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Exterminate All the Brutes

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Sven Lindqvist’s “Exterminate all the Brutes” explores the idea that genocides have been deeply rooted in European thinking over the last century. It is written in the form of a travel dairy and a historical examination of European racism over the past two centuries. Lindqvist argues that the harrowing racism that led to the Holocaust in the twentieth century had its roots in European colonial policy of the preceding century. The act of genocide itself is not a new one. When we think of genocide today we think Rwanda and the Holocaust. Genocides have been validated by the idea of racial superiority, colonial expansion and imperialism. The most civilized of men are capable of the most brutal acts. The British were able to conquer 1/3 of the world through their impeccable military strength. The British were masters of the sea; steam boats were used all over the world to carry arms up rivers effectively (pg.48). The British were able to go up into the heart of a continent in search for raw materials or indigenous populations to enslave. The British had the largest colonial conquests ever experienced. The atrocities committed in the name of colonial expansion and imperialism was often justified by superiority military and biologically. With the race of colonial conquest developed the race of arms.

The British built and changed the paper cartridge of bullets to brass, making the bullet faster and go further (pg.49). Each European colonial empire had their own gun which would kill accurately and effectively any opponent of the third world. Eventually guns were perfected and early into the colonial era they had developed automatic weapons (pg.49). Theoretically they could subject anyone to their rule, backed by fire power. The indigenous nations did not have such technological advancements therefore didn’t stand a chance against the steel and firepower of the European empires. The Empires felt that this lack of technology was a lack of intelligence and ability to modernize themselves. Sven Lindqvist depicts the genocide in the Congo. The genocide in Congo began to take place during the late 1800’s in frantic need for rubber. Rubber consumption had increased with the invention of the rubber tire (pg.24). Colonial empire of Belgium needed a work force to harvest rubber in mass quantities. The enslavement of blacks native to the Congo area was a result; people were forced into collecting rubber for free. If they refused their villages would be burned to the ground or the children killed (pg.21). Those who did not produce enough rubber would have their hands cut off or be killed by Europeans (pg.21).

All of the profits would go to the colonial empire to build monuments or buildings such as the “Chateau d’Ardennes”, “Palais de Laeken” (pg.24). He speaks of brutalities against the blacks by the Belgium white. He speaks of accounts written by Sjoblom and Glave on flogging which is a method of punishment by a raw-hippopotamus hide whip (pg.21). The brutality was condoned by King Leopold the II when he signed a decree in 1891 allowing his representatives in the Congo a monopoly on rubber and ivory (pg.24). Children were taken from their homes boys which were 8-10 years old forced onto slavery for the state with no care, no clothes to wear, no shelter, no medical attention and no education (pg.23). There was a case of Captain Rom who decorated his flower beds with the decapitated heads of 21 native people (pg.29). After the accounts of Glave and Sjoblom were published about the atrocities in the Congo, no attention was brought to stop the acts. The other colonial powers were too busy with their own affairs closer to home to pay any attention with what was occurring in an entirely different continent. The British committed brutalities and forced subjection of Deverish army.

The British killed more than 11,000 Sudanese with their military power (pg.46). The Deverish army of 15,000 never stood a chance against the brutal force of modern steel and bullets (pg.67). The battle at Omdurman was the perfect exemplar of British brutality, the Deverish army never got closer than 300 yards from the British (pg.65). Churchill writes about the events regarding the situation as a complete massacre. “The rifles grew hot- so hot they had to be exchanged for those of the reserve companies. The Maxim guns exhausted all the water in their jackets…The empty cartridge cases, tinkling to the ground, soon formed small but growing heaps round each man (pg.65).” Churchill’s account clearly depicts the overkill of force used on the Sudanese. Somabulano knew that the British were out to exterminate the native people. In his speech about peace negotiations: “You came, you conquered. The strongest takes the land. We accepted your rule. We lived under you. But not as dogs! If we are to be dogs it is better to be dead (pg.62). ” This was not the case of many rulers giving up their power. Most gave up without a fight no arms were used but at Omdurman they fought.

