As British Empire fever (fuelled by BREXIT) grips the nation once again, it is apt I should be re-reading HERMAN MELVILLE’s semi-autobiographical novel TYPEE. Written in 1846, it describes his visit to a South Sea Island around the time of “colonisation,” neatly Illustrating the before-and-after effects on its indigenous population.
“…the voluptuous Indian, with every desire supplied, whom Providence has bountifully provided with all the sources of pure and natural enjoyment, and from whom are removed so many of the ills and pains of life – what has he to desire at the hands of Civilisation? She may ‘cultivate his mind,’ – may ‘elevate his thoughts,’ – these I believe are the established phrases – but will he be happier? Let the once smiling and populous Hawaiian islands, with their now diseased, starving, and dying natives, answer the question. The missionaries may seek to disguise the matter as they will, but the facts are incontrovertible; and the devoutest Christian who visits that group with an unbiased mind, must go away mournfully asking – ‘Are these, alas! the fruits of twenty-five years enlightening?’
In a primitive state of society, the enjoyments of life, though few and simple, are spread over a great extent, and are unalloyed; but Civilisation, for every advantage she imparts, holds a hundred evils in reserve; – the heart burnings, the jealousies, the social rivalries, the family dissensions, and the thousand self-inflicted discomforts of refined life, which make up in units the swelling aggregate of human misery, are unknown among these unsophisticated people.
… The fiend-like skill we display in the invention of all manner of death-dealing engines, the vindictiveness with which we carry on our wars, and the misery and desolation that follow in their train, are enough of themselves to distinguish the white civilized man as the most ferocious animal on the face of the earth.
… The term ‘Savage’ is, I conceive, often misapplied, and indeed when I consider the vices, cruelties, and enormities of every kind that spring up in the tainted atmosphere of a feverish civilization, I am inclined to think that so far as the relative wickedness of the parties is concerned, four or five Marquesan Islanders sent to the United States as Missionaries might be quite useful as an equal number of Americans despatched to the Islands in a similar capacity.
I once heard it given as an instance of the frightful depravity of a certain tribe in the Pacific, that they had no word in their language to express the idea of virtue. The assertion was unfounded; but were it otherwise, it might be met by stating that their language is almost entirely destitute of terms to express the delightful ideas conveyed by our endless catalogue of civilized crimes.
… There were none of those thousand sources of irritation that the ingenuity of civilized man has created to mar his own felicity. There were no foreclosures of mortgages, no protested notes, no bills payable, no debts of honour in Typee; no unreasonable tailors and shoemakers, perversely bent on being paid, no duns of any description; no assault and battery attorneys, to foment discord, backing their clients up to a quarrel, and then knocking their heads together; no poor relations, everlastingly occupying the spare bed-chamber, and diminishing the elbow room at the family table; no destitute widows with their children starving on the cold charities of the world; no beggars; no debtors’ prisons; no proud and hard-hearted nabobs in Typee; or to sum up all in one word – no Money! That ‘root of all evil’ was not to be found in the valley.”
Compare that life to the UK today, when so-called ‘civilisation” means running down, not improving, public services; crime continues to increase, mortality set to reach the highest level ever; costs of goods and services set to double after BREXIT, and virtually everyone has been prescribed anti-depressants. How can this be? The UK is the richest nation on earth, yet it has also become the most divided. Just like its colonies, with (wage) slaves and masters. Did you know that the Vatican-style independent state of The City of London, along with numerous Commonwealth colonies, currently represent the richest financial power on the planet, where anyone can trade ‘off-shore’ without identification or having to pay a single penny in tax.
‘We the civilised,’ continue to be enslaved by the privateers. High time to oust them and reintroduce the values of those ‘savages’ we so cruelly usurped.