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Archive for the tag “imperialism”

Zuma sells SA sovereignty to stop two old men having a party

The pettiness of the refusal of the government to give a visa to the Dalai Lama to stop two old men having a party puts us back to square one.

As Mamphela Ramphele puts it Ramphele backs Tutu on Dalai Lama – Times LIVE:

“Isn’t it ironic, that when he’s celebrating his 80th birthday, the most fundamental right — the right to association — is being taken away from him?

“He can’t have a party with his friends and they are just old men,” Ramphele said on Monday evening at a candlelight vigil outside Parliament to put pressure on the government to grant the visa.

That’s exactly the kind of petty nastiness one had come to expect from the National Party government. And it’s worse, because our constitution now upholds the rights to freedom of religion, freedom of travel, and freedom of association — all of which are trashed by this act. The old National Party was not as cynically hypocritical as that. They made no bones about it — any foreign religious leader was a persona non grata, and found it very difficult to get a visa. And any Nobel Peace Prize winner, domestic or foreign, was the same, and so the combination would not have much hope.

I suggest that any Southern African religious bodies hosting international conferences to which foreign religious leaders may be invited should seriously think of moving the venue to Botswana or Namibia, or they may find that their speakers are unable to attend. That would include the congress of the Southern African Missiological Society, due to be held in January 2012.

The petty spitefulness of stopping two pensioners having a party, however, is overshadowed by the implications for South African sovereignty. Zuma, who was elected ANC leader by promising to be all things to all men and courting universal popularity, is now finding that popularity gurgling down the drain, and trying to shore it up by disciplinary hearings of his most vociferous critics, but not daring to contradict his (and our) colonial masters.

As a student I sometimes enjoyed listening to Radio Peking (as it was spelt in those days), denouncing US imperialism as “a paper tiger, a bean curd tiger”. But Chinese imperialism seems to be lapping up South Africa like bean curd.

The Dalai Lama visited South Africa when Nelson Mandela was president, and again when Thabo Mbeki was president. Why not now? And above all, why stop him from coming to Desmond Tutu’s brithday party?

H. Rider Haggard (book review)

H. Rider Haggard: A voice from the infiniteH. Rider Haggard: A voice from the infinite by Peter Berresford Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read Henry Rider Haggard’s novels as a child at school, and mine was probably the last generation to do so. He wrote fantasy/adventure novels, which he called, probably more accurately, “romances”. His was probably the last generation in which such books could be written about our world, and the next generation of fantasy writers moved them off-planet in science fiction.

H. Rider Haggard (1856-1825) was born in Norfolk in England, and came to Natal in 1875 at the age of 19 as an aide to Sir Henry Bulwer, the Lieutenant Governor. The Conservative government in Britain believed in big government, and had plans to create a confederate south Africa along the lines of the Canadian confederation in 1867. Bulwer was preceded by Sir Garnet Wolseley, who prepared the ground, softening up the British colonists in Natal by “drowning their liberties in sherry and champagne” to ensure that control was kept firmly in the hands of London. To Bulwer it fell to take over the independent Boer republic in the Transvaal, and the independent kingdom of Zululand under Cetshwayo. The former proved easier than the latter, and Rider Haggard accompanied the military expedition, and in May 1877 raised the Union Jack over Pretoria in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday, though the annexation had been proclaimed a month previously.

In January 1879 combined British and Natal forces invaded Zululand, but met with more resistance, being repulsed at Isandlwana and besieged at Eshowe. Many of those who were killed in the campaign were known personally to Rider Haggard. Perhaps encouraged by the Zulu resistance, insurgents in the Transvaal began to demand that the British leave.

By this time Rider Haggard had gone back to Britain, got married, and returned to Natal to try his hand at ostrich farming. His farm was near Newcastle and the Transvaal border, and when Britsh reinforcements passed through on their way to the Transvaal the Haggard family could hear the guns from their home. The Transvaal Boers had their Isandlwana at Majuba mountain, and the new Liberal government in Britain had no taste for ruling the world, and some of the peace negotiations took place in the Haggards’ house.

A few months later the Haggard family returned to Britain, with Rider Haggard feeling that there was no future in south Africa, and that the retrocession of the Transvaal was a big mistake. He decided to study law, but took to writing novels instead.

