Annals of Settler Colonialism (2) German Namibia #savagesunite

An advertising campaign by bigots in San Francisco and New York asks us to choose, in Israeli-occupied Gaza and the West Bank, between the “civilized man” and “savages.” Likewise, the German Empire posed the same question– the right lay with the ‘civilized’ German settlers in what is now Namibia, not with the Herero ‘savages’ (as the Germans considered them). It isn’t so strange that morally backward European colonialists of 1904 thought in these ways. What is amazing is to have this way of thought on billboards in subways in contemporary New York.

Part Two of the series on settler colonialism in German Southwest Africa.

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4 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    “Amazing” seems to be a word that implies approval.

    The conventional meaning is given here

    causing wonder or astonishment amazing feats
    amazingly adv

    Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
    ThesaurusLegend: Synonyms Related Words Antonyms
    Adj. 1. amazing – surprising greatly amazing – surprising greatly; “she does an amazing amount of work”; “the dog was capable of astonishing tricks”
    surprising – causing surprise or wonder or amazement; “the report shows a surprising lack of hard factual data”; “leaped up with surprising agility”; “she earned a surprising amount of money”
    2. amazing – inspiring awe or admiration or wonderamazing – inspiring awe or admiration or wonder; “New York is an amazing city”; “the Grand Canyon is an awe-inspiring sight”; “the awesome complexity of the universe”; “this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath”- Melville; “Westminster Hall’s awing majesty, so vast, so high, so silent”

    Perhaps astonishing, appalling, or frightening, or sickening? If you look back to the Weimar Republic you see similar evidence of the return of the Age of Ideology. Not much later the posters read “Kauf nicht bei Juden!”

  2. Dear EF: You’re amazingly fortunate not to be familiar with locutions such as “amazingly stupid”.

    Or maybe you’re not.

  3. Thank you Professor Cole for your link to the BBC documentary “Namibia Genocide and the Second Reich” which I have watched in its entirety. BBC was silent on the British Empire’s role in this tragic history. Jacob Morenga, the last and greatest leader of Namibian resistance, whom the Germans called “the Black Napoleon,” was hunted down and killed by Cape Mounties in the Kalahari. This is from the article on German South-West Africa in the 11th edition Encyclopaedia Britannica:

    “In August 1907 renewed alarm was created by the escape of Morenga from British territory. The Cape government, regarding the chief as a political refugee, had refused to extradite him and he had been assigned a residence near Upington. This place he left early in August and, eluding the frontier guards, re-entered German territory. In September, however, he was again on the British side of the border. Meantime a force of the Cape Mounted Police under Major F.A.H. Eliott had been organized to effect his arrest. Summoned to surrender, Morenga fled into the Kalahari Desert. Eliott’s force of sixty men pursued him through a waterless country, covering 8o m. in 24 hours. When overtaken (September 21st), Morenga, with ten followers, was holding a kopje and fired on the advancing troops. After a sharp engagement the chief and five of his men were killed, the British casualties being one killed and one wounded. The death of Morenga removed a serious obstacle to the complete pacification of the protectorate.”

    The motive of this sudden decision to support their rival colonialists is shown in the 11th edition’s article on German East Africa:

    “In August 1905 serious disturbances broke out among the Bantu tribes in the colony. The revolt was due largely to resentment against the restrictions enforced by the Germans in their efforts at civilization, including compulsory work on European plantations in certain districts. Moreover, it is stated that the Herero in rebellion in German South-west Africa sent word to the east coast natives to follow their example, an instance of the growing solidarity of the black races of Africa.”

    The Times of London staffers who wrote these articles were journalists of great perspicuity and also great racists. This was their characterization of the Nama guerilla fighters:

    “Many of their leaders and numbers of the tribesmen had a considerable strain of white (chiefly Dutch) blood and were fairly educated men, with a knowledge not only of native, but European ways; facts which helped to make them formidable opponents.”

    There is another echo of this tragic history in Rosa Luxemburg’s letter to Mathilde Wurm, written 16 February 1917 from prison:

    “What do you want with the special suffering of the Jews? The poor victims of the rubber plantations in Putamayo, and the negroes in Africa with whose bodies the Europeans play football, are just as much my kin. Do you know these words from the General Staff’s history of Trotha’s campaign in the Kalahiri? ‘…And the death-rattles of the dying, the mad cries of those perishing of thirst, faded in the solemn silence of eternity.’ O this ‘solemn silence of eternity,’ in which so many cries fade unheard: it echoes in me so deeply that I have no special corner in my heart for the ghetto. I feel the whole world is my home, wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears.”

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