Would you rather be colonised by Aztecs or Christians?

The war in Gaza has given new strength to arguments about the evils of Western colonialism. True, conquering armies have done terrible things in the lands that they conquered. They also brought improvements. How do we measure the overall impact of colonialism? In this controversial but entertaining video, Michael Knowles points out that most nations and cultures have experienced colonisation and conquest.


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  • Janet Grevillea
    Michael Knowles speaks of the USA. He cannot see the point of trying to restore land to those from whom it was taken. What he does not seem concerned about are the long-term outcomes for the colonisers as compared with those who were colonised.

    I am thinking about the way in which those who lived on the continent of Australia have fared since the British arrived to establish a convict colony here. I am aware that many Aboriginal people live in difficult circumstances.

    An example of ongoing underprivilege is seen in our prison system. Although Aboriginal people make up only 4% of the population of Australia, they are greatly over-represented in our prisons. One-third of all prisoners are Aboriginal.

    So, it seems colonisation has not had a good outcome for many Aboriginal people, not as good an outcome as it has had for many descendants of those who arrived as colonisers.

    Currently I am reading Sally Morgan’s book ‘My Place’. In it she tells of Arthur, the brother of her grandmother, both of them born of the union of an Aboriginal mother and a white father. Arthur worked on stations and farms for many white men, mostly with no pay, just food and a place to sleep. One man he worked for was Hancock. He said, “From 1913 to 1916 I worked from Hancock. In all that time I got no pay, only my tucker, and I worked damn hard. I never saw that ten bob a week he promised me. Most of the time there, I was freezing cold. . . .”

    The Hancock family became wealthy. Their fortune was inherited by Gina Rinehart, now the richest woman in Australia. She has great political influence.

    It is worth considering our history. We need to understand that privilege and underprivilege are not just characteristics of individuals, but that they have a history. Possession and dispossession are part of that history. Of course, not all Aboriginal people are poor, and not all non-Aboriginal Australians are rich. But still there are patterns of inherited advantage and disadvantage.

    I am descended of the colonisers, in my case colonisers who continued their privilege for several generation and gradually let it peter out. My family’s story is not as clearcut of those of Arthur and Hancock. I am neither as unjustly treated as Arthur nor as richly endowed as Hancock, but I am well aware of the history of both the Arthurs and the Hancocks of this land.
  • David Page
    commented 2024-05-17 03:48:37 +1000
    mrscracker, would you care to say which colonies you visited? America seems to be doing okay.
  • mrscracker
    I recently visited a struggling former British colony & a flourishing British territory. The latter had made the choice to not go independent. I know which one I’d choose to live in.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2024-05-16 16:58:18 +1000
    Errrh – none of the above. Prefer not to be colonised at all.
  • David Page
    commented 2024-05-16 09:50:18 +1000
    Christianity has been modified and softened by forced coexistence with secular democracy. Aztec or Christian? Throwing virgins into volcanoes or burning supposed witches at the stake" A distinction without a difference; I’ll pass on both.
  • Mercator Staff
    published this page in The Latest 2024-05-15 11:14:22 +1000