When in the 1950s and 60s, most colonized countries and territories across the world threw off the yolk of colonialism, there was tremendous hope and anticipation that a new era of hope, independence, freedom and self – determination was about to unfold.
In most cases, it was with great reluctance that the colonial masters granted independence to their erstwhile colonies from where they had for generations held the total control that had enabled them to exploit human and material resources and perpetuate themselves in the social economic and political lives of their subjects.
In Kenya and Algeria for instance, it was with extreme violence that independence was won. Thus, the Mau-Mau Movement of Kenya and the Algerian War of Independence remain to this date, significant watersheds in the movement for independence especially among African countries.
However, independence has not always resulted in the anticipated changes. In some countries, once the common enemy in form of the colonial masters was rid of, local differences manifested, sometimes resulting in bitter wars.
The 1947 Indo – Pakistani war is a case study. There are many other instances including Congo, Nigeria, Malaya, and even recently in Western Sahara, Eritrea and East Timor, among others where the fight for independence and independence itself has resulted in wars and strife. Sometimes, independence has come along with baggage of grief, blood and a plethora of painfully crushed hopes.
Some thinkers argue that the colonial powers put in place mechanisms to ensure that the new states fail, or to allow them to continue to control the newly emergent countries even after independence. The close social, political and economic ties and relationships between former colonies and former colonial powers seem to favor this argument. Thus, 44 years after independence, Britain is still one of Nigeria’s biggest trading partners. The close ties between France and Francophone Africa, and even the US and say, Philippines lend credence to this theory. One can hardly dispute this view in light of overwhelming evidence.
However, as the world continues to experience changes, the concept of neo colonialism is fast fading out of fashion. Newer and more sophisticated, yet more subtle movements are taking over, the most important of which is Globalization.
The mass movement of capital, aggregated by effortless flow of human and material resources across seamless borders represents new and more challenging phenomena especially in a uni-polar world characterized by the opening up of new markets and the rise of global terror as the powers that control the global media would want us to imbibe.(Maybe Mercuse should rise and produce a new edition of his ‘One Dimensional Man’ Or Toffler should write on ‘One Dimensional Mind’).
While the poorest countries in the world (usually African), are yet to be fully integrated into the emergent global market that has not stopped the negative impact of colonialism from being felt. African countries are faced with increased marginalization in the global economy and poverty is on the increase. Reports have indicated that sub Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where the living standard has actually fallen over the last 20 years or so.
In the world of today, control of human and material resources is not done through forceful domination of people through military subjugation, even though President (Professor?) Bush is working hard to disprove that fact. But it remains that the new form of control is spearheaded by international finance organizations aimed at consolidating a global economic structure that very often has its head offices in New York, London, Tokyo, Paris, Frankfurt, and other investment hubs across the world. (The Chinese have just discovered this ice cream and have set about claiming their share with characteristic speed).
The Gatlin guns are frozen. There are no more massacres like the 1904 Maji – Maji Revolt in Namibia where German troops systematically gunned down an estimated 60 – 80, 000 Africans. The Berlin Conference of 1884 – 1885 that partitioned Africa has been replaced by GATT, and in today’s parlance, the World Trade Organization. These days, African tribes do not need to be set upon each other while the colonial masters mop up colonies from where human and material resources were exploited. (We can do that all by ourselves, as we have demonstrated in Rwanda).
The world has gone beyond such crudity. We call it free trade, and the final arbiter is the World Trade Organization whose aim is seemingly to allow a few rich countries and corporations dominate global capital and global resources. The colonial powers of today do not need military might and occupation to control the lives and destiny of billions of people in their former colonies. Perhaps in the not too distant future, Microsoft or Citi Group will have a seat on the United Nations. After all, these two companies alone generate more wealth every year than all of Africa’s 700 million people.
Incidentally, the globalization of capital and other related resources is a continuation of a historical process that began with the mercantile era or indeed, is as old as man. The Dutch East Indies and the Royal Niger Company of 200 years ago are the HSBC, Barclays, USB and other multi nationals like Coca Cola, McDonalds, Exxon Mobile, Royal Shell, Sony, Philips and many others whose goal seems to be the aggregation of capital in as few hands as possible. No need to send a Cortez or a Columbus or a Drake or Cook on expeditions for huge profits. This is the Global age and a few computer screens will tell you exactly what is going on across the globe in an instant. (Remember Wall Mart’s Global Screens?)
So for those who may think that colonialism is a thing of the past, it is time to think again. Imperialism and dialectical materialism as envisaged by a certain famous philosopher might not have come to pass, or at least, not as he predicted. But the sad fact remains that today, more than at any age in thousands of years of human domination through occupation and colonialism is witnessing the concentration of more wealth in the hands very few. Recent figures show that the top 5 percent control about 70 percent of global resources. And this was facilitated by Globalization. So the fact should be accepted that Globalization is another (digital?) form of Colonialism.
It is good thing that most of us do not realize it.