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Dances With Wolves – True American Candidness

Some time back, I had purchased a DVD of the famous 1990 movie, “Dances with Wolves”. It was lying around in my house for several years, until last week I finally popped it in the DVD player.

The movie is awesome. No wonder it won seven Oscars.

And more awesome is the fact that America has the courage to produce this movie. America has the courage to take a serious look at the past and say “Hey, this stuff happened. We know it. We can’t change it now. But we regret it happened.”

This fact stands out when you compare this to European hypocrisy about colonialism, especially Britain. After countless atrocities in their colonies, the movie they make is “The Bridge on the river Kwai”.

Some will instantly argue that all these things happened 50 years or back. So it is totally a thing in the past and no blame about the current state of affairs can be attributed to things so far past. They talk about how well British and German people get together in spite of a huge world war.

Every war or conflict is not the same.There is one giant difference between the British- German saga and British – India saga. The Germans started the war.

If you are the attacker and you lost, you can escape by examining only your military strategy. You can still convince yourself that with better preparation or different plan you could have won the war. You still feel in control of your destiny.

Instead you are the one who is attacked and you lost, you don’t feel in control of anything. The ghosts of the defeat haunt you long after the blood is dried. You cannot escape by reexamining your defenses. You question the very purpose of your existence.

There is a word for it. Trauma !!

The wounds of trauma are far deeper and take far longer time to heal.

After the armies are back in barracks and the treaties are signed, after the dead are burried and the winners decorate their heros for inflicting maximum damage, the war begins in hearts and minds of the community that lost. Their reaction is no different than that of the rape victim.

The rape victim first tries to rationally explain the incidence to herself . But the only rational explanation is “Your thoughts, your feelings and your soul does not matter.” Unable to accept this answer the victim loses faith in rationality.

She (using she, since majority of them are women) visits the incidence again and again in her mind, tries to make sense of what happened, seeking reassurance of it won’t happen again. But things don’t make sense, and she gets no reassurance. Every moment begins with fear and ends with anxiety. The very basic defense mechanisms are shattered. The hope is lost. If you are not sure you are safe, what’s the point in hoping good things will come to you and you will enjoy them. If you have no hope of good things in your life, what’s the point in pursuing anything? The very founding philosophy of life is cracked.

The victim’s mind is awash with conflicting emotions. It sucks the life out of her. Her own body becomes reminder of the past she wants to forget.

And on the top of that, if the victim sees that her perpetrators did not get punished, but are doing good overall, then she does not get closure. She stops believing in justice. Life feels like a torture.

Modern science says human body continuously discards cells and rebuilds itself completely in seven years. After seven years, the rape victim might have new body. But the wounds are not necessarily healed.

Whether it is a rape victim, or whether it is a conquered community, this processing is same. In human body, the dying cells pass on memories to the newborn cells. In society or community, the dying individuals pass on their memories to the new ones.

This is why Jews won’t get over the Holocaust for long time, till they see Germans suffering. This is why on Mexican community websites, you will find young Mexicans dreaming about taking California and Texas back from USA one day.

The Chinese workers who built the Western railroad probably had similar hardships like black slaves. They worked dangerous jobs for long hours and were treated as secondary citizens. But they have no problem getting over it, because they came to USA by their own will. But black people still harbor bitterness, because they were captured and shipped and sold like animals, and still they don’t see their perpetrators punished.

That’s why Greeks still hold grudge against Turks. That’s why China cannot forget the rape of Nanking and that’s why Persia cannot forgive Alexandar the great even after 2300 years. It’s a different psychology when you forced to defend, but you fail to defend the things you love.

It is upsetting to see some people argue that actually British colonialism was good thing for India. According to them, that’s how India got introduced to Democracy, Railway and post office.

These things were not brought in India for the benefit of Indian people. They were brought in to make administration easier, so that India can be exploited better. Praising British people for those things is absurd. If a thief broke into your house and stole all your gold, but the thief forgot his toolbox. So should you be angry at the thief for stealing your gold, or should thank him for giving you a toolbox?

Indeed the people arguing on these lines have no clue how badly India was mauled. Look at this article titled “Drain Wealth During British Raj” for some interesting details. It shows how millions of British pounds were transferred every year from India to Britain (adjusted for inflation, they will be hundreds of billions today). In early 1900, the duties on good imported from Britain to India were around 2%, while duties on goods exported from India to Britain were of order of 74%, which resulted in slow death of textile industry in India. As a result India’s percentage in global trade went from some 17% to mere 0.5 % in 150 years.

