Every colonial enterprise pretends to be inspired by something other than theft. The General Act of the Berlin Conference in 1885, under which the European powers carved Africa into formal colonial possessions, claimed that their purpose was “furthering the moral and material wellbeing of the native populations … and bringing home to them the blessings of civilisation”. Similar rhetoric has attended all such seizures. To save native people from their enslavement to the Devil, or the Arabs, or each other, they had to be forced into general servitude, while their land and natural wealth were transferred to more enlightened people from overseas. Preposterous as such propaganda may seem to most of us today, it was taken very seriously. In some quarters, it still is. Take the case, scandalously neglected in both journalism and politics, of West Papua. West Papua, the western half of New Guinea, is owned and run like a 19th-century colony. But in one respect its situation is even worse, as it is not formally recognised as such. Instead, it is treated by the United Nations and powerful countries – including the United States, Australia and the UK – as part of the national territory of Indonesia, the… Read full this story
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