His early novels were based on his experiences in South Africa, and they ended up being the most popular ones, far more popular than his later ones. The best-selling ones were King Solomon’s mines and She.

I read both of those as a child and others that I read were Nada the Lily and Allan Quatermain. The last I re-read quite recently. The main thing I liked about it was its description of a journey down an underground river into an unknown country — a device that has been used by other novelists since, such as Enid Blyton in The secret of Kilimooin.

Like many of his generation, Rider Haggard was a convinced British imperialist, as was his close friend and fellow author Rudyard Kipling. He did not lose his imperialist ideals even when he encountered the dark side of imperialism, as Ellis describes on page 198, when Haggard returned to South Africa in 1914 as part of an official commission.

Rider was invited to a dinner party at which he met Sir Abe Bailey and other wealthy financiers, many of whom had recently made their fortunes in diamonds and gold in the former Boer territories. Here, for a moment, Rider came face to face with the grim reality of imperialism. Empire was made and ruled by financiers and was not created by the ‘civilizing mission’ of one nation. When Rider expressed is ideals he was soon told ‘You are old fashioned.’ In speaking particularly about the Jameson Raid, Sir Abe disagreed with Rider’s estimate that it was a failure. ‘On the contrary it was a great success as it led to the war and all that has followed from the war.’ When Rider pointed out the cost to England in lives, Bailey, with a frankness unusual for a financier, merely replied: ‘What matters; lives are cheap.’ Rider was shocked. This was not his empire, an empire beneficial, spreading peace throughout the various warring nations of the world. But had his empire ever existed, or was empire merely the sordid business empire envisaged by the financiers?

And I think back to 2003, in the lead-up to the American-led invasion of Iraq, and how much it seemed to parallel British imperialism in the Anglo-Boer Wars, and how the outcome of the Iraq invasion was predictable, and predicted, and came to pass as predicted, and it was indeed clear that the one lesson we learn from history is that we don’t learn any lessons from history.

Rider Haggard (1856-1925) was almost an exact contemporary of my great-grandfather, Richard Wyatt Vause (1854-1926), who, like Rider Haggard, was known by his middle name. His father, Richard Vause, was mayor of Durban when Sir Garnet Wolseley was drowning their liberties in sherry and champagne, and Sir Garnet, in his diary, described Richard Vause as “an active, shrewd man” and “an offensive snob” and noted that he, like so many others he had met in Natal, was weak in his h’s.

The son, Wyatt Vause, fought in the battle of Isandlwana while Rider Haggard was holding the fort in Pretoria as a member of the Pretoria Horse, and perhaps they had met and knew each other. Haggard certainly mentions knowing Colonel Durnford, Lieutenant Vause’s commanding officer, who died at Isandlwana.

Wyatt Vause survived, and married Maggie Cottam, and their daughter Lily Vause married my grandfather, Percy Hayes, in Doornfontein, Johannesburg, in 1904. I still have a copy of Allan Quatermain given to my father as a Christmas present when he was 11, inscribed in my grandfather Percy’s hand: “Frank Hayes Xmas 1918”.

I suspect that my grandfather read Rider Haggard’s books as a child, growing up in Axbridge, Somerset. Perhaps they even influenced him to seek his fortune in South Africa. He gave one to his son as a Christmas present. And when I was at school, one headmaster, Wally Meears, who was roughly the same generation as my grandfather, made sure that the school library was well-stocked with Rider Haggard books. I suspect that it may partly have been because though Rider Haggard had little time for the Boers, he had quite a lot of sympathy for the “natives”, especially the Zulus.

Another headmaster, Henry Nathaniel Beckwith, who was the same age as my father, was also a believer in the rightness of the British Empire, and also stocked the school library with books by Rider Haggard and also with magazines like the Illustrated London News and Sphere, which, in between the numerous photos of ancient Greek pottery unearthed at archaeological digs, occasionally had pictures of more exciting events like John Derry, test pilot, crashing his DH 110 at the 1952 Farnborough Air Show.

But, apart from the imperialist sub-text, Haggard was a pretty good story teller, and his description of the end of She still gives Stephen King a run for his money.

