense" of any society, not even USAmerica, just a fringe belief desperate for attention.

@strypey I kinda disagree. The Greeks can only be thought of as ‘supremacists’ in the sense that they might have thought to be better than their neighbours, but if I remember my History right, they never tried to conquer them. They actually engaged in commerce with them, and that was how their science and philosophy spread through the Mediterranean.

Even the Romans had a different idea of imperialism from that of the British or the USAmericans.

@strypey When the Romans conquered any land, they made it effectively a part of the Empire. They treated those territories as an extension of Rome, and, as such, they gave them roads, aqueducts, temples and so on. They may have thought those people to be inferior, but they wanted to civilise them, to turn them into Romans. They even respected the local religions and added their gods to the Pantheon.

@strypey When the UK or the US conquers some place, they don't give a fuck about the people living there unless they can see them as resources to be exploited.

@josemanuel I take your points, but ...

> but if I remember my History right, they never tried to conquer them

For the most part the Greeks were too busy fighting each other ;) Also, they didn't yet have the resource constraints that tend to kick off expansionism. They did have some wicked wars with the Persians, which their histories record as defensive, but they would ... (1/?)

@josemanuel ... and there was a certain Greek known as Alexander the Great, who conquered ... the entire known world as it was at the time so ...

@josemanuel I think you're far too generous to the Romans. The age of sail Europeans and the US also built a lot of infrastructure in the countries they colonized. As with any empire, that's for military or extractive purposes, or to serve the colony of their own people, and to some degree to keep their workforce to busy to think about how badly they're paid (especially the slaves). Any benefits that trickle down to the local population are purely incidental. (2/?)

@josemanuel
> they wanted to civilise them, to turn them into Romans.

Exactly. Like the Greeks before them and the Victorians after them, they arrogantly (and wrongly) believed that "civilized" means "exactly like us", even when that doesn't make any environmental sense.

> They even respected the local religions and added their gods to the Pantheon

Except for the ones they crucified and fed to lions. Then once Constantine converted to Christianity, they began wiping out local religions (3/?)

@josemanuel
> they wanted to civilise them, to turn them into Romans.

... or make them into slaves. Either way, this is textbook white supremacy.

@strypey
> this is textbook white supremacy.

You make pretty good points in general, but I have to argue this one, as the Romans also conquered people ‘whiter’ than them.

> they arrogantly (and wrongly) believed that "civilized" means "exactly like us"

To be honest, they were the most civilised people in Europe at the time. I mean, they were smart and humble enough to learn from the Greeks and others. You have to give them credit for that.

@strypey
> Except for the ones they crucified and fed to lions.

Well, they were convinced that Christianity was a threat to the Empire. You can't judge that with today's standards. Today, they would have used the law to imprison them and the media to discredit them.

> Then once Constantine converted to Christianity, they began wiping out local religions

Then that's Christianity's fault, not Rome's. Remember what happened to Hypatia and who burned the Library of Alexandria.

@josemanuel
> they were convinced that Christianity was a threat to the Empire.

So they fed them to enslaved carnivores, or nailed them to trees? How does this square with your claim that the Romans were "civilized"?

> Then that's Christianity's fault, not Rome's.

If the Romans had started behaving more like pre-Constantine Christians, that argument would be valid. They did the opposite. Christian Rome was just pre-Christian Rome on monotheistic steroids.

@josemanuel
> they were the most civilised people in Europe at the time.

Only if you accept the white supremacist definition of "civilized", which is something like 'able and willing to use unsustainable military-industrial power to enslave or murder one's neighbours'. By that definition, the US are the most civilized people in the world right now. I recommend reading 'Ishmael' by to fully understand how biased and self-justifying notions of "civilized" can be.

@strypey Let's not confuse civilisation with morality. An imperialist society is immoral by definition, but that doesn't mean it isn't civilised. Civilised doesn't mean better, either.

To me, the concept of civilisation is tied to the idea of progress. If a society can evolve (by changing its laws, its institutions, its customs, etc.), it is civilised. If it can't (because it's based on superstitions instead of rationality, for example), it is not.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Mastodon - NZOSS

This Mastodon instance is provided gratis by the NZ Open Source Society for the benefit of everyone interested in their own freedom and sharing with others. Hosting is generously provided by Catalyst Cloud right here in Aotearoa New Zealand.