Saturday, April 9, 2011

Does progress have something to do with a country’s colonizer?

Let us ask the most obvious questions first?

“Why did the West become so much richer than the rest?

Ferdinand Magellan
M. Shahid Alam, Professor of Economics at Northeastern University in Boston (USA) in his book entitled Poverty from the Wealth of Nations: Integration and Polarization in the Global Economy since 1760 explains his stand by stating that “today's less-developed countries suffered from a lack of autonomy as a consequence of European imperialism since the mid-eighteenth century. As colonies and dependencies, they were not allowed to map out their own future, invest in education and infrastructure, and – more importantly -- use trade barriers to pursue import-substituting industrial policies on which to base their further industrialization and development. There are some nuances, but that's basically it.”

This might be substantiated by McCusker & Menard in their book “The Economy of British America” when they cited some reason why countries colonize:

1. To do things the home country can’t do well:
2. Different climate (Try growing sugar, indigo, tobacco, rice in Europe).
3. Low priced land/worker
  • Lumber can potentially grow in Europe, but not when it’s all been cut down
  • Land is scarce and therefore expensive in England. England can produce wheat, cattle, hogs, etc., but not as cheaply as in the new world.

Colonization will favor the conqueror more the than colonized country in a way that the resources of that certain colony were exploited by the colonizers. Although it brought in an economic movement internally by the processing of our raw materials into commodities, the colonizing country are the ones largely benefiting from exports as well as heavy taxes imposed in the colony.

However, McCusker & Menard cited that some colonies could have had an opportunity for development from being colonized through the following reasons:
1. The colonies are basically doing the same thing as in the mother land.
2. The only real difference is that they have a frontier to which they can move.
3. Other than the expanding frontier, colonial economic development mirrors the mother land.
4. Factors internal to the colony drive development

Well, this could explain why other countries have become developed despite being colonized in the past. Our question lies now in the premise of who colonized whom and how were they colonized? However, the latter question could already have been answered. We were colonized for trade, and taxation and we submitted because they have the greatest weapon ever invented, religion.

So does the nature of the colonizer differ or does it depend on the colonized?
Could I just rephrase the question? How about “who is the best colonizer?

In an internet article in Slate magazine entitled “Master of the Island: Which Country is the Best Colonizer, Joel Waldfogel cited a study by James Feyrer and Bruce Sacerdote, both of Dartmouth College. They considered studying a certain factor in history that could explain why some countries are rich and some are poor. This factor is the length of European colonization. The study made use of data from 80 tiny islands in the Atlantic, Pacific, and elsewhere which were once colonized by European explorers at a point in time.

Feyrer and Sacedote's key findings are that the longer one of the islands spent as a colony, the higher its present-day living standards and the lower its infant mortality rate. Each additional century of European colonization is associated with a 40 percent boost in income today and a reduction in infant mortality of 2.6 deaths per 1,000 births.

This data could somewhat be interesting but let’s try to look further into their findings because I seem to understand since time that my country was also once a colony. Let’s try to look for more clues.

So, what did the Europeans do right? The authors conclude that there's no simple answer. The most plausible mechanisms include trade, education, and democratic government. When the study directly measures these factors, some of them help to explain income differences among islands—for example, the places that traded only basic agricultural products in colonial times now have lower living standards. But even after accounting for these concrete determinants, longer European colonization has some extra pro-growth effect. Exposure to European colonizers, it appears, benefits living standards for reasons apart from the direct effects of government, education, and markets.

Library in UST
Trade and education? Yes it made some sense I remember the Galleon trade, the encomienda and Ateneo, or UST. Yes that’s a European legacy I can’t deny but what about the democratic government part? So now we’ve got a clue. Maybe there are countries given a democratic form of thinking. I am sure the Philippines is not one of those colonies being influenced with a democratic form of government. So where are we trying to get at here? And by the way what European country are we referring to here? Let’ not lose hope, let’s read further on with the results of the study.

James Cook
To be sure, Europeans have not always been benevolent masters. Before the Enlightenment, they tended to view natives as savages who were better off dead than not baptized. After about 1700, however, attitudes began to change. While 16th-century explorers like Magellan set out to spread Christianity as well as make money, later voyages, like those of English Capt. James Cook between 1768 and 1779, had more explicitly scientific aims. The experience of island colonies reflects the difference. When the authors divide the islands into those that were colonized in the centuries before 1700 and those that were colonized after, current island income is 64 percent higher per century for the post-Enlightenment group but only 11 percent higher per century for the pre-Enlightenment one. And, no, the effects don't appear to stem from the replacement of decimated low-income native populations with higher-income Europeans.

Eureka! I think I finally got it. This may be the explanation why the Philippines is far off from other colonized countries. It practically made sense, we are actually colonized in the 1500’s, the pre-Enlightenment era, with a few inconsistencies of course because we are not colonized for religion but religion is their tool to colonize us. We could have thrown them off much better if the reason was purely trade and money rather than use religion as their weapon. It was a classic psychological warfare.

However, let us look further for more clues. If we could just see how other colonizers apart from Spain have fared as master of islands. I bet this could shed light into the matter.

