De-Confederization?

This article from the Washington Post makes many of the same points I would make if I had the time, with several good links throughout. The crux of it is this:

Never will you find a serious German politician, let alone one contending for the leadership of the country, insisting in 2015 that the Nazi swastika is “part of who we are.” Nor would you be able to stock up on kitsch, “nostalgic” Nazi memorabilia. There are no vainglorious monuments to Nazi leaders lining German city squares; instead, in the heart of the capital, sits a painful testament to collective guilt and the horrors of the past.

The contrast between this and the way some American states still commemorate Confederate leaders, name roads after Confederate generals and fly Confederate flags could not be more stark.

The White Nerd’s Burden

Call it digital imperialism, perhaps, in that the values are arriving not inside artworks made by others but through a tool that locals can use themselves. As Thailand is discovering, the smartphone — for all its indispensability as a tool of business and practicality — is also a bearer of values; it is not a culturally neutral device.

That may be at least partially true, but it’s also worth remembering that contact zones–whether they’re of the “traditional”, colonial sort or the digital variety–are places where there is a great deal of agency. Technology like smartphones may be bringing values with them, but if they are, it is still the users who embrace those values, however wholeheartedly or (more likely) ambivalently. More to the point, it may also be a tool allowing for the expression of values and the pursuit of agendas that were already present or are only partially a response “outside” influences (a problematic enough binary in a globalized world.)

Without that perspective, this (and several other articles in the issue) fall into the familiar trap of telling us more about the “digital cultural imperialists” (condensed here to Americans or even Silicon Valley) than about those on the other side of the equation.

The problem with the civilizing mission of the nineteenth century was not necessarily a lack sincerity–though it was frequently a pretense. Rather, the “White Man’s Burden” also completely devalued what indigenous peoples created before and after the arrival of westerners. Whether “digital imperialism” produces “a virtuous circle” or not, we’d be wise not to repeat that mistake.

All Rhodes lead to the colonial past

Students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa are protesting the continued presence on campus of a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes.

But as a black UCT alumnus who walked past that statue for four years, I think Rhodes should be left exactly where he is. Removing him omits an essential part of the institution’s history that has contributed to everything good, bad and ugly about it – and arguably the country too.
Siya Mnyanda