News & opinion on Greater China and the even Greater Beyond: by Biff Cappuccino.

Monday, May 03, 2004

A reply to previous letter, followed by my riposte:

Thank you for printing Biff Cappuccino's letter [Apr 23], which claimed that "Scotland, Nigeria, Uganda, Northern Ireland, America and Canada ... benefited from colonialism". I did not realize such horrendous and troglodyte points of view still existed among the literate until I read this letter in Asia Times Online. Invaders throughout history have brought with them pillage, rape and murder. The slave ships visiting Africa brought great benefit to the slave masters, and perhaps the likes of Mr Cappuccino believe that the slaves themselves were liberated by their enslavement at the hands of wonderful, cultured Europeans. The unspeakable atrocities committed by the Japanese in China and Korea during World War II speak for themselves. And in America, I don't believe any native Americans have derived much benefit from cultural extermination. This is not to deny that colonists have also done good things. But this is no excuse for their terrible crimes. In fact, their good deeds are testament to their humanity, while their crimes are equal testament to their vice. Europeans and Americans view their recent history as one of great cultural and moral progress. This may make sense from their points of view, but does it make any sense from the point of view of the enslaved African, the colonized Vietnamese, or the humiliated Chinese? The image of the West abroad has been shaped by cruel and greedy colonizers, by unjust wars for resources and wealth, and by shameless hypocrisy. Perhaps it was the very moral progress at home that drove conquerors and tyrants to ply their trade abroad. Mr Cappuccino and other colonial apologists should think hard about the slavery, rape, torture and extermination which has accompanied colonialism, which, in the end, is only the modern form of the ancient human tradition of conquest. In my view, Mr Cappuccino's views are as disgusting and morally reprehensible as those of the Nazis or al-Qaeda. It is imperative that these rancid views be exposed, as "sunlight is the best disinfectant".
G Travan

In response to G Travan’s letter of April 26th:
Mr Travan writes, “Invaders throughout history have brought with them pillage, rape and murder.” But naturally indigenous peoples have also brought pillage, rape and murder. And what is an indigenous people that visits pillage, rape and murder on another indigenous people but an invader? So what’s the difference between indigenous murderers and invading murderers? For people with curious double-standards like Mr Travan, all the difference in the world.

I say the following with no ill intent: It appears that Mr Travan, like most people worldwide, is racist and culturally chauvinist. (We all start out this way and it takes a lot of earnest soul-searching to eradicate this hard-wired tendency in any meaningful way.) I.e. if locals kill locals, it’s sad and regrettable. If foreigners kill locals, it’s “disgusting and morally reprehensible.” If locals make good in the local business community, it’s something to be proud of. If foreigners make good in the local business community, they are “cruel and greedy.”

“Cruel and greedy foreigners” like the European Jews and the Southeast Asian Chinese were massacred for hundreds and thousands of years due to such self-affirming, feel-good patriotism.

As to Mr Travan's hallucinations about the "humiliated Chinese": During the decade prior to 1997, Hong Kong’s billionaires were overwhelmingly Cantonese, not British. This remains the case today. Taiwan’s richest mogul for the past twenty years is neither Japanese nor a KMT affiliated Chinese but a local boy who made good and started out by selling rice door to door. In 2003, Taiwan ranked fourth worldwide in US patents won; a rather curious achievement considering that martial law ended here only in 1987 and that the political reign of the colonizing Nationalist Party only ended in the year 2000.

Though I don’t share Mr Travan’s fanaticism or his weakness for phrases, I agree with the essence of this sentence of his: “It is imperative that...rancid views be exposed, as "sunlight is the best disinfectant".”

Biff Cappuccino (Taipei)

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