Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Getting Better

One of the reasons Africa's engagement with Colonialism is so different from the 'New World' is because it was so much a part of the old world. Yesterday I went to the Anthropological museum at the University of British Columbia, where a large part of the exhibition focuses on the 'First Nations' of the area. People with thousands of years of history in the area. I am embarrassed to say that I don't know very much about the equivalent first nation of South Africa - the Khoi Khoi and the San.

I knew of the 'Guns, Germs and Steel' that led to 90-95% of the population of areas of the New World being destroyed. I didn't know that similar things had happened in the Cape Colony in the period from the landing of Bartholomew Dias in 1488, and the arrival of the Dutch in 1652. A trading post meant that diseased men who had been at sea for long periods of time would rock up on shore to recover. Migrations via land were far slower, over long periods of time. I also don't know much about the history of the thousand year expansion down the east of Africa. The thousand years of Ivory and Slave trading between Africa, India and pushing into China and Indonesia.

'Guns, Germs & Steel'

Because the New World colonisation was more recent, there is more history intact. The wounds are also sore. I cringe at the thought of 'residential schools'. A policy where First Nation Canadian children were forcibly removed as an attempt to assimilate them into Christian ways of thinking. That along with some child abuse for extra measure.

A Canadian Residential School (with parents camping outside)

New Zealand has always been the shining light I have looked to as to how culture can grow, appreciating and pulling on the past, while sharing the best bits of cultures that come in to contact with each other. We have a messy history to unravel. I get the sense that we are slowly starting to figure out better ways to do it. Anthropology used to be about collections, almost like a freak show. It has changed to respectful study and listening. Science also has a messy past of 'proving divisions' - races based on division after the Pleistocene - Caucasoid, CongoidCapoidMongloidAustroloid. It is not surprising that some are hesitant to accept facts today when some of the 'facts' of the past were so appalling. 

Part of looking back at history is about pride. Part of looking back is at realising the dark places we can go if we raise ourselves above others. We can do better.
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