12 November 2013

Stewards of Empire

They are not named. Not because they are nameless, but nameless and countless because their victims were.  They were the Governors who presided over theft of one kind or another and were brutal as and when necessary or found pleasing.  Not all of them are here, but this is representative enough.  They were all gentlemen.  Not in the sense that they were not ladies and were kind and soft in their ways; the noun simply preempted association with anything but good, wholesome and civilized. 

These gentlemen came with Job Descriptions. Their job was to protect and enhance the colonial project. They had license. It could have been called ‘by any means necessary’ or more correctly ‘by any means deemed necessary’.  Some may have suffered that strangely comforting disease called ‘White Man’s Burden’.  They may have thought that civilization as they defined it was a benefit worth the price others had to pay in blood. They didn’t bother to inquire though. They did not seek permission. They had power. This meant they could make ‘the natives’ inhabit their (the stewards’) version of their (victims’) reality.   

They all knew they could get away with murder. Some swore by law, by rule, regulation and ‘norms’. Others were moved by prerogatives of faith; they swore by the Bible and the need to ‘save the heathens’.  The laws embodied the will of the crown, executed by the steward.  Theft was ok, for example. Some can hold their own among the worst butchers the world has ever known.  All of them are part of our Commonwealth Story.  We cannot talk about this particular ‘Commonwealth Moment’ without talking about these gentlemen.  

They are named, of a fashion, therefore.  Creatures of their time, some might say with a tinge of compassion.  Creatures party to crimes against humanity, theft, deceit, religious intolerance, forced conversion, libricide and erasure of culture. They had blood on their hands and that blood they washed off hand, memory and conscience with waters made available to them by the king or queen they served.  They gave one valuable gift.  Example.  They set a standard for what should never happen for whatever reason.  Let us observe a moment of silence for them, for silence is what they gifted their victims.