Monuments of Racism – A tale of two cities

Since the founding of the European Union, and especially in the last thirty years or so, the construction of a collective sense of what it means to be European has accelerated. Thanks to the European Union, citizens of each Member State are happily also European Citizens. One feature of being European is to partake in the ritual of burying one’s head in the sand. I’m speaking of course about the millions of skeletons that Europe has in its closet that the populace continues to ignore. The skeletons are those of the millions of people who died because of European slavery, colonialism and imperialism.

It is this wilful ignorance that makes Europe a paradise for racism. While extremists like Hans Breivik shock the conscience, his existence does not result from a vacuum. Racist ideology is fomented by institutions and cultural practices. It comes in many forms such as the warped teaching of history, the representation of people outside of Europe in museums and cultural exhibitions, news reporting, public policy and a host of other mediums.

A favourite for me are museums, which Europe has in abundance. Museums have a unique function for a society. They are monuments to the cultural, scientific and social achievements of a nation. They reflect the ‘strength’ of a nation which is why they flourished so much in the 19th century when imperialism and nationalism were in their zenith. Importantly, they mirror the attitudes of the nation. Thus, when museums perpetuate colonial and racist thinking it is a natural reflection of the nation’s thinking when it comes to issues such as racism and colonialism.

Two contrasting examples illustrate the point. On a recent trip to the Netherlands, I has surprised to see that the museum I visited properly explained the context in which many of the cultural artefacts and works of art were created. A Romanticised depiction of a road construction in 19th century Dutch East Indies is captioned with the preface that thousands of local Indonesians perished building this monument of colonisation.

The Great Postal Route near Rejapolah, Auguste Antoine Joseph Payen, 1828

While it’s not a miracle, it at least acknowledges that Romanticised scenes such as this are far from the reality of what colonialism was about. But such efforts are rare in Europe. The populace by and large shows a staggering level of wilful ignorance for the actions of their ancestors. People even forget that they do not even need to go back very far. In many cases it was their grandparents who took part in national colonial projects.

By contrast a visit to the Central African Museum in Belgium is the epitome of this failure by Europe to account for its atrocities. The exhibition is controversial to say the least. The King of Belgium even refuses to visit it. It’s controversial because of Leopold II. In Belgium he is remembered as a national hero, a father of the country sort. He built magnificent buildings, created many national parks, and oversaw a flourishing of Belgian culture during the late 19th century.

Of course, such an image was built on the backs of the Congolese people whom he enslaved and butchered. Tens of millions of Congolese perished in the Congo Free State which he ruled over personally between 1885 and 1908. The reality of Leopold is that he would make good company with the likes of Hitler and Stalin.

The Central African Museum is a testament to Leopold’s legacy. Indeed, the entire museum is housed within opulent classical style buildings with large French gardens surrounding. One would think they are about to serve high tea at noon when visiting. Instead, you’re visiting a mausoleum to some of the worst crimes against humanity – lovely.

Recently the exhibition was ‘reformed’. The collection previously run by the colonial office, has since been changed to modernise the exhibition. In some limited respects it makes attempts to more accurately show what Belgium did to the Congolese people.

But based on what actually went on there, it would be like going to Auschwitz and seeing a sign that just said, “some people died here”.

But this attempt falls short because it fails to acknowledge the brutalities of King Leopold II. Here is a short list of the regime’s greatest hits. In the Congo Free State every person was required to produce a certain amount of goods for the king. If one failed to do this their hands would be cut off. If the man needed his hands for working the hands of his wife and children would be cut off.

It is estimated that in the 19th century Congo has a population of around 20 million people. By the time of the first census in 1924, that figure had dropped to 10 million. It wasn’t just hand amputations. Most of these deaths were due to mass starvation, overwork, disease (sleeping sickness, smallpox, swine influenza, and amoebic dysentery), in addition to outright mass executions of ‘rebellious’ villages.

Leopold II advertised his takeover of the Congo Free State as a civilising mission. A quintessential example of the white man’s burden. A golden statue in the central rotunda still stands of a European missionary with an African boy clutching his robes along with a plaque that reads: “Belgium bringing civilisation to Congo.”

The Central African Museum should be recommended for those who would like a class in how Europe continues to this day to perpetuate racist and colonialist ideologies. Just as the Belgian state made only cosmetic changes to the Congo Free State when they took over in 1908, so too has this museum. At its core is a message of murder and genocide. All the while you are greeted with a smile.

The Belgians were well known for setting up human zoos – the greatest irony is that they themselves have become a zoo themselves. It’s a zoo of various perverse, sick and degenerate ideologies. The hypocrisy is glaring and it’s time Europe takes its head out the sand. Oh, but they have lovely museums don’t they!

