column castaways

In the Name of (our) Culture

I am staring at a picture in today’s edition of El Pais (Spain) with tons of people nearly drowning after a shipwreck close to the European coastline. I am really ashamed of our so-called Western/Christian civilization or culture, or however you want to call it, as it will go down in history as the cruelest, bloodthirsty and terrorist ever known to humanity. This is what my History colleagues will teach in 100-200 years (if we still have a World by then).

I am not aware of cultures or empires that have been able to survive longer than 2000 years. We are reaching that limit. We began to harass and kill these poor people in the time of the Crusades. Not only did we want to kill infidels, but we wanted to steal their wealth as well. There were people like the Chinese who built walls to avoid being invaded, but we had the audacity to jump over the walls and invade nevertheless.The people who build walls separating from other villages are always fools or simply have not learned anything from history. We sent people like Marco Polo, who was nothing but a spy, to report what could be robbed in faraway lands. So did the British explorers in India and Africa. Following their reports came the armies.

When in the early twentieth century sparked the need for oil, we went to steal the black gold.  Those who were subservient saw their lives spared and subsequently filled with gold and luxuries, like Saudi Arabia, and those who rebelled were killed. Lately, on the evening news, we see how the Afghan, Iraq, Libyan, and other societies are destroyed.  A TV camera placed at the tip of the missile shows how our wonderful military technology can blow up a village or an entire neighborhood,  destroying whole families, herds and crops merely considering them "collateral damage".   Nowadays we have drones, which kill by remote control. Isn’t this terrorism? I don’t know about you, but I am terrified.

We destroyed Libya, a stable and prosperous country because it was so urgent to give them the gift of “democracy” for which we had to eliminate Kadafi.  France was part of the coalition, and later it signed contracts with the new rulers, and in doing so it kept 40% of the oil production. So it would be only fair that the country that brought us “Freedom, Equality and Fraternity” assume 40% of the refugees, right?

A senior UN official has proposed bombing the ports of departure of these rickety boats, no matter if the vessels are empty or crowded. The refugees, the displaced and the desperate are crowding at our borders. It will be impossible to stop them because we have destroyed everything they had and they are left to venture into the sea. We are paying the consequences of the damage caused to achieve "living space". Our civilization is a sinking ship.  Soon we will be as these unfortunate in this picture of shame.

Without a doubt, our culture certainly has values. But since its inception it has been of an insatiable greed. In the past centuries and still nowadays, it has been determined to draw on a world map, a world to their needs and benefits. Thus, with a pencil and ruler, in an office with powerful personalities, countries were recreated. Countries that were already inhabited and whose people were not consulted. Lands were taken from some and given to others. Sibling nations were divided and ethnic groups that do not get along pooled. All for our interests.

These new countries are ruled by leaders educated in our prestigious universities and placed at the forefront of states of poor people, surrounded by all the luxury, ruling for decades thanks to our military support. What was the price? Dictating laws favoring us to continue stealing all their valuable raw materials. If they happen to be ousted, we'll provide asylum in our palaces.

I have been criticized for not recognizing that our culture has achieved remarkable technological advances. I admit, yes. We boast of technology that has made giant strides. At what price? When we buy a last generation tablet or a mobile phone to communicate with our friends and talk nonsense, and share videos of puppies and kittens doing funny things, or just to play on a console, we do not stand still at the fact that the primary component of these devices is a rare mineral called Coltan. I invite you to enter the internet and search  "coltan mines in the Congo" and then I give me your meaning.  Multinationals do business with mafias that sell weapons and have children working in the mines tunnels for a simple bowl of rice a day. That is happening now, at this very moment. But no need to feel so guilty, I also have a tablet and a mobile phone. Just let’s not complain when all these people decide to emigrate to live with us. They smell the aroma from our pots: we're cooking with what we are robbing them of.

I must say that my feeling is not apocalyptic. We are living and being protagonists of a rapid change of time, and that is exciting. We must learn to respect and share. In the early twentieth century, we drew at will countries in Africa and Asia. The boundaries are straight lines that arbitrarily separated peoples and cultures. Today we continue to export and impose our ideas and our way of life to people who wish to live differently. And ahead is the plundering of their natural resources. Just look how exploitation of Coltan occurs in Congo to realize the disasters that continue to be committed in the name of our Lifestyle. We have to look at the future with hope. The solution is not to throw more bombs on innocent people, but to make the necessary contacts to find a way to honest dialogue world peace.

Read also: The Goths and Emperor Valens

Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors who have submitted articles to belong to them alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of, its staff or parent company.

By Carlos Di Palma.

Carlos is a Professor of History graduated from the University of Montevideo. Carlos resides now in Granada (Spain) where he owns a restaurant.

Image: El País

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