Trotter on that interesting course

I blogged on Monday about a 400 level law course at the University of Auckland called LAW495 Colonialism to Globalisation. The lecturer is incidentally a fervent supporter of one party rule in Cuba.

Anyway Chris Trotter writes about the course in the Dominion Post, and people may be surprised at his comments:

An interesting course” were the words Kiwiblog’s David Farrar used to describe Colonialism to Globalisation – an academic paper offered by the Auckland University’s law faculty.

Knowing Mr Farrar’s political leanings, it was with some trepidation that I activated the hyperlink embedded in his posting. My strong suspicion (instantly confirmed) was that my Kiwiblog host was not drawing his visitors’ attention to this course purely on account of its academic merits.

A swift perusal of the course description told me all I needed to know. Here, as I feared, was a particularly stark example of what I call “self-loathing Leftism” – that self-critical mode of Left-wing analysis which takes “the politics of victimhood” out of its more familiar context in the anti-racist, feminist and gay rights movements, and extends it to the whole world.

The result is as predictable as it’s banal: an “Avatar” world of Goodies versus Baddies and Nature versus Technology, in which the holistic philosophy of innocent and virtuous indigenes crashes into the murderously exploitative intentions of malignant and rapacious colonisers.

The Avatar analogy is a very good one. What I would be interested to know, is whether anyone who has ever done the course has managed to get good grades, while disagreeing with the world-view of the lecturer.

Anyway, back to Chris Trotter. Chris is an avid student of history, and picks apart some problems in the course description:

Just take a look at the opening sentences of Colonialism to Globalisation’s course description: “In the late 15th century, imperialist Europe emerged intent on exploring and possessing the New World. Fast forward through 500 years of colonialism, capitalism, slavery, industrialisation, genocide, and international law and greet the 21st century in all its paradoxical glory.”

There’s so much wrong with this statement that it’s difficult to know where to begin. For a start, there was no such thing as “imperialist Europe” in the late 15th century. The only entity worthy of such a description was the empire of the Ottoman Turks – whose steady expansion into southern and central Europe was halted only at the gates of Vienna in 1529. …

Let’s start by listing the things he left out: the Renaissance; the Reformation; the Enlightenment; the American and French Revolutions; the exponential growth of scientific knowledge and technological expertise; the expansion of democracy; the abolition of slavery; the emancipation of women; the defeat of totalitarianism; the birth of the United Nations; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Minor minor achievements.

We can only assume that Mr Attar’s justification for bracketing “capitalism” with “colonialism” and “slavery” is because he sees it as being emblematic of the West’s lust for conquest and its colonists’ pathological need to demonstrate racial and cultural superiority.

But to hold up capitalism as a purely Western construct is to engage in precisely the same ethno- centrism his course condemns. For most of human history it was the manufacturers and merchants of East and South Asia who controlled the global economy.

And they projected their reach and protected their profits no less ruthlessly than their Western counterparts.

I think Chris should enrol as a student in the course. The debates between lecturer and student could be worth You Tubing!

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