View all my reviews

Haiti: earthquakes, democracy and imperialism

The media and the blogosphere have been buzzing with reports of some American politico saying that Haitians deserved to die in an earthquake because there was a rumour that some of their ancestors may possibly have made a pact with the devil. But it seems that the ancestors of the US population are just as open to the accusation.

Morehead’s Musings: Interview at Sacred Tribes Journal: Miguel De La Torre on Haiti, It’s People and Religion:

We need to be aware that America from very early on never really wanted to see Haiti succeed. When the Haitian slaves overthrew their slave owner masters, this was really the first democracy in the Caribbean that was established. The democracy in the United States was leery of having a Haitian democracy. People like Thomas Jefferson were very concerned that a nation of free black people, run by free black people might be a bad inspiration for his personal black slaves and those in the South. There has always been this desire to make sure the Haitian people did not succeed because if they were to succeed as a country then that would begin to undermine the mythology of white supremacy. This was active in the time of Jefferson, up to the Civil War, and after the Civil War. So there has always been this relationship with Haiti where we did not want to see it be successful.

Interesting stuff there, in John Morehead’s blog.

And US and Canadian opposition to Haitian democracy continues into the 21st century. As Fr Michael Graves, an Orthodox missionary in Haiti (since reposed in the Lord), wrote five years ago

Greetings from Haiti, where we experience FIRST-HAND the terrible results of the Feb. 2004 intervention and toppling of the Aristide government. The following is one of the best articles describing our situation. Since the majority of the public media all over this area appears to be controlled by the imperialist powers that be, I am circulating this article which tells the truth about our situation. Please circulate it far-and-wide if you are able.

And please pray for us because we are living under an evil and frightening regime.

God bless,

Father Michael in Haiti

Seven Oaks Magazine August 24, 2004

Blood on the hands: A survey of Canada’s role in Haiti

Roger Annis

Five hundred Canadian soldiers are returning from Haiti this month. Together with the armed forces of France and the United States, they took part in the violent overthrow of the elected government of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide in February/March of this year. Since then, occupying troops have provided backing for rightist gangs who will form the core of the police and government authority the occupying forces are cobbling together to replace the Aristide government.

Troops from the three countries began occupying Haiti on February 29, hours after the United Nations Security Council gave its blessing. Aristide was kidnapped by U.S. forces later that day and flown out of the country. He now lives in asylum.

The capitalist media in Canada presented the coup as a popular uprising against an unpopular regime. Since then, they have kept a discreet censure about conditions in Haiti under imperialist occupation. New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton spoke not a word about the ongoing tragedy in Haiti during the federal election campaign in May and June. Trade union leaders have also been silent.

The truth urgently needs to be told about Ottawa’s crime against the Haitian people.

A disaster for the Haitian people

Constitutional government in Haiti, won through many years of tenacious struggle, has been overthrown. Killings by rightist gangs were widespread leading up to the coup and they have continued during the occupation regime. Several thousand have died. The rightists target supporters of the Aristide government and anyone striving to improve social conditions in the country. Rightists convicted of crimes and human rights violations during previous regimes have been released from prison and are involved in the killings.

U.S. troops have taken part in the attacks on the Haitian people. An Associated Press reporter witnessed U.S. marines joining police in firing on a demonstration of tens of thousands of Haitians on May 18 in Port au Prince. A dozen people were killed and many more injured. Demonstrators were demanding the return of Aristide on the occasion of a holiday marking Haitian independence.

Following the coup, living conditions in Haiti have gone from bad to worse. Prices for basic foodstuffs have risen sharply, the minimum wage has been cut by the new governing authority, and civic services have declined. Flooding this past May on the east- ern part of the island devastated many villages and killed several thousand. In the countryside, drought conditions are devastating the livelihood of farmers and
threatening the vital food harvest. Precious little international aid is being delivered to meet emergency needs.

In a letter to the Toronto Star on July 30, a reader described her dismay with the head of the Canadian military in Haiti when he described the occupation as a “success.” The letter recounted a recent telephone conversation with a Canadian aid worker living in Cap Haitien, the second largest city in Haiti. “Things are so much worse than they were last October, prior to the revolt in February,” reported the worker.