Economic costs were not the only costs incurred by India as a result of colonialism. In World War II time, a serious famine took place in Bengal. But the British officers directed the food supplies to British Army front. As a result, more than 2 million Bengal farmers died of hunger. Germans were tried in Nuremberg for Jew holocaust. Yet no one was tried for Bengal deaths.

People remember these things.

It is favorite hobby of European media and their colonial bastards in India to discard these sentiments as nationalist propaganda. In reality it is basic psychology.

It’s high time Britain and Europe stood up like USA did and acknowledge their atrocities. It is high time they offer apologies. It is high time the European museums return the historical artifacts to the original owners. It’s high time they give closure. That is only way to reduce bitterness. Shouting at former colonies and demanding forgiveness will not help.

7 Responses

  1. Hallo, Bonjour,

    Let me first congratulate you about this post. You said very interesting thinks about the subject.

    Some I don’t understand however, like this one :
    “This is why Jews won’t get over the Holocaust for long time, till they see Germans suffering.” Being a German though living in France I would like to know what you mean.

    Talking about Europeans and colonialism I would like to remind you that there are many European nations who never had any colony.

    There is one point worthwhile mentioning: the northern part of Europe was conquered and colonized by the Romans. However, in our schools, all over the continent, nobody seem to bear any grudge against them. We see this time as parts of our roots, they brought slavery, sure, but also
    roads and rule of law.

    When the Romans came they did not to bring us gifts but it is a fact they left something that was not there before. Same for the British who stayed in India for about 200 years. Nothing compared to Indian history covering more than 3000 years of civilization.

    You should not have any hard feelings against the British, better thank you
    for the Post office, the Great Trunk Road and PG Wodehouse and then good riddance. And somehow it seems you have done quite well by using their “heritage”.


  2. Your point about British hypocrisy is well taken. But I don’t see anything wrong in movies like ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ or in praising their miltary victories; they had millions of ;natives’ fighting for them too.

    British colonialism was just that. It was a humiliation upon a civilization, agreed. But, like Georg says, they left behind certain things, though not Sher Shah Suri’s Grand Trunk Road, which may well help us to turn the table on them, metaphorically speaking, and reclaim our original place of civilizational eminence. It does not matter why they built what they did; time to shed bitterness. Often your oppressors teach you what you forgot to learn.

    As to the Roman conquest of Europe, I think the difference is that they caused a complete religious and cultural revolution till and the synthesis made everyone forget what had happened earlier. You may recall how long it took the Arabs to conquer Iran and convert that entire nation to Islam. Now the Iranians hold nothing against the Arabs. On the contrary, they became their vanguards is spreading the religion of the conquerer to the East.

    The British had to leave in a hurry for many reasons. One of the main one was that they positioned themselves as a superior race which had nothing to do learn from or do with natives except rule them as masters.

  3. Hello Georg and Vinod,

    Thanks for comments. I partially agree with both of you. I think when I wrote it first, I was angry. So I have edited and toned it down just to focus on the main point.

    First, I know that there were several European nations that were never engaged in colonialism. I appreciate them and wish the rest of the Europe followed that example.

    About Romans, I think Vinod explained it well. In addition there is second point. Europe can leave Roman colonialism behind because Romans are no more. I assure you that victims of the colonialism will be in equally forgiving spirit when the people and nations that colonized them are part of history.

    About British heritage, yes we have used the heritage of colonial past and yes we have gained some things from it. That was never an argument. The argument is how big price we paid for it and was it worth overall.


    I see no problem in British making any type of movie. However I was just highlighting the difference in attitudes by sighting the most obvious examples.

    Now my rest of the comment.

    Usually I don’t feel too bitter about it. Usually I think that the reasons India went down had more to do with economy and internal politics. The industrial revolution started with automated looms. Thus lot of good quality fabric was available cheap. This killed the main business in India, textile. And the repeated droughts killed the other, farming. Add to this the internal political strife and you have everything that needs to make a big nation a colony of a small nation.

    However when I see somebody arguing that British colonialism was good for India and making an innocent face and asking why Indians feel bitter about it, I can’t stand it.

