It is a near-universal law that intellectuals around the world are Leftists who focus on oppression narratives to explain away the failures of their respective countries to accomplish anything worthwhile – or, in the case of advanced Western nations, to score brownie points with their own kind by virtue-signalling and showing that they “belong” to the group of their fellow intellectuals.
Never mind that, by doing so, they infantilise the very people who they claim are oppressed.
This basic fact of the intellectual-yet-idiot, to
steal borrow a phrase from Nasim Taleb, is perfectly embodied by a certain Indian politician by the name of Shashi Tharoor, as you will see in the (rather long) analysis given down below:
I realise that the video there was over an hour long, and most of you, like me, are readers who don’t have the time or the patience to sit through a long-ass video like that without getting distracted and wanting to read a book.
So here are the Cliff Notes:
Shashi Tharoor is an Indian politician from one of the country’s southern states, and by the standards of Indian politics he is very, very well known both nationally and internationally. He is considered to be something of a public intellectual – so that tells you a lot right there – and has spent many years traveling in all of the right international circles.
He was born in India, and apparently lived in London for a while, before completing his high school education at St. Xavier’s College in Calcutta, which I’m told is, or was, one of the city’s best private schools, and then went on to study at St. Stephen’s College in Delhi, which, again, is supposed to be one of India’s top tertiary institutes. He then went to Tufts in the US for his MA. He has been married three times – his second marriage was to a Canadian diplomat working at the UN.
He is something of a luminary of the United (Abomi)Nations, where he was at one point an Under-Secretary General, and has spent a very long time being toasted in all of the right-on intellectual and public policy circles around the world.
And he has spent many years of his long and storied career claiming that Britain owes his people massive reparations for supposedly becoming rich thanks to its extreme exploitation of India.
In the video above, he makes the claim that Britain prevented India from industrialising, that the British utterly exploited and demoralised the Indian working classes, that the Brits stopped cold the development of democracy and national identity, and that the British were directly responsible for reducing India from a first-rate world power in the middle of the 18th Century, to a pathetic third-world impoverished nation by the middle of the 20th.
Evidently, quite a few facts went a-missing from Mr. Tharoor’s long and impassioned screeds.
The reality is that India would not exist as a nation today if it were not for the British, and the facts prove this out.
Let’s start, briefly, by conceding where Mr. Tharoor is correct.
He is correct to argue that the British came to India to exploit its resources, and were largely interested only in goods that made economic sense for them – not for the Indians in general. That was precisely what the Brits did, by forcing certain parts of the subcontinent to produce opium, with the express goal of selling the stuff to China in order to reverse the extremely unfavourable balance of payments situation that they had with the Middle Kingdom.
That policy was so successful, in fact, that within a generation of its introduction, the Chinese had gone from a massive trade surplus with Britain, in the form of gold and silver that the Pommie Bastards paid to the Chinese in exchange for tea, silk, and other commodities – to an even more massive trade deficit which put a severe drain on China’s economy, along with all of the opium-addicted Chinamen.
(Yes, I know, that’s a mildly racist term – for some reason. Still gonna use it.)
So what else is Mr. Tharoor correct about?
Uh… well, that’s about it, actually.
In every other respect, with every other one of his arguments, Mr. Tharoor’s profound ignorance of, or unwillingness to use, statistics and data and actual hard analysis, show him to be nothing more than a hack with a partisan axe to grind.
One example after another is given in that video showing that the British did far more good than harm to the Indian subcontinent, and by extension to the rest of the Raj.
Yes, the Brits absolutely used sectarian politics to divide and conquer. They pitted Hindu against Muslim, north against south, and maharaja against sultan, keeping everyone divided and squabbling among themselves while they carried on setting up their own administration, bureaucracy, and infrastructure. And yes, they suppressed rebellions against the Crown with ruthless brutality – though, it must be noted, they were far more humane and decent by almost every measure than almost any other colonial power, including and most notably the Belgians in the Congo and the Japanese in Manchuria.
But overall, the fact remains that Britain gave far more to India than it got back.
As the video above makes very clear, the British Empire may have looked awesome and amazing, but it was in fact a gigantic drain on Britain’s economy. Maintaining such a huge and far-flung empire of colonies all around the world was incredibly expensive, difficult, time-consuming, and challenging, and drained off virtually all of Britain’s top administrators, soldiers, civil servants, engineers, and builders.
The core lesson there is a sobering one, and it is one that has been repeated throughout history, and one which has ALWAYS fallen on deaf ears: empires ruin nations.
It does not matter where, or when, you look. The same thing is true everywhere. The Athenian attempt at empire-building ended in disaster and resulted in its much-vaunted democracy being replaced by an absolutist dictatorship in the span of less than a century. The Spartan attempt at doing the same thing ended with its stock of citizen-soldiers being so badly depleted that they were thoroughly routed and destroyed by a gay Theban in one of the climactic battles of history, and spent the rest of their nation’s existence as a third-rate power until the Romans came along and stomped their legendary phalanx straight into the dirt.
Then the Romans had their turn, and eventually blew up their own civilisation through empire-building. After that, empire followed empire with monotonous regularity all throughout the ages, until we got to the Brits – who immediately showed that they had categorically failed to learn any of the lessons of their predecessors and decided to create the biggest one ever.
That is not to say that empire-building is totally without merit – depending on who is doing the building, that is.
The Anglosphere, of English-speaking nations with a commonly derived heritage, history, and system of law and governance, is easily the happiest geopolitical alignment of peoples and nations that the world has ever seen. It is by no means accidental that the descendants of the original Anglo-Saxons who set forth across the seas to build Britain’s great empire are so heavily over-represented among the ranks of the world’s wealthiest, freest, and most powerful nations.
