Engines of Star-Dot-Star Colonialism

(This article is the 2nd part of a 4-part series. Read Part 1)

Part 2: Engines of Star-Dot-Star Colonialism

In Part 1, we saw how new forms of colonialism are prevalent globally even in the current era and that colonized mindsets still drive policy, investments, business, governance, education and more. In this section we look at the engines that power Star-Dot-Star Colonialism and the effect it has on the targets.

Firstly, Star-dot-Star capitalism draws its energy and inspiration from sanctioned Doctrines of Supremacy of Culture or Religion or Region of Race or even of Species (e.g., the myth of ‘Human Supremacy’ and the sanction of ‘Divine Right of Humans over other species’ in some beliefs – specially organized religions). Consider the American Doctrine of Exceptionalism which continues to this day.  It is the same doctrine that allows the US to give itself a self-given right to wage wars based on speciously invented reasons such as WMD in Iraq in the 21st Century or stage coups to champion ‘democracy’ in countries like Guatemala, Iran (where, ironically in both case, popularly elected governments were overthrown) in the 1950s. This template has been repeated with some variations ever since.

In Guatemala, a massively popular democratically elected leader, Jacob Arbenz, was deposed in a CIA sponsored coup. His ‘crime’? Arbenz wanted to unify Guatemala and serve its national interests by bringing a monopolistic US firm to work in compliance with local laws. Guatemala went into a civil war after this coup. The country was then ruled by US controlled puppet regimes for decades.[1]

In Iran – which was a progressive democracy in the 1950s, a democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mosaddegh, was deposed in a coup. His ‘crime’: nationalization of Iranian oil assets – a move that thwarted neo-colonial ownership structures set up by the US and the UK. A democratic system was replaced by an autocratic monarchy aligned with colonial interests. The resentment against the Shah of Iran later paved the way for an Islamic Iran later on under Ayatollah Khomeini as anarchy began to prevail in Iran.

The Doctrine of Exceptionalism of the US was preceded by the concept of ‘Manifest Destiny’. The doctrine of Manifest Destiny gave sanction for the displacement and genocide of Native American  populations of North America. Modern history has whitewashed all these instances rather conveniently.

Earlier, versions of such supremacist beliefs led to Papal Bulls (official notices of the Pope) issued in the 15th century period enabled to European kingdoms to consider slavery of Africans, South Americans and other colonies as a ‘Divine Right’ as the Vatican claimed it had dominion over the entire world. In 1455, Pope Nicholas V issued a Papal Bull called Romanus Pontifex – to King Afonso of Portugal. It laid the grounds for the African slave trade and future macabre acts such as the Goa Inquisition as well as the atrocities in various Portuguese and other European colonies which were encouraged by such sanction. Among other things, this Papal Bull stated:

“…since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso — to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit…[2]

These doctrines were the engines of colonialism as they energized and conditioned minds to imagine they were doing acts in support of their version of Divinity but in reality committing enormous crimes against humanity and other life forms.

In North America, Australia and New Zealand, the colonizers’ doctrinal impact was such that the indigenous natives of those lands were virtually extinguished in every sense and their countries appropriated. Suicide rates, drug abuse and depression rates amongst the remaining few native survivors in native American reservations in America are extremely high. Africa, in the beginning of the 20th Century had a 50% population that held indigenous beliefs and barring colonial scars, had stable, diverse societies. Today, with 90% Islamic and Christian populations, the rest of the marginalized 10% population[3] has a present that has little memory of its rich past; national boundaries as artificial straight lines cut across historically bonded tribes, communities and natural features of geography.

