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September 28th 2017 print

Bill Martin

‘White Privilege’, They Say

One need not have made the smallest personal contribution to the success of Western civilisation to take a measure of pride in its achievements, despite the cultural scolds' excoriation of pale people. Fact is, the world is a better place for the legacy of colonialism's institutions, especially British ones

white man's burdenI am an old white male. Consequently, I ought to be racked with an overwhelming sense of guilt during all my waking hours and troubled by nightmares in my sleep. At least that is what I am being told ad infinitum by the so-pure-of-heart, progressive, frequently teary-eyed social justice warriors. People like, for instance, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young. They never stop reminding me of all the advantages of my “white privilege”, exercised apparently to the detriment of all non-white folk.

True, the terminology is less often heard here than in the US, its Australian counterpart is “institutionalised racism”, which means the same thing. Rather strange, though, is the fact that they are at a complete loss to elaborate on my white privilege or on institutionalised racism, while I, myself, am also totally clueless about what it could mean. Still, there must be something to it, how else could the SJWs be so absolutely certain of its validity. In my case it could well be my unbridled wickedness — a trademark of my race, gender, longevity and culture, as claimed by the politically correct activists — that blinds me to the despicable errors of my ways. As for my accusers, it might be that they simply cannot find words and phrases severe enough to do justice to my turpitude.

And that’s not all. I grossly compound my culpability by having the hide my pride in the magnificent achievements of people of white European origin, the branch of humanity to which I belong, even though I personally contributed nothing to its successes.

It is beyond dispute by any standard, even that of the bleeding-heart progressive champions of the oppressed, that practically all that is good, desirable and advantageous to mankind was brought about by peoples of white European descent. Being of an ambitious, curious and adventurous mindset, my fellow pale people unlocked more and more of nature’s secrets and utilised that knowledge to make life easier, more pleasant and enjoyable.

It must also be acknowledged, to be sure, that prominent European nations conquered most of the world and lorded over it for many generations, benefiting greatly from the exploitation of the natural resources of the subdued lands and even the labour of its peoples. While appreciating the mercenary aspect of colonialism, it must also be understood that “might is right” was the openly accepted and practiced ethos of the times, not only by the colonisers but also by the subjugated peoples. It is historical fact that tribal wars in many relatively undeveloped societies were a constant phenomenon prior to colonisation. The more powerful tribes and nations dominated and exploited the weaker ones as a matter of inherent right of the strong over the weak. (That has remained unchanged to this day, only its practice is usually more subtle now.) As a matter of fact, one effect of colonisation was often the suppression of tribal warring within the colonies.

The overwhelming strength of the colonisers was the direct result of their advanced technologies, equipping them with superior weapons, bolstered by sophisticated military strategies and the discipline of their troops, all of which were of their own making. In other words, they simply claimed the right to make use of their own achievements, as did every group, tribe and nation and which they continue to do.

Besides, colonisation was far from wholly detrimental to those on the receiving end of it. Most colonies, particularly those of the British Empire, benefited enormously from it. Roads, railways, water and power supply utilities as well as educational, health and other public institutions were built by the colonisers, which were all left behind when they departed and most of which continue to serve the now independent countries very well to this day. Good governance and public administration were also established in the colonies, as was the rule of law with a sophisticated justice system. As a time-tested rule of thumb, the success of ex-colonies since independence is directly proportional to the degree of their retention and maintenance of those institutions.

And even now, when we are way past the colonial era, who is first in line — often the only one in the line — to provide assistance when some disaster or calamity occurs anywhere in the world, such as the AIDS epidemic, an Ebola outbreak, a volcanic eruptions, devastating tsunamis or other natural calamity? Why it is the nations of predominantly white European descent that answer the call? It’s because they are the wealthiest, best able to afford to help, cry the accusers of white privilege, which is perfectly true. What they omit to mention is that those wealthy nations became wealthy, and endeavour to stay that way, by their own efforts. That is hardly a valid reason to be condemned.

Yes, I am an old white male and modestly proud of it.