The authors also compare the experiences of separate Pacific islands with eight different colonizers: the United States, Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Japan, Germany, and France. Their verdict is that the islands that are best off, in terms of income growth, are the ones that were colonized by the United States—as in Guam and Puerto Rico. Next best is time spent as a Dutch, British, or French colony. At the bottom are the countries colonized by the Spanish and especially the Portuguese.

My God! This made me the greatest detective! At least for a while. This has really made sense, a whole lot of sense (Spain, the worst colonizer?). The United States is no. 1 huh! Well wasn’t the Philippines colonized by the U.S.? My God again! What am I trying to get into? Let me look more into my readings here.

Taufik Abdullah in his scientific paper entitled “Asia and European Colonialism” which was published in the Asia Europe Journal has the following explanation. “The clearly marked boundaries of colonial territories and the consolidation of power in their respective areas of control also meant that for the first time in their respective histories the colonized countries experienced administrative unification. The Spaniards might fail to unify the whole islands of the Philippines under one administration, but the Americans, who emerged as the victors in the American-Spanish war, managed to accomplish, even for a short period, what the Spaniards failed to accomplish. The failure of the Spaniards and the short rule of the U.S. was one of the causes for the slow process of nation building in the Philippines”.

Filipinos captured by American Soldiers
Ahaa! This probably suggests that if only the Americans could have stayed longer or if they have been here earlier we could have been more progressive. Although the statement provided some answers, I can’t seem to tolerate the term Spanish-American War. There was never a Spanish-American War at least in the country. There was however the Spanish-American Deal to purchase the Philippines. But I’ll throw out my nationalistic pride for a while and think that if only the Americans were not so brutally violent during the Philippine American War (remember the Balangiga Massacre) then I would accept that we should have let them stay longer and sooner.

However, I believe the Americans could have stayed longer if not for that damn World War which made us attractive to the Japanese (let’s face it, we have always been attractive to foreign powers, two words: natural resources). Furthermore, there are evidenced controversies that Pearl Harbor was really a conspired event to legitimize the U.S. entry to the World War but that’s another story let’s deal with colonization’s effect on us for now. So what could have led us in the wrong rhythm in the music of development? Let’s try to look at other explanations.

Seoul, South Korea
James Chiriyankandath in “Colonialism and Post-colonial Development” reveals that “East Asian states like South Korea and Taiwan, both Japanese colonies in the first half of the twentieth century, was credited with producing an economic miracle”. Well Japan could well be a good colonizer. Remember we have also been under the powers of Japan. But I believe it was such a short stint and an interrupted one. Thus we cannot create much inference from this because all we can remember are the cries of our oppressed ancestors. However, Chiriyankandath further asserted that “Korea and Taiwan benefited from an ethnically homogenous society with a cohesive dominant class and a purposeful leadership”. This could refer to what they have intact after being a colony and this helped in their gradual yet clear progress in relation to other former colonies in the region.

After the Second World War
Abdullah on the other hand presented some political situation after a colonizer disengage from a colony by stating that “after the forced imposition of peace and political-military consolidation, the newly established towns, which might have been used as the military posts during the time of colonial conquest, were transformed into the political centers of their respective surroundings. The towns also served as the trading and industrial centers as well. Consequently one can also say that colonial rule was an important factor of the formation of plural society in a number of Asian countries. Not a single town occupied by a homogenous community. At the early stage of colonial rule most of the big colonial towns can to some extent be considered as a conglomeration of several ‘‘communities of strangers’’, who lived in separate compounds. Horizontally they spoke different languages, professed different religions, and held different occupations. Vertically they consisted of several layers of economic classes and political positions”.

Luis Taruc (Huk Leader)
This is exactly what is happening to the country after the Americans left in 1945. We are now a combination of different cultural orientations. Let’s face it we have a New Filipino identity, a race ripened by time and fertilized by different cultural and religious background both external and internal. This may have resulted to a heterogeneous ethnicity resulting to clashes within the classes which no legitimate leadership could pacify. I mean when the Americans left we still have the HUKBALAHAP which threatens the peace and order during our first stages of reconstruction and then came the CPP-NPA and the MNLF in the 70’s. Adding to this Abdullah further stated that “In some countries it [religious and cultural heterogeneity] became the most important reason for the slow process of national integration and nation building. The Muslims in the Southern part of the Philippines could hardly consider the Christians in the North as belonging to their understanding of what a nation should be”.


The Real Heroes
Thus, what we have left after the foreigner walked away (if they are really gone) is what matters in terms of development in a former colony. Although, a great factor is also the nature of the colonizers (the British and the Americans are above the rest) this will never be the main reason why a colony rises after independence. It is what we have left and our development depends on our efforts of uniting our fellow brothers who have been with us through the ordeals brought about by abusive political powers. It also depends on our resourcefulness in creating something from the remains of the ruins. Nation building is such a tall order when you are ravaged by the destruction of colonization politically, physically, culturally, and psychologically. Thus my position in this essay is that it does not depend on who colonized us but it is who we are after the colonizers have left. And one prerequisite to it is a nation that never welcomes another colonizer again.


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