who owns the past?


Is the title of my current read.

The author, in writing on why history of Africa and the relationship with the developed world is presented in the manner it is, notes

[….]I attribute the want of proper acknowledgement to a collective desire- conscious and unconscious- to conceal a very shameful and horrific past. To acknowledge the past would necessarily be to acknowledge the present, and the developed world is largely incapable of that. To acknowledge culpability in the historical and contemporary abuse of Africa and its peoples would force a revision of all righteous claims of European civilizing mission, modernity, enlightenment and white moral supremacy. Notions of aid and development would have to be re-framed as acts of reparation and restitution for the plunder of gold, uranium, diamonds, cocoa, rubber, coffee, copper and people. And so the dark secrets of empires must be repressed, and in that way, control the past.

 

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About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

38 thoughts on “who owns the past?

  1. Arkenaten says:

    The truth hurts. Much like the genocide of Native Americans by colonizing Europeans.

    ”Ah … that’s history . All water under the bridge.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Genocide is only genocide when whites die so we have the holocaust. Notice when one says the holocaust, the first thing that comes to mind is the Jewish holocaust.
      Yes, the truth hurts and we want to forget it quickly

      Like

      • Arkenaten says:

        Whenever I raise the Native American genocide with our Christian brethren they ignore it or yell Stalin!
        When Anti Apartheid demos were in full swing down, IBM and Barclays pulling out, and a number of other very large corporations, I’m sure it would surprise a lot of people just how many natural resources still flowed quite regularly to the northern climes, often to countries that were supposed to be the most vociferous critics.
        I believe South Africa has a few minerals that cannot be obtained in large enough quantities anywhere else.
        The US was never likely to fully embargo SA while it needed what they could only get out of South African ground.

        All pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others, right?

        What’s the latest on Mugabe? Have you heard anything new?

        Liked by 1 person

        • makagutu says:

          Mugabe is a class act mate. After his non resignation he called for a cabinet meeting today. I think he has 9 lives!

          Animal Farm is a great book. Fun to read in Kiswahili.

          The change of the laws to finally read all animals are equal but some are more equal.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Arkenaten says:

            I thought Mugabe was under Military ”house arrest”? have they released him?
            You know me and news.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Well, on Sunday night he was live on Int’l news not resigning but telling Zims there are problems they need to resolve and wished everyone a goodnight.

            How his house arrest and resignation works is something only Zims can explain. Their coup is a special one. No blood has been lost in the hands of the military from what I hear.

            Liked by 3 people

          • Violet says:

            Mak, do you think this coup has really been bloodless? It’s hard for us to figure out what is going on over there…we can’t be sure our news is accurate since coups aren’t exactly known for being nonviolent.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            It has been bloodless. If anyone has died, maybe it is from suicide. But not from the military action

            Liked by 1 person

      • Violet says:

        Not necessarily. While the US spent several months fighting the word “genocide” when it came to Rwanda, they did accept it when the horrific death toll became known. Now everyone in the west call what happened in Rwanda genocide without blinking. Surely it would have been better if they’d called it that from the get-go, but I guess it’s better to acknowledge it late then to continue to refute the obvious.

        The majority of people in the US refer what happened to our Natives as “genocide.”

        Like

        • makagutu says:

          How do they refer to what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? How is it treated in your history?
          Or the origin of border patrol after the upsurge of Chinese immigrants at the end of 19th century?

          Like

          • Violet says:

            Hiroshima and Nagasaki are for sure called genocides. Not sure what most think of the last one.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            Is there a Jap museum or Chinese museum in the states? IS there a display of the bomber at the Smithsonian Museum or any other museum?
            How is the struggle of LGBTs told in public history? Or that of slavery?
            Or even the civil war? How are American children taught about their country’s history?

            Like

          • Violet says:

            Honestly I don’t know if there’s a museum in the US about that, but I don’t think there’s one in MN.

            I can tell you a great amount of time was dedicated in our public schools to the discussion of nuclear war, what we did, and how our victims suffered. Our libraries were filled with books on the topic and we were showed countless documentaries about our victims. The point was always about how this was a huge human tragedy and an epic mistake…they warned us we must NEVER use nuclear weapons again.

            Apparently Trump’s prep school didn’t have the same curriculum.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            I think tRump should go back to school.

            Like

          • Violet says:

            I’m not sure his fancy prep school could even be considered a proper school. His dad probably paid for him to graduate.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            It’s not just about education in schools, but how stories are told, how it is represented in movies and so on. Because the past is remembered in different ways.
            Maybe tRump skipped school

            Liked by 1 person

          • Violet says:

            As far as LGBT, I can’t say how they teach that in public schools now, because back in my day homophobia was still alive and well. I hope my son will receive a different message.