Comments [20]

  1. gardner.peter.d says:

    I do wonder what the answers would be if anyone were ever to respond to those boring insincere ” we respect the original owners – ‘ type speeches with a few questions such as:
    And what was their concept of ownership? Answer: basically tribal, territorial boundaries defined by tribes, ie ethnicity.
    or, if we whiteys had never come what wold Australia be like today? Answer: a pristine Garden of Eden.
    or, Ok if we whiteys say say sorry, return the land and shove off to some other place, what will Australia be in, say 20 or 30 years time? Answer, a decaying broken country, not a Garden of Eden.
    I do look forward to Australia growing up. I did think, like Clive James, that the Sydney Olympics was that vital turning point. Apparently not.
    Guilt hampers Australia just as guilt hampers modern Germany. One can be forgiven, and in really advanced countries, one is, or at least the crimes of one’s ancient forebears are not held against one. How? Read Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe and research the surrounding issues in books like Robert Tombs’ ‘The English and their history”. In today’s climate the Normans would never be forgiven for what they did to Anglo-Saxon Britain. Their crime of the greatest theft of property in English history was written into law (The Domesday Book) not as a matter of guilt but pride and fact with the aim of making it irreversible. The English moved on, was threatened with a repeat performance by Napoleon, Kaiser Bill and Adolph. Time for Australia to skip the next lessons of history in the university of life and accept them as given and move on.

  2. gardner.peter.d says:

    Good article. Minor quibble with ‘As a matter of fact, one effect of colonisation was often the suppression of tribal warring within the colonies.’ The essence of early British ‘rule’ in India was that it did not aim to rule but only to trade in peace and stability, so settling or avoiding the disputes between India’s rulers was an objective to that end. Its interference in Indian culture and laws was until latet, confined to curtailing the most abhorrent, like suti.

  3. Peter says:

    Careful Bill lest you be called a white supremacist.

    • Jody says:

      If Bill is anything like me he couldn’t care less what people call him!! Sticks and stones. When people give you names and bully and vilify they are telling you far more about themselves than anything else!!

  4. Bran Dee says:

    Good analysis by Bill Martin. The comments on colonialism and India are most appropriate and two books on the subject published in 2016 make opposite assessments.
    One of these, which is full of blame and inconsistency, was reviewed in the September Quadrant. The book is called ‘Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India’ by Shashi Tharoor. The review by Nick Lloyd titled ‘You Can ‘Always Blame the British’ indicates the negativity of the book’s presentation.
    An opposite presentation is given by Karachi born and European pharmaceutical manufacturer Kartar Lalvani in ‘The Making of India: the Untold Story of British Enterprise’. The author is clearly an Anglophile who writes in his preface:
    ‘I dedicate this book to the spirit of everlasting friendship and prosperity between two great countries – India and Great Britain.

    • Jim Campbell says:

      It is interesting to observe that those countries who accepted all the British brought with them (Malaya, Singapore, India)and built on that have been spectacularly successful. The African nations who couldn’t wait to get rid of the British and trash their legacy have gone down the tubes.I remember arriving to work in the three aforementioned countries in the early 60s and was very impressed by their administration and infrastructure – all due to the British. In many case better than we had at that time in Australia – certainly better than we have now!!

  5. Warty says:

    We are all familiar with the quip: ‘you are so stupid you don’t even realise you’re stupid’, and that, we are told, is a little like unconscious bias. Bill, you are so unconsciously biased you are just not conscious of it. Let me explain the ways.
    For a start, you have chosen to subscribe to this far right rag called Quadrant.
    Secondly you interact with known racists, fellow readers, and by association prove yourself to be racist.
    Thirdly, and worse still, you have written an article priding yourself in your unconscious bias, suggesting you just might be conscious of it, which then makes you fascist.
    Fourthly, your ancestors managed to prevent Islam conquering the whole of Europe, by stopping them at the gates of Vienna. This was contrary to the will of Allah, so I am unable to say ‘Inshallah’ as a result. Had Sharia become the legal system throughout the world, Inshallah, you wouldn’t be outlining an argument like the one you have just put out.

