Saturday, April 01, 2017

Cookie Cutter

Trade of ideas has a long history. The world's great centres of learning were typically cities on trading routes - Timbuktu, Babylon, Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, Beijing, London (List of largest cities throughout history). The lesson could then be carried home, and applied in very different ways.

Colonialism is not new. The world was populated by people venturing out. There was absolutely no way the people who reached the New World by foot could have regular contact with the people they left thousands of years before, and far away... until they were reconnected by sea. Colonies wouldn't have been reproductions. They would have been communities, that were influenced by and soaked in the local conditions.

Our ability to control requires tools: Shared language, shared text, shared religion, shared numbers took a long time to develop.

One of the changes with recent colonialism was that those on civilising missions believed they had discovered, and were sharing, answers. They didn't start with questions. It wasn't a conversation. 

Another flaw was an essentialism that gave some a superiority complex. A belief in the idea of a 'Master Race'. The 'divine right of kings' transferred from a sovereign, to a sovereign people. The Enlightenment emphasised the scientific method and started giving man incredible power over the surrounding world. Scientific Racism may be pseudo-science now, but it was just science to start with. Those who believed in Progress were also empowered by Darwin's theories in understanding evolution. This gave many missionary zeal to go forth, and bring light to those places that had not had the truth revealed.

Darwin himself regretted and stopped using 'Survival of the Fittest', and in later editions of his work replaced the term with 'Natural Selection'. The key strength of evolution is not progress, but adaptability. Resilience. Mistakes and differences create an ability to cope with whatever life throws at us.

We have a long history of learning from every part of the world we have ventured. Stuffing up. Reflecting. Trying again. A cookie cutter method of taking something that works, and imposing it on the world was not progress. It was a great way to decrease our resilience. Decolonising is equivalent to improving our conversational skills. Decolonising is a way of allowing ourselves to continue learning. To continue adapting. To continue coping.

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