The Lingering Legacy of Colonialism

For the past twenty something years of my life I have led a high-spirited life, living in different parts of the world and experiencing modernity like how it should. Yet one insignificant soul, working a mundane 9 to 5 job in a local bank that could hardly be called an accomplishment, managed to remind me of how I cannot indeed ever be a ‘Miss Bertram’. If any of you do not know what I am referring to, it is actually a line from ‘Mansfield Park’ by Jane Austen, where the patriarch of the household, Thomas Bertram, when accepting an impoverished girl to live in his house who happens to be his very own niece, is quick to remind his family how Fanny Price, the unfortunate girl in question must never be given the idea that she can reach the level of a Bertram. Fortunately I am only joking, as I do not believe one person can give me an inferiority complex when having lived in a Western society, I have managed to boast my South Asian background with joy. I am a ‘British’ as they call it. What happened in the bank was a case of a missing nationality which I went to sort out because I received a call from my bank, so I went. I have been with this bank for six years, and you’d think they would know my personal details by now, but as it happens, one ignorant man can change that idea. I think it was a rare case of pathetic haughtiness whereby I am speaking to this man in a fairly ‘posh’ English accent (so people have said) and the man does not do the obvious and ask whether I have a UK passport, instead he goes on the assumption of me having come here as a ‘foreigner’ on a Visa. To make it the funnier, he proudly speaks loudly when choosing the option between ‘English’ and ‘British’ that ‘it’s not English, but British’, and that ‘I am now ‘British’. Maybe I am being too harsh. Maybe its company policy to ask about Visas first and to speak your thoughts loudly. But when I think back at history, I can’t help but judge. Instead of the irritation I should feel at this man’s clear gracelessness I actually feel a little let down by myself. Here I am a young girl, proud of my heritage unlike most people I know who want to run away from their seemingly inferior identity, I am still conforming to Western ways, of being a British. It is this glamour that the West has that you want to be part of. These former colonisers are still so powerful, and quite heartbreakingly the colonised are still in a poverty-stricken state, aspiring to one day be like the West.

It doesn’t bother me that this Bank man still has domineering attitudes towards race and class. No that does not bother me, as one person in ten would probably have those qualities. What bothers me is how hard it is for me to swallow the ease with which Colonialism operated, injuring whole nations and entrenching them into deepened poverty, whereby the reliance of these poor countries for the West grew even more. Though on paper the abolition of the slave trade did occur it seems it did not do anything to liberate Africa in particular. Instead, the incapacity of Africa to take action and rebuild their country was a good way of the West taking control again, through tourism and raw material grabbing. It was rather mean to first promise autonomy and then not even give that much space to allow it. Of course like in a relationship, if one cannot take charge, the other has to take it in his or her hands to control the situation. But it was also quite absurd how the colonised did not even have that much of a choice to break free, but indeed waited until they were granted that much freedom of at least not being treated like a lowly third class citizen. And this continuous relationship between colonised and coloniser has persisted, where the coloniser maintains links with former colonial states for the sake of maximising wealth as they reap with benefits of abundant resources and labour.

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The simple idea of outsourcing labour is indeed a strategy not unfamiliar. Like plantation farms were outsourced to Africa, call centres are now outsourced to India. And many big clothing businesses have come under attack for outsourcing labour to make their clothes. It’s a little wonder how former Colonial mechanisms have today comfortably perched themselves on all these aforetime Colonial states. Similarly tourism is quite atrociously the Colonial power being relived. What do you think of when you want to go on holiday? Do you want to go to exotic idyllic places where you can relax under the Sun and get a good tan. Antigua would be a nice place to go, where there is plenty of sand and plenty of Sun. It should be absolutely luxurious where you do not have to worry about money spending. In an eery way, you become an ignorant, ugly and elite class where you go for your own comfort, and that is what a country in Africa is catering for, to please the needs of an elite class with a tonne of money who go to splash it out on a relaxing holiday. Again this does not seem unfamiliar, as some decades back, that is exactly what Africa was doing, catering for an elite class. The only difference was that they had a status, and quite harrowingly an identity of a slave. In this day and age the same system occurs without classing anyone. And most devastatingly the usage of resources on countries like Africa is having an environmentally damaging effect on these countries, already battling with droughts and famine.

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Ultimately this is all for wealth and the acquirement of wealth. Thomas Bertram is a character full of pretense in disguise. His arrogance is determined by wealth, and how much he can gain from his plantation farm in Africa. So morality is a grey area and the exploitation of human beings is rampant. And quite sorrowfully that is being endured at present. There are people being exploited for the gain of a Western Ideal. Impoverished people in India are used for scientific experiments as guinea pigs and labourers are forced to work in horrific circumstances for the West’s desire for diamonds in Africa. My worry is that Colonialism has left a stain which is unremovable. It should not have occurred in the first place, because once power is unleashed, the egocentrism never goes away. If there is one superiority, it should be in character, whilst being in complete oblivion, as that is what genuinely makes the world a better place.

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