It is at this point that someone like Shashi Tharoor will chime in and say that those nations got there by exploiting the poor benighted brown and black people, who surely could have achieved the same results by themselves, if only they had been left well enough alone to do it!
Yeah, about that…
Look, in 1947, when India was finally granted independence by Britain – note that, unlike the Americans, India never had to fight a war to secure its freedom, and neither did pretty much the rest of the Empire – two of the most important territorial holdings of the Raj were Calcutta, and Singapore.
One was the crown jewel of the Raj, a city that had been for many years the capital of the eastern empire and the administrative, legal, cultural, and literary heart of India.
The other was a mosquito-infested backwater tropical port that had once been a major trading hub for all of Southeast Asia, but was a mere shell of its former self after years of brutal Japanese occupation.
To compare the two cities back then was to laugh. The comparison was utterly facile, ridiculous, and stupid. One was so much better than the other that the very idea of comparing Calcutta with Singapore was absurd.
Today, the comparison is still facile and ridiculous – but in completely the opposite direction.
Singapore is clean, beautiful, advanced, modern, well-lit, well-maintained, and a wonderful place to live and do business in. Calcutta is… well, none of those things, except maybe well-lit, and that too is only because West Bengal now has the biggest oversupply of electricity in the entire country. And that is only because successive Communist (yes, seriously) state governments had spent decades chasing away any serious industry and redistributing wealth from the cities to the countryside.
The fact is that Indians – and, for that matter, Africans – were by and large living in utterly horrid conditions before the Brits came along and created an actual country out of a vast subcontinent full of squabbling principalities and nation-states. As the video above shows, in measure after measure, starting with adult literacy rates, the British were absolutely instrumental in helping India develop. It is not coincidental that Indian population levels, along with life expectancies and measures of health, all began to improve dramatically right after the Brits arrived.
Nor is it any surprise that the British invested heavily in education for Indians in general. Yes, they probably could have spent more – but their priority was, quite reasonably, on Britain, which is where it should have been. No one in his right mind can possibly argue that India would have done any differently were the positions reversed.
In fact, these days, given the sheer number of Indians who have gone over to Britain and turned entire enclaves of British cities into Little Indias, the evidence squarely and categorically shows that Indians would not have done any differently in the same position.
Nor, for that matter, would any other nation. Witness what China is doing to the Asian, African, and South American colonies and potentates that it is cultivating right now – they are doing to those very same nations exactly what their own former colonial overlords did, which is some delicious irony right there if you care to think on it.
The absolute worst thing about Mr. Tharoor’s arguments, though, is the way in which they completely infantilise brown and black people, by removing any sense of personal responsibility for shitcanning their own countries.
Consider the fact that most of what we call today the “Dirt World” was once under the control of various European nations. That included ALL of Africa, huge parts of Asia, and ALL of South America.
Why is it that much of Central and South America ended up being Marxist-Leninist crapshoots? Why is it that the ONLY successful countries in Africa, for about 40 years after the end of the British Empire, were dominated by whites? Why is it that British-administered Hong Kong, and the British-educated leaders of Singapore – two very heavily Chinese territories – were (and are) vastly more successful, wealthy, stable, and free than mainland China? And why is it that Japan, which was literally bombed to its knees by America and ruled under basically a military dictatorship for several years, ended up being more successful than any of its former colonies?
The responsibility for those vast disparities in outcome does not lie with the colonial powers. To argue this is to remove all responsibility and agency from the people of the former colonial nations.
The British did not put Idi Amin in power in Uganda, or Jawaharlal Nehru in India. The French did not put Pol Pot in power in Cambodia, or Ho Chi Minh in power in Vietnam. The Japanese did not put Mao Zedong in power in China, or Soekarno in Indonesia, or Marcos in the Philippines. The retreats of the colonial powers from those countries, due to the devastation inflicted by WWII, along with several severe military defeats in the case of the Japanese and the French, did that.
Every single one of the former colonies which went to seed, did so because of the leaders that its own people, or at least, significant blocs of their own people, put into power. That is their own fault – not the fault of the colonial powers. Indeed, most of those leaders who came to power were virulent anti-imperialists, who absolutely hated the former rulers of their nations – rightly so, in some cases.
In India’s specific case, Jawaharlal Nehru led India down the long and terrible road to socialism, which comprehensively destroyed its industrial base, instituted a ridiculously complicated system of licensing bureaus and government agencies that came to be known as the “License Raj”, and resulted in the depletion of the entire country’s foreign exchange reserves within 45 years – forcing the country to liberalise in the early 90s and open up its markets.
Hundreds of millions of Indians suffered under the “joys” of socialism during that long spell, never knowing anything but grinding poverty and the endless indignities of being largely, if not totally, dependent on local, state, and federal government assistance just to survive.
Compared to that, the exploitative rule of those former colonial masters seems downright enlightened.
Under no circumstances should we ever whitewash or ignore the atrocities committed by the British during their rule over the subcontinent. Sure, they exploited the countries of the subcontinent and their peoples during their roughly 200-year Raj.
But the least that politicians like Shashi Tharoor, and by extension the bulk of the Indian population, could do, is acknowledge the hard, cold fact that India today depends almost entirely upon systems and procedures and institutions created by the British, for the advancement of the British Raj. They worked back then, and continue to work (badly) now, because nobody can come up with anything much better.
And it is utterly ridiculous to argue that the British “owe” India, or anyone else, any sort of reparations. If anything, such a demand simply shows that the attitude of “GIBSMEDATS!!!” and “MUH FREE SHIT!!!” applies just as much to Indians as it does to Africans. It is not a good attitude from a country that fancies itself to be a regional power with global ambitions, especially since we know, beyond any shadow of any doubt, that if the positions were reversed, India absolutely would have done the same to any subjugated nations under its control – because that is exactly what happened during the long history of Indian empires.