Secondly, these doctrines helped create and influence Institutions that propagate myths with themes such as Colonizers invested in infrastructure, transferred technology, invested capital, knowledge, marketing and brought in ‘civilization’. In ‘exchange’, they had the ‘right’ to exploit resources, labour and access these markets. It was projection of this ‘right’ that drove colonization as a ‘model’ of development of ‘backward’ regions of the world and in the post colonial world, it is left as an unfinished yet ongoing agenda on the goals of many institutions which are bearing this new metaphorical  burden of the cross. This tactic has been remarkably successful – it is very hard even to this day for conducting a dispassionate assessment of the cost of Star-Dot-Star Colonialism. All such instances are usually met with reactions that ultimately suppress the messages and the messengers. For example, the Mau-Mau case of torture of Kenyan natives by the British and compensation for them (5,228 survivors got $31m compensation) – a case that closed only in 2013 despite the existence of elaborate records.[4]

Thirdly, rationalization of Star-dot-Star-colonialism has found its way into many media and ‘academic’ discussions, school texts and the popular discourse. It has prevailed within most colonizing countries and ironically, now even in formerly colonized countries. Elites in many formerly colonized countries have been conditioned over generations, like Pavlovian subjects[5]. They were earlier beneficiaries of incentives thrown their way by colonial forces and they occupied the institutions vacated by retreating colonizers. Having perpetuated a localized form of colonialism, they too believe that colonization has been beneficial and brought development into the colonies. Many elites hold positions of responsibility in their own local governance as well as ‘represent’ their countries in global, regional and sub-regional policy making. Some of them have been co-opted as cogs into the larger Star-dot-Star colonialism machinery. Author Rajiv Malhotra uses the term ‘Sepoy’[6] for such agents.

Examples of ‘Sepoy’ behaviour abound – look around in former colonies globally: the patterns are strikingly similar and in some cases, it extends to even those sections who were not elites but, surprisingly, some of the most oppressed and affected people. The roots of this perhaps lie in an observed psychological phenomenon called the Stockholm Syndrome. In the early 1970s, some hostages were in captivity during a bank robbery for several days in Sweden. When police rescued them, the captives came out in support of their kidnappers. The former captives went to the extent of defending the kidnappers and even became hostile witnesses against the police in the court trials. In an analogous twist, despite freedom from the captivity of Colonialism, some formerly colonized people support their former colonizers in the same bizarre manner. They resist the unfolding of real freedom, despite gaining independence. Rather strangely, this behaviour is observed to spread across several generations and is particularly prevalent amongst those sections of society that had greater interaction with former colonizers as their enablers. And, more ruthless the captors, the more supplicant have been the captives despite the passage of time.

Thus the engines of Star-dot-Star colonialism are strong doctrines of superiority and exclusivity, the establishment of Institutions that subscribe and propagate this, indoctrination of minds at a young age and the careful cultivation and promotion of Sepoys and other useful enablers in the service of Star-dot-Star colonizers. In Part 3, we take a (hopefully balanced and mature!) look at the asymmetry of the exchanges that took place between the Colonizers and the Colonized and examine the carefully generated myth of the ‘benefits of colonialism’.



[1] For a detailed account of US’s colonial strategy and tactics, read Bitter Fruit by Stephen Schlesinger and Stephen Kinzer,  which gives a classic and insightful account of how the US managed relationships in the Third world.

[2] The text in quotes is taken from http://www.nativeweb.org/pages/legal/indig-romanus-pontifex.html which quotes European Treaties bearing on the History of the United States and its Dependencies to 1648, Frances Gardiner Davenport, editor, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1917, Washington, D.C., at pp. 20-26.

[3] Ref: http://koenraadelst.bharatvani.org/books/negaind/ch3.htm

[4] See report in: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/06/201361374451786816.html

[5] Ivan Pavlov discovered Classical Conditioning of the Mind accidentally and then devoted a life time of research. Advertising, PR and the Entertainment industry routinely use mind conditioning techniques on unaware subjects as a normal business practice.

[6] For more terms and resources from Rajiv Malhotra, please visit http://beingdifferentforum.blogspot.in or read his books: Invading the Sacred, Breaking India, Being Different and The Battle for Sanskrit.

About the Author

Prashant Singh
Prashant Singh is a private citizen and an independent observer of current business, social and global developments. Twitter ID: ps_009