Sunday, 2 October 2011

Hustling the East

Now it is not wise for the Christian white
To hustle the Asian brown
For the Christian riles, and the Asian smiles,
And weareth the Christian down.

At the end of the fight lies a tombstone white
With the name of the late deceased
And an epitaph drear, "A fool lies here
Who tried to hustle the East."

                             ~ Rudyard Kipling.

I was thinking not long ago that we Asians must be the only peoples in world history to successfully resist colonialism.

Think about it. When you consider the real Americans – the original peoples of the Americas – where are they? Exterminated or marginalised. When you think of the original Australians, New Zealanders, or Tasmanians, their fate has been about the same. The people of Africa were colonised and – wherever climate allowed – displaced in their turn, turned into slave labour on their own lands, by imperial colonialist masters. There’s a reason why the Zulus have a song called “Kill the Boer”.

In fact, wherever the colonialist foot has trod, the original inhabitants have been pushed into penury or destruction – and replaced by the colonists. Isn’t that so?

Even the colonial powers were no exception. Britain, the undoubted king of all colonial nations, was itself colonised, over and over, by Romans, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Normans, and assorted bands of Danes and other Vikings; they came, they took over, and they stayed.  France, the Number Two of colonial regimes, was itself under the Romans, and successive invasions by barbarian hordes from the East. Today’s prime coloniser was itself the product of a colonial enterprise, and had to fight a bloody liberation war to free itself – though the people in power remained the same, and the original inhabitants continued to languish in reservations.

There’s only one continent which has bucked this trend – Asia.

Yes, Asia has been colonised; over and over and over. But where are the colonists now? Where are the farms owned by foreign settlers, with the natives reduced to slave labourers? Where are the reservations, the exterminated peoples remembered only by their names? Where are the colonialist elites with their faux European cities?

Gone with the wind, that’s what.

The only colony that is still hanging on in Asia is the Zionazi pseudostate, which depends on its survival entirely on handouts from the Evil Empire. It dares not even speak of its Asian situation, in fact, and pretends to be part of Europe; a Europe which had rejected its people and put them in concentration camps, don’t forget. And the pseudostate, like other imperial colonial enterprises in Asia, is doomed. It’s doomed because we Asians endure. We endure, we don’t give up, and in the fullness of time, we win.

I don’t know if I’m right in speculating that in part this may be because culturally Asians tend to think in immense time periods. The Judaeo-Christian tradition of a six-thousand year-old earth would be beneath the notice of most Asian cultures, which tend to think of cycles of creation lasting many billions of years. Instant gratification and short-term advantage has been crudely applied on top, but you can’t get away from five thousand years of cultural conditioning. A culture that thinks in terms of thousands of years has a very different understanding of victory and defeat from a culture that thinks in terms of, at the most, decades.

If there is one exemplar of the Asian resistance, as seen through modern Western consciousness, it is the small man in baggy black pyjamas, sandals and a carbine slung over his shoulder – the anonymous Viet Cong guerrilla who, along with his Viet Minh predecessor, outfought and outlasted two brutal imperialist occupations. 

But I have another candidate, and one with a much longer history – a bearded and turbaned insurgent, who has outlasted conquerors from Alexander of Macedon to the British Raj, the USSR and now has fought the ultimate enemy –the Evil Empire – to a standstill. If there is an ultimate warrior through the ages, one who has consistently outlasted, worn down and defeated more powerful enemies, it is he.

Kipling said it again, in another of his inimitable poems (Arithmetic On The Frontier):

A scrimmage in a Border Station --

A canter down some dark defile --

Two thousand pounds of education

Drops to a ten-rupee jezail

(A jezail was an Afghan musket, much more accurate than the nineteenth-century British Brown Bess musket it faced. You know, like in the Retreat from Kabul.)

Oh, yes, Afghanistan. Don't tell me you didn't realise that was coming.

The Taliban may, in some ways, be despicable. In fact they are despicable. But they are Asians. They have a capacity to endure the unendurable, and outlast whatever the enemy throws at them. As Vo Nguyen Giap – the Vietnamese conqueror of Dien Bien Phu – once said, if the fight wasn’t won in ten years, it would go on for twenty; if not won in twenty, for fifty, a hundred years – but it would go on.

I’m not writing this as a bragging point, or as a warning, just as a matter of fact – the Imperium can beat us Asians, once, twice, a hundred times. But it can’t conquer us. We will outlast it, and wear it down.

And, in the end, in the final fight, the one that really matters, we shall win.

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