08 October 2012

Day 112: Shame for Colonialist Past

I grew up in Belgium and was taught in school how King Leopold II of Belgium had colonised Congo during his rule. I remember that during the lesson they explained what colonising means and they were summing up which country had which colonies during that time. They first went through all the other countries and eventually said: "And Belgium also had one colony: Congo". And it was said as though it was something to be proud of - like 'we also owned another country'.

Other than that we were taught that in 1960 Congo became independent and stopped being a Belgian colony - and that was apparently all there was to say about it.

Now - while doing research on African politics, I've become aware of the absolute absolute chaos ruling Congo after independence.

When my sister was taught about Congo as Belgium's colony in school, she asked her teacher to tell her more about it and the teacher just stood there, not responding. She's not sure if this is because she simply didn't know or if she was just too ashamed to tell an inquiring child of Belgium's heritage.

The shame of abdicating responsibility within the problems that were created in Congo as a consequence of colonialism has led to the concealing of information in relation to it, where children in school are not informed of what Belgium had done and what it hadn't done in relaiton to Congo and what role it played in Congo's downfall.

This is the world we live in today - where we are so ashamed of who we are as a society, as a people, as a nation - that we cannot look a child in the eye and openly share about the country's history.

The topic of Congo is like a taboo, something we don't speak of, something we don't even think of - it is like it has been erased from our history books and as though, therefore, it never happened - yet, the Congolese are still suffering the bitter aftertaste to this day, hoping that Belgium will come and assist in sorting out the mess it left behind - not knowing that the current Belgian generations live in ignorant bliss of what is going on in its former colony and, really, couldn't care less.

It is easy to go and fuck up a country and then, once it is declared independent, wipe our hands clean as though 'our job is done now, we did the right thing' - but no responsibility was taken for the harm that had already been done.

How can rich nations like Belgium claim to be working towards creating a better world, when they are too ashamed of who they are and what they have done as a people, as a nation, to educate the next generations about it so that the young generations can learn from past mistakes?

How can rich nations like Belgium claim to be working towards creating a better world when they deliberately abdicate responsibility for the harm they have done unto other people - as though we can create a better world without the requirement of taking responsibility for our thoughts, words and deeds?

How can rich nations like Belgium claim to be working towards a better world when they are too ashamed to admit to their own mistakes - placing their own shame above what is best for all - an absolute act of self-interest?

How can rich nations like Belgium claim to be working towards creating a better world if they cannot look their children in the eye and speak straightforwardly about the world that they have created for them, the legacy they are leaving their children to sort out?

To be continued.
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