On Colonialism

Colonialism is a system of control by which a superior country dominates a weaker one. It is literally the exploitation of a superior power over a weaker country in the fields of politics, trade and beliefs.

Throughout the beginnings of civilization, nations have established colonies primarily for economic reasons. An example of this was the expedition led by Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) in search of the so-called “Spice Islands” that accidentally led to the West’s discovery of the Philippines.

Colonialism has both good and bad effects on the colonized people. But is it needed to make a country?

Is colonialism necessary for a country’s development?

Our country, the Philippines, is one of many that have experienced being under colonial rule. Other countries that have been colonized are India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, etc. Even the world powers today have experienced being under colonial rule. Take the United States, for example. Before it became a powerful nation, it was once under the British. Even our first colonizer, Spain, was colonized under the Roman Empire. Today, we can see these countries greatly developed and prosperous. But has colonial rule bought about this? Has colonialism played a key factor in the development of countries?

Was this even necessary?

In my opinion, colonialism is not necessary for a country’s development. Take Japan, for example. It was never colonized, yet it has grown prosperous over time. Japan’s success was not bought about by being colonized but its success was due to the country’s ideals (such as its Seclusionist ideals) and values (patience, determination, etc.). From this we can say that the development of a country is dependent on its people and not on foreign intervention/invasion.

True, there are benefits that are given to the colony such as protection and advancement in technology. But there are also downsides in colonial rule such as the exploitation of the colony’s natural resources, moral decline and cultural clashes. If you’ll look closely, the pros and cons of colonialism outweight each other. In reality, there are more disadvantages on the side of the colony instead of advantages. An example of this would be the Philippines. During the American occupation (1898-1946), the Philippines experienced many changes. Politically, we adapted the US political structure, including its flaws. Culturally, we developed the notion of “colonial mentality” (A cultural notion of inferiority sometimes seen amongst populations previously subjugated and colonised by foreign entities.) that is still evident among us today when we patronize imported goods instead of our local products. Socially, we were adapting and integrating the American culture in our society, but we also adapted bad habits that led to our moral decline. Even today, the effects of being under colonial rule can still be felt.

Colonialism has many adverse effects on the colonized country.

Economically, colonial policies (such as unfair trade policies) have deterred or discouraged colonies from developing and industrializing their country due to the lack of funds and the like. The result is the dependence of the colony to its colonizer.

An example of this would again be the Philippines. Up to now, we are still dependent on the US for help. In fact, after World War II, the Philippines sought the help of the US for the restoration of the post-war Philippines in exchange for the signing of the contoversial Philippine-US Trade Act of 1946(which allowed the US to partake equally in the exploitation of the country’s natural resources) that is obviously not in accordance to the country’s best interests. Up to now, we are still dependent on the United States for economic and military reasons.

Politically, colonialism has prevented us from becoming an independent nation. (“Independent” in a sense that we are free from foreign influences) In history, it is evident that colonizing countries that claimed to support democracy, civil rights and free elections favored those political parties that supported them. Natives with real political powers were few, sometimes none, in some colonies, resulting in the poor governance from the country’s leaders due to the lack of experience. An example of this would yet again be the Philippines. During the Japanese occupation, the Filipinos were given positions in office that held no political power. This was the case of Pres. Jose P. Laurel, who at that time was only a mere puppet of the Japanese government.

Socially, colonialism has bought many changes, good and bad, to our culture. Through the integration of our culture with the colonizer’s we have created a new kind of culture that has its good and bad points. It can be remembered that the US used education as a medium for colonizing our country. Because of this, we were introduced to the American culture. This resulted in colonial mentality, suppression of Filipino nationalism, and other bad influences. Even today, it is evident that we still depend on our past colonizer, the US. Today, most of our workers, especially nurses and teachers, are going abroad to seek greener pastures, leaving the Philippines “sick, illiterate and poor”.

Colonialism is not necessary for a country’s development. A country’s success depends on its people, its leaders and its ideals. Colonialism only serves to suppress these factors that make a nation prosperous and independent. It suppresses the nationalism of the people, taking out the fire and zeal that burns in the people’s hearts needed for the country’s progress. It deters/prevents able leaders from taking control and leading the nation to success. It alters the ideals of the people about democracy, independence and freedom.

Colonialism has indeed played a key factor… in a nation’s decline. Yes, it has given us some benefits. But in the long run, we will always be the one to pay the price.

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