Wed, 29 Mar 2000

A muddled tale

I am referring to the letter from Mr. Bart van Assen On Dutch colonialism in The Jakarta Post, March 28, 2000. You are quite right that a small letter or article about the 400 years of Dutch colonialism could be truncated and wrongly interpreted. Your reference to the local sultans and raja (kings) is correct; some of them were instrumental "extensions" and tools of the Dutch. But you overlooked a few basic facts: 1. Seafarers like Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Jan Pieterzoon Coen etc., risked their lives out of pure greed, for the riches of the West and East Indies: gold, silver, spices, fine cloth (silk) etc. 2. Then came the real McCoy: slavery, i.e. trading in humans instead of spices. And at gunpoint established trading stations.

So first came plain greed and then came the system backed with the technology (firearms against bows and arrows and spears).

As everywhere around the globe during the past few millennia, local people and institutions were used and a handful of expatriates sat on top of the pyramid, with brute merciless force (not numbers, but technology), intimidation, intrigue. Have a look at the movie Amistad, maybe it will enlighten you.

So, Mr. Van Assen, you are right, but do not lose your focus on the main culprits. And what is even more disappointing is that these people were basically Christians already in the 17th century.

The cross came with, or right behind, the landing forces, subduing the indigenous people and decimating them, as happened with the Aztecs and Incas, which actually were a prelude to the Boer and Nazi concentration camps and technological genocide.

So what Chichi was trying to do, I assume, is bring the focus on the main-driving author-intellectual in Amsterdam who might be awarded an Oscar for the brilliant "movie" of colonizing this part of the East Indies.

The House of Orange, the Queen, we are told, has a fortune from colonial investments, income and estates, just as the House of Windsor had/has its crown colony.