            Slavery was seen as a horror that humanity inflicted on other humans, and once again, should never, ever be allowed to happen again. There were many school books, movies, and discussions on the evils that were perpetrated by white americans on black africans.

            The civil war was considered a tragedy (huge death toll), but necessary for our people to achieve equal rights. Do note that I live in the North…I can’t say how kids in the South were taught.

            Like

          • makagutu says:

            How are the native Americans treated?
            How are African Americans treated? Has the knowledge of slavery being horrendous led to better race relationships?
            How has this history been useful?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Violet says:

            I certainly hope any/all knowledge will lead to better treatment for disenfranchised people. We’re not there yet as far as equality, but I like to think conversations are being had, people are changing, and policy is changing (like gay marriage now being legal in the US and Australia). We are still far from the ideal but improvements are being made in at least some areas.

            Stories from individuals must be heard, and you’re correct that we must be conscious about elites rewriting/sanitizing history. I have to think the internet will help this happen.

            Unless Trump nukes us all.

            Like

    • Look, man, the Native Americans were given bingo parlors, vodka, and small pox by the Europeans who came here back in the day. Yes, the Europeans ultimately got the continents of North and South America, but it isn’t like the natives got NOTHING in return for it. Jeez, give us a break already, will ya.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Violet says:

    This reminds me of a phrase frequently used in psychiatry:

    “You may not be responsible for the position you’re in, but you are responsible for dealing with it as it is.”

    And that sucks.

    For the vast majority of situations in this life, most people will never get acknowledgement or validation for anything, nor will any responsibility be taken for their legitimate struggles. On the rare occasion that someone has thought deeply enough to give us any of those things, we should treasure the moments, because they’re going to be few and far between.

    It’s best to get on with doing whatever you can for yourself. You’re doing that marvelously by resisting.

    Like

  3. “white moral supremacy” – good grief, are we in trouble!

    Like

  4. Peter says:

    I will offer another unpopular opinion, but I find that there is trend towards everyone seeking victimhood. People seem to glorify their oppression.

    This gives rise to the identity politics which is actually increasing divisions in society.

    I don’t think it is helpful to Africa’s future to blame all current problems on colonial times.

    Also seeking to have current generations continually apologise for past generations becomes so tiring. I got really annoyed when the a world conference slavery spent all its time demonising slavery of the past centuries whilst ignoring modern day slavery,

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      I don’t think that is unpopular opinion. It has been expressed in many different forums.

      Many problems in Africa can be blamed to colonialism and unfair trade practices from the west. There are several examples of African leaders who have been toppled by the west or supported by the west to allow them extract resources at below market value.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Violet says:

      As someone who worked in psychiatry for a long time, I can tell you it’s not as simple as people playing the victim card. People need certain things to heal from trauma: 1. an acknowledgement that they had legitimate trauma 2. an apology from the perpetrator(s) 3. reparation, if possible.

      Unfortunately those three things pretty much never happen, regardless the type of trauma, and regardless if the trauma was suffered by an entire nation/race, a large group of people within a nation/race, or an individual. So the wounds fester, and fester, and fester.

      The issue is how do people move on when they can’t get what they need to heal (those three things I listed)? You will have this sort of stumbling forward motion as people try to get on with it, yet they look back with fury because they haven’t truly healed and probably never will (they’re scarred). This is a true for people who have suffered something as big as slavery, or something as small as religious trauma.

      Outsiders will accuse them of being “victims,” but that’s not the whole story. They people just trying to move forward the best they can, scars and all. It’s a difficult process. As you say though Peter, it’s important not to *only* look back…we should try to acknowledge current improvements, and look toward making the future better too.

      Liked by 3 people

    • The imperialist racial exploitation and oppression of colonial times has been replaced by the corporatist commercial exploitation and oppression of modern times. So, Mak is correct to infer that the external causes of Africa’s problems are continuing and not just legacy.

      I further assert that the source of current exploitation and oppression in Africa is the same thing which has destroyed the American middle class, imposed austerity in Europe, empowered supranational corporations over democracy, brutalized impoverished workers in the developing world (i.e. “modern day slavery”), ruined ecosystems and the environment, and imposed perpetual war for profit on humanity.

      This is what gave rise to identity politics, not “everyone seeking victimhood.”

      Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Peter, do you think Aborigines are seeking victimhood?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ron says:

    Mistakes were made.

    Like

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