A Wee Post-Colonial Rant

School Begins (Photo source: Wikicommons)

One of the most popular 1970s sitcoms was CBSs All In The Family, featuring Archie Bunker, the show’s iconic/toxic lead character. He was easy to despise: a seething and loud-mouthed cauldron of misogynistic, bigoted, pro-Viet Nam, better-dead-than-red, America: love-it-or-leave-it buffoonery.

Archies character was deliberately offensive, shining a spotlight on the snarling malice of anyone sharing his toxic worldview. He was satirical with a capital “S.”

Satire has a long history as an effective tool in pointing out society’s blind spots, inconsistencies, and outright hypocrisies.

Take, for example, the 1899 satirical cartoon above, lambasting cultural colonialism. It’s offensive in so many ways, but that's the point. It’s satire, using (unsettling) humor for the purpose of devastating social commentary.

A portion of the blackboard text makes mention of the British Empire’s enforced “civilizing” of their colonies, and the United States’ moral obligation to provide the same involuntary, unsought education for (seated in the front row) Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Cuba, and the Philippines. It’s offensive and cringe-inducing, as it was meant to be. That’s how satire works.

Equally repulsive: Check out (a) the unhappy Black child washing the window, (b) the Native American student seated by the door, far removed from the rest of the class, reading his book upside down, and (c) the Asian child standing outside, lonely and neglected. The cartoon’s merciless satire is blatantly obvious, and most of us would agree: well-deserved.

So, whats the relevance for the 21st century? After all, we’re living in a “post-colonial” era, aren’t we?

Well … arent we?

I mean, c’mon, we’re long past the arrogant elitism that sought to “educate the savages,” right? We’ve learned from the mistakes of the past, and no longer import/force our culture and morals on other ethnicities or nations.

Unless, of course, We The West decide that some cultures are too backwards. Or barbaric." Or in some manner mired in traditional worldviews that We The West have declared out-dated and in need of eradication.

You hear it from news outlets and on social media: “It’s the 21st century, fer cryin out loud. They need to get with the times.” We label things “human rights issues” – and they may justifiably qualify as such. But the language we use reveals that We The West believe were more educated, enlightened, and humane. Therefore, we have a moral obligation to disciple the rest of the world to think and act like us.

Lets dare to ask the question again, but this time with our outside voices: Is it possible that We The West are still trying to civilize the savages?

A “post-colonial” era? I wish it were so, but I remained unconvinced. Rose-colored glasses or blinders – either analogy can apply.

We may need Archie Bunkers satirical character, now, more than ever.

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