Thursday, January 27, 2011

Left Behind, the Lasting Effects of Post-Colonialism

In history there is always the conqueror and the conquered, the suppressed, the colonized. The mark of imperial Europe was its act of colonization of foreign lands and their efforts to conform the native peoples to their own religion and government. The term post-colonialism refers to the changes brought on the various cultures under the higher powers. No matter its time or location, colonialism always leaves behind fragments of what had been established. Often times these changes will be in the form of government. If we were to look at modern India, Australia, even the United Sates of America, we can see that their respective governments were highly influenced by the British government who colonized these territories. In Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, one can see a clear example of the foreign government beginning to take hold of the Igbo autonomy and instigate their own law. In the book the British forces have established law courts and appointed a Commissioner to oversee order over the new colony’s people are kept in line to British interests, “ They had built a court where the District Commissioner judged cases in ignorance.” (174) Such measures can be oppressive at times, after all it is taking away power from the native leaders and subjecting the people to a foreign rule. Again however it is important to note that this does bring the colonial nation (one being colonized) a modern government. Even after independence such countries often adopt a similar government molded by its former oppressor- as had the U.S and other countries mentioned earlier. Thus government is one of the highlights of foreign influence left behind in post-colonialism, but there is another topic, one very present in Things Fall Apart that directly introduces the idea of cultural influence: religion.
Like the use of government, converting the native people to the religion of the dominant nation not only brings converts to the faith but further connects them to the nation. This, like the question of foreign rule raises the question of whether it is right or wrong to do so. Certainly by bringing in their religion the colonialists are replacing the native religion with their own but at the same time bringing them the faith of Christianity. In this scenario one must consider the missionary’s approach individually. As illustrated in Things Fall Apart, in the role of Mr. Brown , there are more moderate missionaries who do not so much force their religion upon the natives so much as sway them with friendship and interfaith dialogue. Such steps are the more ethical and give more room for free choice. At the same time the book shows another side of the more radical colonialist-missionary in the form of Reverend Smith who is much more forceful in his mission work. The approach of Reverend Smith can easily be described as a kind of harassment into the faith which tends to threaten the natives from their original practice rather than win their hearts: “He condemned openly Mr. Brown’s policy of compromise and accommodation.” (184). No matter the method, it is the result of post-colonialism that many are converted to the ‘new religion’, leaving very few if any still clinging to their ancient way. Such traditionalists as we see in history and even at times in Things Fall Apart, become outcasts in a society they once flourished in. In any form colonialism takes there is always the common concept of the indigenous way of life being changed forever, with such interactions it is inevitable.

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