    • rosross says:

      Ad hominem does not a case make. By all means refute the claims, but attacking the writer does not do that.

      • Warty says:

        Dear rosross: my response was entirely satirical, tongue-in-cheek, inoffensive, benign. Now, in your defence, clearly my attempt at humour fell flatter than a piece of blotting paper. You may not realise how flat blotting paper is because people don’t use it. But for me to now go through and ‘deconstruct’ the various bits of hyper exaggeration would be almost akin to Bill Leak having to explain one of his cartoons . . . in other words ‘don’t go there’.
        But let me invite you to do just two things, if you can bear it: perhaps you could reread what I’ve written and count the examples of irony included in the thread, and then the bits of hyperbole (another humour device) and then consider whether or not there has been an ad hom attack at all (actually that’s four things).

  6. Ian MacDougall says:

    Besides, colonisation was far from wholly detrimental to those on the receiving end of it. Most colonies, particularly those of the British Empire, benefited enormously from it. Roads, railways, water and power supply utilities as well as educational, health and other public institutions were built by the colonisers, which were all left behind when they departed and most of which continue to serve the now independent countries very well to this day.

    And yet, with all that, the ungrateful bastards shed no tears over their colonisers’ departure, nor realised their mistake after the event, nor urged them to return and set up shop again once they had quit the scene.
    One powerful trick in the colonialists’ bag was to humiliate the local rulers in front of their own people, and do it right from the jump,

    • Jody says:

      It certainly worked; they descended into tribes, killed each other in their thousands and their societies collapsed from within!! See what happens when you cut off your own nose to spite your face. Then you have to head over to the home of your colonizers for a better life.

    • rosross says:

      They did not want their colonial masters to return because the new masters had taken over and could milk their country to death. Thus has it been. When the British left Zambia they left an economy to rival Singapore. Within a decade it was trashed and the country heading for the ruin it inhabits today.

    • Warty says:

      Perhaps Mr MacDougall could provide some examples of colonialists humiliating ‘local rulers in front of their own people’. I can provide the names of two ‘local leaders’ who were regarded with great trepidation (to put it mildly). How about the fearsome Mzilikazi, followed by his equally fearsome Matabele son, Lobengula. With regards to the former, early pioneers and traders, gained the right to enter the country, with the help of numerous gifts, and made sure they kept a very low profile indeed. They entered the country (later called Rhodesia) in greater numbers (albeit still bearing gifts) and managed to cause a growing sense of unease in the ruler. This lead to the Matabele wars with a great number killed on both sides. The end result: mutual respect despite the whites ultimately triumphing. The Matabele and the Shangaans were to go down in history as awesome fighters, the equal of the Zulus, from whom they were both descended. No humiliation there.
      Perhaps you’d also like to turn your attention to the trials and tribulations experienced by the British in Afghanistan and pick out some examples of meted out humiliation there too.

  7. Ian MacDougall says:

    as happened in the Opium Wars of the 1840s in China and in their aftermath.
    About 100 years later, the Japanese did this to the European footholds in China, to the (Vichy)French in Vietnam, to the Dutch in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and to the British in Burma and elsewhere on the Eurasian landmass and in the Pacific.
    The British were smart enough to realise when the game was up: the French in Vietnam and their American bankrollers not so.

    • Jody says:

      British ‘smartness’ didn’t last so long, though, did it!! Their reverse colonization isn’t working too well for them; they have the muslim equivalent of the Mao Mao, except they are driving trucks, making bombs and using acid when their antecedents used the cane knife and the machete.

  8. rosross says:

    It is not strictly true by any stretch of the imagination that all the best came from ‘white’ Europeans. European culture, knowledge and society rests upon the ancient Egyptian culture, which was co-opted by the Greeks and hereby transferred to what we call European.

    In addition, Europeans drew deeply upon science and arts from the Arab world, where people tend to be dusky to say the least although perhaps no more than Italians and Spanish and Greeks etc. And let us not forget the brilliance of the Chinese, who have also contributed to that which we call European culture.

    Colour coding is a waste of time. There is only one race and the best and the worst that we have comes from that race of humans.