The Breakdown of the Ideas Underpinning Colonial Empires

The European nations, for a considerable span of time, used their superior technological development as the means and also as a justification for colonization and domination of the rest of the world.  This view also led to the idea, in the minds of these same people of European extraction, that their religion was superior to all others and should control and dominate the religious life of humanity, and that the lighter shade of their skin somehow made them superior to those with darker skin tone.  The ostensible need to “civilize” these other peoples was called the “white man’s burden”, but for the most part it was a cynical cover for exploitation and domination for the exclusive benefit of these allegedly “more civilized” people of the West.  While these ideas have been repudiated to some degree in the organization of the world, they remain very much alive in the psychological makeup of many in the Western world and continue to constitute an obstacle to achieving true liberty, equality and oneness of humanity.

The two great world wars, and the rise thereafter of the United Nations, along with the liberation of countries from the colonial empires of Europe, and the subsequent development of a strong voice in world affairs by countries in Asia, Africa and South America has made it clear that the idea of control by one dominant imperial group, based on paternalistic and anachronistic ideas of some kind of inherent superiority, will not be accepted as the basis for the unification of humanity.

Sri Aurobindo notes that the very ideas that were used to subjugate others eventually redound upon those who expound them:  “The experience of the past teaches us that the habit of preferring the principle of authority to the principle of liberty is engendered in an imperial people, reacts upon it at home and leads it first insensibly and then by change of thought and the development of a fate in circumstances to the sacrifice of its own inner freedom.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 16, The Problem of Uniformity and Liberty, pp. 136-137


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