  4. Kedar,
    Colonialism was nothing but gross economic exploitation.As you have mentioned it shows in criminal decline in India’s share in world GDP,it actually reduced from 25% to 5%.Also we had too many famines in British India.The only famine we had after independence was in 1950 and Americans did not give us food as Nehru was involved in creation of Non Alliance movement.Millions were killed.I do not find any difference there.
    The movie you have mentioned is by individual film maker,but was it the opinion of political class in US?Do they regret over Cuba?Vietnam?Iraq?

    For that matter do we regret about actrocities made by our encient rulers?Every body praises Taj Mahal,as it should be.But the reason given is that it is built by very romantic husband.Truth of the story is,it was built over 2 decades,when India experianced one of the most severe drought and Shahjahan did not give a damn….

  5. Kuldeep,

    Yes, true that Colonialism was indeed exploitation.

    About 1950 famine, India got wheat from USA and Russia. The amount we got from USA was a lot more that that we got from Russia. One major difference is USA gave India a “wheat loan”, unlike Russia which gave donation. But the terms were far more lenient and USA government accepted payments in terms of books, cultural exchange programs etc. This kind of conditional aid was common USA policy after WW2 ( another example is Marshall Plan for Europe)

    Our communist newspapers danced on Russia’s tune mostly. Nehru mentioned Russia’s aid but omitted talking about America’s aid. So overall, I think we do not have a lot to blame USA there.

    About Native American Indian population, I think the movie echos the general feeling. I have met many Americans who said they were aware of atrocities against Native Americans and they regretted that part of the history.

    About Vietnam it is different issue. Today’s generation seems mostly unaware of it. The fact was they lost the war and people were not able to get over it that quick. So no, the level of sympathy for Vietnam people is less.

    About Iraq, USA is split right in the middle on the issue. There are only two extremes.

    What you said about Shah Jahan is absolutely true. People praise Taj Mahal too much, without thinking about what has gone behind it.

    I guess what bother me is this. Why millions of Indians die without raising voice? French revolution precisely took place because the rulers were not listening to requests of food from people. That time population of Paris was supposedly less than 500,000. But when rulers refused to be considerate, people got together and executed them.

    The same thing for Russian revolution. The similar thing about American revolution.

    Apparently in Bengal famine in 1943, 12 million Bengali farmers died. Why could they not unite and bring revolution? Why they can’t do what 500,000 Parisians can do? Why we fail to build strong institutions?

    Unless we learn to fight back, there will always be robbers. There will always be Mughals or British. We have to stand up and be assertive.

  6. I will argue that the British left some good things (economic and political philosophy), the Thief analogy I think was not entirely correct but I think it is one of those things were we could at least rationally disagree about. They did however do and leave a lot of bad things, that I will never try to diminish. I do understand the anger however, something that may subside overtime. It is easier for me to look at it subjectively (no offense) because I am neither from India or Britain and don’t have a predisposed bias to either (although when it comes to woman India will always win). But it would help if the British admitted there fault more and tried to sanitize their actions less. One thing to consider though, Americans understand and want to admit and make up for their shortcomings and faults but they don’t want to have there noses rubbed in shit to do it. What I am saying is that they will acknowledge and apologize but then it comes to things that they themselves did not actually do (historical things) they don’t want to blamed for things that their ancestors did, something they had no control over. The idea is that Look “look my ancestors did things to your ancestors that where not right and that isn’t cool. However I myself did not do it. Nor would I have done it. So let us move past this while not forgetting our history so we can now be one country together”. it might sound silly but they are usually decent folk and thats how they think, and sometimes I think they crawl over backwards to do so.

    Once again it is much easier to sit outside and watch unemotionally then be a part of it. Plus it would also be easier for an American to deal with the British since they won both wars they fought with them.

    On another note please don’t yell about the movie “Bridge Over The River Kwai”. I love that movie but in all fairness it did sanitize the actual brutality as it did forget the non British people that had to deal with said brutality.

  7. Romans made conquered Europeans civilized from savage. Where as Indians were already civilized atleast 5,000 years before when britishers conquered India. Britishers were more militarily advanced and shrewd to take benefits of weakness of Moghul Empire & other small states.

    1850’s Industrial Revolution in Europe helped them to become more militarily powerful than crumbling Indian states.

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