“Supporters of Jean-Bertrand Aristide are still being hunted down by those who support a new regime. Food supplies are low, electricity is only on for one to three hours daily, garbage is piled up along the roads, as there has been no collection for many months now, and people everywhere are sick.”

Why imperialism opposed Aristide

Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas. Average annual income is a few hundred dollars. Average life expectancy is 49 years for men and 50 for women. An AIDS epidemic is ravaging the country. Forty-seven percent of the adult population is illiterate and unemployment is 60% to 70%. The country is burdened by a crushing debt to imperialist governments and lending agencies. Gross domestic product in Haiti has declined from US$4 billion in 1999 to $2.9 billion in 2003.

Aristide rose to prominence in the 1980s during the revolutionary movement that overthrew the Duvalier dictatorship in 1990. He was first elected president that year with the overwhelming support of Haiti’s working people on a platform of radical social reform. Nine months later he was overthrown by a military coup. He was elected again in May of 2000.

The masses in Haiti had big expectations in the governments headed by Aristide, and despite many disappointments with his performance, they continued to place enormous pressure on his government to stand up to the imperialists and improve their lot. Aristide established diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1996, and he welcomed hundreds of Cuban doctors and health workers to provide health care in remote parts of the country.

The post-2000 government built new schools and refused imperialist demands to privatize state-owned services such as electricity, telephones, and ports.

Aristide angered the French government in April 2003 when he demanded that it pay $21 billion in reparations to Haiti. France, the island’s former colonial power, had extorted millions of dol- lars in payments from Haitian governments during the 19th and 20th centuries as punishment for the successful anti-slave revolt that led to Haiti’s independence from France in 1804.

Aristide’s governments brought few improvements in living conditions for the masses. It implemented measures demanded by the imperialists, including lowering of tariffs that protected local food production, emptying of the national treasury in order to pay off international lending institutions, and privatizing some state-owned industries.

Nevertheless, the imperialist powers feared a revival of the mass movement that had toppled the Duvalier dictatorship, and they were not confident that Aristide would keep the island safe for continued exploitation.

Canadian imperialists in Haiti

The imperialist intervention in Haiti was a joint venture with rightist forces that launched an armed rebellion in early February. The rightists were armed and financed by wealthy Haitians and their backers in the U.S., France, Canada, and neighbouring Dominican Republic. They were few in number and weak in the capital city Port au Prince. But pro-government defense forces were poorly organized and armed, and were politically disoriented by the record of the Aristide government in bowing to imperialist dictates.

In January 2003, Canada’s foreign affairs department was one of the sponsors of an international conference in Ottawa that discussed and laid plans for the overthrow of Aristide’s government. Thirteen months later, according to a report on the French-language television news network of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the elite service of the Canadian armed forces was among the imperialist troops that helped capture and secure the airport in Port au Prince in the early hours of February 29.

On July 6, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced that Canada would send 100 RCMP to replace the returning soldiers. Police and soldiers from the U.S., France, Chile, Brazil, and other countries will remain in Haiti, under UN Security Council approval. A press release from the Canadian government described the role of the occupation as being a form of assistance to “the transitional Haitian government in establishing a secure and stable environment, restoring law and order, and reforming the Haitian National Police.”

Canada’s troops provide security for the post-coup regime, and the killings continue. One of the tasks the occupation forces have set for themselves is to disarm the civilian population.

The Canadian government has convinced many at home and abroad that it is a friend of peace and democracy and that its armed forces abroad are “peacekeepers.” This is a lie. Indignation against the crimes of Washington in Iraq and elsewhere will ring hollow if not accompanied by equal indignation at Ottawa’s participation in the pillage and oppression of the semi-colonial world.

Those concerned with human rights, poverty and the oppression of the Third World peoples have a responsibility to speak out about the situation in Haiti. We should demand of the Canadian government that it withdraw police and military forces from that country and halt any form of assistance to the post-coup authority. Working-class and progressive organizations in Canada need to support the people of Haiti in opposing the coup-imposed regime and fighting for the return of the democratically elected government.

Roger Annis is an editor of , where this article
originally appeared.