Lindqvist ties together many written works by different authors to depict the brutal view on white colonialism. Colonial countries are invisible killers; they are able to kill the native people without having to be persecuted (pg.77). They can kill without being seen from yards away because of their gun power. They can kill because they feel they will not be persecuted or the rules from home don’t apply (pg.77). No one can see their brutal actions and the law of the blacks will not uphold against them. Think of what anyone would do if they knew they could not be persecuted. What prevents many people from robbing banks to get rich or destroying a known enemy’s property is that of prosecution. Knowing that they could not be prosecuted or the idea that everyone else is doing the act as well gives people the perception that they are immune to prosecution. The same mentality is in those people who join mobs or the German officers who participated in the acts of the holocaust. There were large numbers of people doing the same act it became a social norm and therefore they were able do such horrible things that otherwise their own individual personalities would not have.

We are all limited to our own time of extinction, just because we were victorious before doesn’t mean we will be victorious forever (pg.79). Thomas Huxley who wrote about extinction talks about how there is nothing left no traces or evidence after a race has been completely wiped out (pg.80). This is true of indigenous populations which have been conquered by the white European nations, their traditions, customs values; history has been completely wiped clean as if they never existed in the first place. Entire villages, tribes have been wiped clean with the coming of colonization and replaced with the new foreign white populations. The extinction of Indigenous populations in the West Indies, Mexico, and Central America and in the Andes did exactly what Huxley wrote about. Europeans invaded their land harboring diseases which the Aboriginals and Tasmanians had no immunities to, because they had never experienced another population of peoples (pg.120). The European germs, guns and steel were not match for the Aboriginals.

The European population believes in a hierarchy where they are placed at the top of the race chain (pg.100). The black races are dehumanized and compared more to the characteristics to those of primates (pg.99). The Europeans feel a sense of superiority and entitlement to exterminate the “less intellectual races” for the sake of the evolutionary process (pg.107). The Europeans multiply like rodents needing more products to be brought to them to appease their demands, more indigenous populations are killed and enslaved (pg.113). The Europeans begin to take over indigenous land and push the indigenous to the precept of extinction without a trace; completely taking over destroying any sign of their existence. Darwin would have called this a process of evolution the higher evolved new species replaces the old one entirely (pg.120). The Tasmanians were exterminated using this “race superiority ideology” the case is well documented. In 1803 the first colonist arrived on the island a year later the first massacre occurred (pg.118). The first colonizers killed men, women and children discarded of their bodies by simply throwing them in fires or to the dogs (pg.118). With more white Europeans immigrating to the land the Tasmanians were pushed out, starving needing to steal (pg.118).

They were being shot dead by Europeans (pg.118). The European population doubled every fifth year (pg.118). The Tasmanians were seen as nothing but a nuisance and were killed in large numbers. For the death of one colonizer 60 Tasmanians were killed as an act of revenge (pg.118). The Prisoner colonizers were given 5 pounds for every head of the Tasmanian they brought back to an assembly camp (pg.118). The ratio of live to dead was 1:9 (pg.118). 1830 5,000 soldiers were mobilized to exterminate all living Tasmanians (pg.119). The island was completely repopulated by colonizers. There is not a single living Tasmanian. The white civilized man is supposed to be a man of reason, one of rational thought. Then why is it that so many civilized men have committed such atrocities? The behaviors of colonial powers against indigenous peoples were appalling by today’s standards. At the time they were seen as normal and “the right way of doing things”. The cry out against their brutality was seen as a lack of education in the process of evolution.

The massacres committed in the Congo were totally brutal, if people did not die they had their hands cut off for the sake of rubber production. If you refused to join the labor production force you would have been killed. The Congolese people were seen as uncivilized brutes but chopping the hands off of people was not the act of an uncivilized brute itself? The British killed thousands of Sudanese people from distances of 500 yards with their new technologically advanced guns. The British loved the fight, when populations gave up peacefully they were miffed that they could not use their weapons to show off their amazing power. At the time a hierarchy of racial power based on nothing but arrogance was born. A sense of superiority and validation for those colonial powers exterminating entire populations of peaceful people came out of this hierarchy of race. Expansion and eradication of “lesser races” was a necessity to keep the Europeans at the top of the racial food chain. The German Holocaust was not a black swan, in retrospect we can see that Hitler was only acting on a European ideology that has been around since the 1829. It is not right to simply call the Nazis monsters without looking at the British, French and Belgium forces during colonial times and also call them monsters.

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