Trumping Common European Policies

I recently wore a Trump “Make America Great Again” hat to a regular political gathering in the capital of the European Union. Now, for the record I am not a Trump supporter. I wore the hat specifically to be provocative, and it worked. Throughout the course of 3-4 hours I received many comments from people.

Two things horrified me. First, the amount of people who supported Trump. Some jokingly of course, thinking it’s pretty funny to wear a hat like that. Then there was the guy who was really too serious and referred to the recent ‘great’ victory in the provincial elections in the Netherlands.

The second thing that horrified me though was the response for those who were clearly against Trump. One girl was shouting at me (in a friendly bantering kind of way) to take it off and saying that Trump is a dick. Good banter – to me that’s fine. What really horrified me though were the two Irish who thought they could steal the hat and proceed to give me a lecture about how much of a piece of shit I am.

People clearly do not understand when someone is being deliberately provocative. I’m not wearing the hat at a white supremist rally against the rights of minorities. I’m not even wearing the thing to push for Trump policies.

I’m wearing that hat in the centre of the white European middle-class liberal establishment – THAT’S WHY IT’S FUNNY!

Some have opined that people do not understand humour. I am increasingly convinced of this. I’d also like to hit on the fact that I am not even American, nor in the United States. I can’t vote for the guy and I have literally zero effect on the outcome of the US presidential election.

it is clearly lost on these sanctimonious patronizing shitheads that they themselves actively support a racist liberal political establishment in the European Union.

Bold claim on my part, but my main exhibit is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), perhaps one of the most racist (and expensive) policies the European political establishment continues to perpetuate despite all of the evidence against it.

The Common Agricultural Policy was established in the post-war era of the European Community. The idea was to ensure that Europe would never again face food shortages like they had in the immediate years following World War II. The program established subsidies for farmers and measures to encourage production of foodstuffs.

Today, farm subsidies account for 38% of the EU budget and 80% of the subsidies go to just 20% of farmers via “basic payments”. Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU is set to blow a gaping hole in the EU budget, and it’s still unclear how that will be filled. Some have suggested the CAP could be on the chopping block, but we know that the farmers lobby is strong and will challenge any attempt to touch their free money.

The CAP is racist because it has perverse effects on people living in Africa, an area still recovering from years of European colonisation. First, the CAP creates distortions in global commodities prices making it impossible for African farmers to compete with European farmers, even in their home territories.

On average, 20% of the EU milk surplus travels 7000 kms in form of milk-powder to Africa. There, it replaces local dairy products in the supermarkets. In Cameroon, a local farmer can sell his for 37 cents, while a German farmer sells it for just 22 cents per litre.

The CAP is subsidising European farmers and systematically destroying local African industries.

The CAP is a policy that supports inefficient and unprofitable European farmers despite the fact that African farmers on average earn $2,989 per year against EU farmer households who earn on average €14,000 (across the EU-28).

This is combined with European trade policy which encourages African farmers to continue growing colonial-era cash crops like coffee and cocoa, and not finished or refined goods like chocolate (it would be shame if Belgian chocolate had to compete on the merits!).

To hammer home the moral superiority, the EU has the gall to throw development aid into the mix when African farmers are unable to compete with European farmers. In 2012, the European Union opened programs to construct dairy companies in West and Central Africa. Hundreds of thousands of euros were dedicated to support small dairy farms and cooperatives. But these dairy farms were constructed without ever being put into operation.

At the same time, highly subsided milk is exported to this region. When confronted to this problematic Phil Hogan (Irish), Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, argued that, apparently, the problem doesn’t lay within European agricultural policy and that therefore no action is required. Instead, he suggested to send Europeans to train local people to use the machines – a 21st century equivalent to the White Man’s burden.

Second, the CAP has devastating effects on the environment. Unfortunately, the CAP is among the most powerful drivers of environmental destruction in the world. Payments are made only for land that is in “agricultural condition,” so in order to get more free money the system creates a perverse incentive to clear wildlife habitats, even in places unsuitable for farming, Hundreds of thousands of hectares of magnificent wild places across Europe have been destroyed.

As we already know, it’s developed countries who disproportionately contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions but its developing nations who will suffer the worst effects. The EU is the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, with agricultural making up 10% of those emissions. 94% of ammonia emissions, for example, stem from agriculture.

In closing I want to just say, fuck you to the Irish bastards who gave me a lecture on being racist, and I implore people to question who in fact the real racists are. A kid with a Trump hat, or a liberal establishment that proliferates agricultural, trade and development policies which impoverish millions of the world’s poorest people by inhibiting their nations’ ability to compete on the merits and stop their economies from developing.

Not only this, but these same policies perpetuate the disproportionate contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. And when challenged by all this, the best they can muster is, well, maybe we just need to send some white people to ‘teach’ Africans how to do things – sanctimonious, self-righteous and overall, racist!