I am not sure that Fr Michael would have sympathised with all the “Marxist perspectives” in Socialist Voice. What is clear is that from his perspective, inside Haiti at the time of the 2004 coup, is that that article was telling the truth about what was happening in Haiti.

As the Kingston Trio sang 50 years ago:

They’re rioting in Africa
There’s strikes in Iran
What nature doesn’t do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

For more background information see In Case You Missed It: A Pact With Which Devil?

Saving the Soul of Secularism

Recently someone sent me, quite unsolicited, a link to this article Saving the Soul of Secularism:

Since February 2003, millions in the U.S. and around the world have participated in marches, rallies and varied protests, making a bold, ethical stand against U.S. military aggression. Citizens have engaged in persistent resistance to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of U.S troops.

While numerous humanists have and continue to be actively involved in the anti-war movement many others are too narrowly focused on issues such as church-state separation and promoting science education.

The time has come for humanists to actively assert that they are as committed to peace and ending U.S. militarism as they are to the separation of church and state. If we can see the threat to freedom posed by the mixture of church and state, we must see the threat to freedom posed by militarism.

The very legitimacy of secularism and freethought is at stake. Humanists, atheists, and assorted freethinkers along with the organizations that represent them: the American Humanist Association, American Atheists, Secular Student Alliance, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Center for Inquiry, among others, should join anti-war/peace organizations in calling for a dramatic change in U.S. foreign policy away from neo-liberal imperialism and militarism.

This strikes me as very strange.

I can understand why humanists, who believe that human beings have intrinsic value, might see militarism as a threat to human freedom and therefore a bad thing.

What I find difficult to understand is the logic of urging atheists to support such a cause. I can see no logical connection between atheism and a response to militarism (or to pacifism, for that matter). There is nothing about atheism that makes it desirable that atheists should join anti-war or peace organisations. There is also nothing about atheism that makes it undesirable. Atheism, as atheism, is surely quite neutral in regard to such moral imperatives.

Why should an atheist, by virtue of being an atheist, believe that neoliberal imperialism is a bad thing? Some atheists have clearly believed that it is quite a good thing.

It is possibile to say, as Marx and Lenin did, that it is incumbent on a communist to be an atheist. But the reverse is not true. It is not incumbent on an atheist to be a communist. An atheist can just as easily be a neoliberal imperialist.

This seems to be “fluffy bunny” secularism, as some of my (neo) pagan friends would say. They seem to be getting carried away by moralism.

US quietly garrisons Africa

In an ominous development, the USA has started establishing military bases in Africa.

Why should they want to do that? Are they wanting to start wars here, as they have done in Europe and Asia?

“With little scrutiny from Democrats in Congress and nary a whimper of protest from the liberal establishment, the United States will soon establish permanent military bases in sub-Saharan Africa,” write Glover and Lee in The Nation. “An alarming step forward in the militarization of the African continent, the US Africa Command (Africom) will oversee all US military and security interests throughout the region, excluding Egypt.”

Several African countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, and Libya, are opposed to Africom, and late Tuesday, West African military chiefs denounced the US approach to the project.

Africom officials claim the project will strengthen humanitarian and peacekeeping operations and is not about building more US bases. But critics allege that it’s a move to secure US access to natural resources and counter the growing Chinese presence across the continent. African nations supply the United States with more than 24 percent of its oil

blog it

War and hegemony

Alan Greenspan, the former head of the US Federal Reserve, has been in the news lately with the publication of his memoirs, in which he claimed that that Bush’s invasion of Iraq was about oil, not weapons of mass destruction.

Counterpunch disagrees, however,

It is certainly the case that Iraq was not invaded because of WMD, which the Bush administration knew did not exist. But the oil pretext is also phony. The US could have purchased a lot of oil for the trillion [billion] dollars that the Iraq invasion has already cost in out-of-pocket expenses and already incurred future expenses.

and goes on to say that

Bush’s wars are about American hegemony, not oil. The oil companies did not write the neoconservatives’ “Project for a New American Century,” which calls for US/Israeli hegemony over the entire Middle East, a hegemony that would conveniently remove obstacles to Israeli territorial expansion.”

