History of colonialism should be studied even as it assumes new forms
violence, enslavement and exploitation of non-white peoples. It demystifies the benevolent benefactor, and what appears to be humanitarian and dignified. It demystifies independence and, now, the term empowerment. It seeks to question images of benevolence and non-violence.
The deep structures beneath colonialism are horrendous. The history of colonialism and the human suffering it inflicted should be studied and understood, especially when colonialism continues, assuming many new forms.
A colonial museum deconstructs the colonial pact and the colonial past for future generations. Indian member of parliament and author Shashi Tharoor, in The Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India (2016), mentioned the “”historical amnesia about what the empire entailed”. The British hardly knew about colonial atrocities.
British children from the new generation are not taught that their country financed the industrial revolution and its prosperity from the depredation of the empire. In the 18th century, India was one of the richest countries in the world. The British came and reduced it, after 200 years of plunder, to one of the poorest.
Reparations from Britain, or from any of the colonial powers to its former colonies? Erasing the memory of colonialism and colonial history would further add salt to injury. But, Anglophiles would remind us — it is benign, and it is over — “we have to move on”. Moving forward is not an option. But, where do we go to if we do not know where we come from?
Colonialism has robbed us of our time — that longue durée informing and giving perspective on our history and identity. In colonial history, that white man in a brown mask in Kuala Lumpur or Penang would not be conscious in “post-colonial time”, and eternally be at the crossroads of destiny.