Colonial Expansion and Implications
The European conquest of new lands such as the America’s was spearheaded by a superiority complex. As explained in Todorov’s work, Columbus was particularly astonished at the simplicity that underlined the lives of the Indigenous people of America. Columbus was responsible for entrenching this mindset in the Europeans by linking the Indian’s simple way of life with the lack of civilization (Todorov 37). Issues such as religion and the law were practically regarded to be non-existent even though the Indians had well established cultures with a functioning religious and legal system. It is this feeling of superiority that prompted the Europeans to adopt a protectionist behavior. In their view, it was their responsibility to ensure that the Indians were ‘upgraded’ from living their lies in the way that they did. The fact that the Indians did not wear clothes was reason enough to inspire Christians to embrace assimilationism (Todorov 43).
For the Europeans, it was important to improve the lives of the Indians as they were still regarded as human beings. They were people who were not blessed with a civilization that could improve their way of life. For example, they did not have cities; they did not wear clothes and did not have a religion. These are things that were integral to the European civilization and identity. It is a line of thought that is paternalistic as the Europeans embarked on such an ideal in other territories as well. However, the implementation of such a philosophy was done in a way that aggrieved the Indigenous people. Instead of pursuing truly altruistic intentions with the aim of assimilating the Indians into the European way of life, they resorted to manipulation and unfair practices in the form of commercial imperialism (Todorov 46).
In looking at colonial expansionism from the perspective of the Indigenous people, one cannot escape the feeling that the Indians that were marginalized and oppressed. Many revolutions took place in the Americas that were based on the notion that Europeans had disrupted their way of life and created unfair colonial regimes (Las Casas 120). Since the Europeans had perceived the Indians as being inferior and essentially barbarians, they assumed that they did not have adequate social systems that could organize their societies and compete in a fast-changing world. The Indians believed that they had been treated unfairly as their social systems, religion, and customs had been overruled. The strength of capitalism and their inability to adapt to its whims and ideals only served to create tension and local dissent. The perspective of the Europeans was that anything that was associated with the Indian belonged to an inferior race. It is a reality that was made manifest in South America as seen in the way in which uprisings were organized along racial and ethnic lines (Las Casas 121).
For example, people who were born in South American but had a Spanish ancestry were not afforded the same rights as much as the original Spanish inquisitors. The manner in which Spanish colonialists had colonized South American made it difficult to have clear ethnic groups, and this mixed reality of racial groups is responsible for creating an unfair colonial regime. The erupted chaos and revolutions throughout South America was, in essence, a call to stop the superiority complex of the Colonialists who believed that it was their divine right to enhance the Indian’s way of life. While they might have prompted to bring about a new thinking and created a different perspective with regards to issues such as dressing, language, and commerce, they Europeans did so under the over-arching aim of imperialism which brought with unfair regimes on issues such as taxation among other unfair administration practices. Additionally, as Indians became conversant with the ways of the Europeans, they became aware of their rights and responsibilities (Las Casas 123).
It should be noted that men such as Tupac Amaru were in essence established traders who had already been immersed in European civilization. They understood elements of freedom and democracy and the desire to have their ways of life became a dominant theme. For them, it was not acceptable for the Western minorities to continuously look down on the majority of the people in the Indigenous lands. As it had been mentioned before, many of these people did not have the ability to compete in the standards and measures that had been established by the European settlers (Galindo 162). Additionally, it was impossible to understand the dual nature of administration that delivered justice to the inhabitants of South America. Many of the leaders who led these revolutions were in essence campaigners of a new form of a justice system that was designed to bring about a better judicial program to the people. They offered an alternative form of administration that would stop the increasing wave of discrimination and marginalization. The waves of violence that were experienced in South American in the 19th and 20th centuries were, in essence, a realization that the Indians had a right to participate in global affairs. Even though some of the leaders were captured and executed, there was enough momentum generated to ensure that a different state of life would be made a reality for the Indians (Galindo 173).
de Las Casas, Bartolomé, and Stafford Poole. “In defense of the Indians.” The Defense of the Most Reverend Lord, Don Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, of the Order of Preachers, Late Bishop of Chiapa, Against the Persecutors and Slanderes of the Peoples of the New World Discovered Across the Seas (1992).
Galindo, Alberto Flores. The Rebellion of Túpac Amaru. na, 1995.
Todorov, Tzvetan. The conquest of America: The question of the other. University of Oklahoma Press, 1984.