And it is on that point that the policies of the two major American parties are almost exactly the same. Americans seem to get hugely antagonistic about their politics, tossing puerile insults at the other side (one gets tired of seeing “DemocRATS” and “Repugs” all over the Internet), and yet to people outside the USA, they are as alike as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, fighting over the claim the one had spoiled the other’s nice new rattle. American politicians do indeed seem to be like children fighting over toys, the toys, in this case, being America’s military hardware.

Bush bombed Baghdad, but Clinton bombed Belgrade, and Blair joined in the bombing of both. And Madeleine Albright thought the death of half a million Iraqi children was a price worth paying to ensure American hegemony in the Middle East. And it was her Democratic Party administration that bombed a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan using the false pretext that it was being used for the manufacture of WMD.

Anglican introversion

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu told the BBC that the Anglican communion was spending too much of its time and energy on debating differences over gay priests and same sex marriages – a subject, he said, that had now become “an extraordinary obsession”. The crises in Zimbabwe and Darfur, corruption and HIV/Aids were not getting enough attention, said Tutu. To which one might add, for American and British Christians, such things as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.

In his blog Journeys in between, Matt Stone remarks that “Consumerism, pluralism, spirituality, collapse of Christian credibility and moral authority in the media and public discourse … don’t these issues deserve some attention? I don’t recall Jesus being that sex obsessed.”

The Anglican obsession with sex has led to some disturbing changes in the attitudes of the West. As one columnist put it

But the largest adjustments are coming on the religious left. For decades it has preached multiculturalism, but now, on further acquaintance, it doesn’t seem to like other cultures very much. Episcopal leaders complain of the threat of “foreign prelates,” echoing anti-Catholic rhetoric of the 19th century. An activist at one Episcopal meeting urged the African bishops to “go back to the jungle where you came from.” Not since Victorians hunted tigers on elephants has the condescension been this raw.

Perhaps these are not changes in attitude, though, but rather the multicultural mask being stripped off, and revealing the paternalism and imperialism that was there all along, and had been covered up, as I noted in an earlier posting in this blog: Mission is a two-way street… or is it?.

One of the Anglican blogs that appears quite frequently on blogrolls and is recommended as a good one is Father Jake stops the world. Yet when I read it recently it seemed to be almost entirely concerned with the internal politics of the Anglican Communion. There were older post on other issues, but now sexual politics within the Anglican Communion seem to be the dominant theme. The same seems to be true of other Anglican blogs, and I’ve seen it in other forums such as Usenet newsgroups. The sexual obsession seems to have rendered many Anglicans incapable of seeing anything else, and to have almost paralysed the Anglican Communion.

The demonification of Serbia

There has been very little publicity in the Western media about the International Court of Juctice’s ruling that Serbia was not responsible for many of the war crimes that the Western media had accused, tried and convicted it of. Here is one of the exceptions.

Slobodan Milosevic was posthumously exonerated on Monday when the international court of justice ruled that Serbia was not responsible for the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica. The former president of Serbia had always argued that neither Yugoslavia nor Serbia had command of the Bosnian Serb army, and this has now been upheld by the world court in The Hague. By implication, Serbia cannot be held responsible for any other war crimes attributed to the Bosnian Serbs.

The Western Confucian asks whether Mr Clinton will soon be shipped off to the Hague to face trial. Or Messrs Blair and Bush, for that matter. There are also interesting comments here and here.

Nobody came out of the wars of the Yugoslav succession smelling of roses. Horrible atrocities were commited on all sides. But the attempts of Western politicans and the Western media to demonify the Serbs and lay all the blame on them must rank as one of the more disreputable spin attempts of the 20th century.

The situation was summed up rather well by Samuel Huntington, in his The clash of civilizations and the remaking of the world order:

The breakup of Yugoslavia began in 1991 when Slovenia and Croatia moved toward independence and pleaded with Western European powers for support. The response of the West was defined by Germany, and the response of Germany was in large part defined by the Catholic connection. The Bonn government came under pressure to act from the German Catholic hierarchy, its coalition partner the Christian Social Union Party in Bavaria, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and other media. The Bavarian media, in particular, played a crucial role in developing German public sentiment for recognition. ‘Bavarian TV’, Flora Lewis noted, ‘much weighed upon by the very conservative Bavarian government and the strong, assertive Bavarian Catholic Church which had close connections with the church in Croatia, provided the television reports for all of Germany when the war [with the Serbs] began in earnest. The coverage was very one-sided’… Germany pressured the European Union to recognise the independence of Slovenia and Croatia, and then, having secured that, pushed forward on its own to recognize them before the Union did in December 1991.

Austria and Italy promptly moved to recognize the two new states (1991) Slovenia and Croatia, after German recognition and pressure, and very quickly other Western countries, including the United States, followed. The Vatican also played a central role. The Pope declared Croatia to be the “rampart of Christianity,” and rushed to extend diplomatic recognition to the two states before the European Union did. The Vatican thus became a partisan in the conflict, which had its consequences in 1994 when the Pope planned visits to the three republics. Opposition by the Serbian Orthodox Church prevented his going to Belgrade, and Serb unwillingness to guarantee his security led to the cancellation of his visit to Sarajevo. He did go to Zagreb, however, where he honoured Cardinal Alojzieje Stepinac, who was asociated with the fascist Croatian regime in World War II that persecuted and slaughtered Serbs, Gypsies and Jews (Huntington 1998:282).

Mission is a two-way street… or is it?

Mission is a two-way street.

So they’ve been telling us for the last 50 years or more, so much so that it’s almost become a cliche. It’s become one of the unquestioned axioms of Western missiology. Mission, we were told, is giving and receiving. We need to be partners in mission. As the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Dublin once put it, “If we once acted as though there were only givers who had nothing to receive and receivers who had nothing to give, the oneness of the missionary task must now make us all both givers and receivers.”

The phrase “Partners in Mission” is also used very widely in Western mission; it is used by Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Roman Catholics and the Salvation Army, to name but a few. Among Anglicans, at least, it replaced a much more verbose and cumbersome phrase that meant something similar: Mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ.

Nearly 50 years ago a friend of mine, John Davies, wrote, in a paper entitled Religion versus God

Missionary work is essentially two-way; Christ said, `Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them’ (Matthew 7:12). If we took this seriously, we should probably have to pack in half the missionary work of the Church that we are used to, if it meant that blacks would start teaching whites , and doing good to them, and expecting them to be grateful. Our mission is not, in a one-way traffic, to extol the greatness of our religion: it is to hear and know the living God – and just as between God and man, so also between Christian and non-Christian, all real living is meeting. If this is not our way, we misrepresent the God who has sent us out, whose very nature as trinity is one of reciprocal relations.

And now that is beginning to happen, at least in the Anglican Communion. Blacks have begun teaching whites, and the whites don’t like it. I’ve noticed a growing number of Anglican bloggers in the West writing about “the African problem”.

But why is it “the African problem”? Why not “the American problem”?

Why do so many people in the West think it’s OK for Americans to spread their values, culture, fast food and cluster bombs all over the world, but when Iranians or North Koreans or Africans do any of these things they scream blue murder?

And doesn’t this talk of “the African problem” show that noble phrases like “partnership in mission” and mission being a two-way street are just empty rhetoric, and have been all along? Only a few benighted Africans were foolish enough to take it seriously.

War and the Enlightenment

In Notes from a commonplace book: war and the Enlightenment there is an interesting comment on how the Enlightenment changed Western attitudes to war.

I’ve not really looked into that before, but have been interested in how the Enlightenment changed European attitudes to witchcraft, and made it difficult for Europeans to understand African attitudes to witchcraft, because it disturbingly reminded them of their premodern past (see Christian responses to witchcraft and sorcery).

This piece, however, sparks off a new train of thought. Even today white apologists for Western colonialism use the argument that European rule in Africa brought about peace and ended the endless wars that devastated the continent. But if we look at the precolonial wars in Africa, they were generally much milder than the wars brought about after colonialism, which are often driven by neocolonialism (eg the history of Congo for the last 50 years). This modern warfare was far more devastating than the precolonial kind, with the possible exception of the Mfecane.

I’m not sure whether this is simply another postmodern reaction to the worldview and values of modernity, but I think it needs further study.

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