Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

The Reclamation: Divide and Rule

Posted by tahirfarrath on January 19, 2010

Until the latter part of the 19th century little interest was showed in the development of Africa. The European Powers had only a few coastal outposts at various places, but then by the end of the centuary, they showed so much interest in Africa (often referred to as the scramble) that only about 1/10th of the continent remained independent. Strangely, they were not eager (as they did in the Americas, Canada, Australia, New Zealand that spilled over into Hawaii, Western Samoa, etc.) to develop their possessions for fear of the financial burden underdeveloped areas might involve. However, governing was more easily maintained if factions continue to set against each other, as long as they do not unite against the ruler. It simply keeps factions busy while the European hold over them goes about their land-grabbing and exploitation business. For British India to rule in India they adopted divide and conquer tactics, which encouraged the growth of religious and ethnic sectarianism.

Egypt, which had previously been occupied by the forces of Napoleon I of France in 1798 but recovered in 1801 by a joint Ottoman-British force, was occupied in 1882 by British forces on the pretext of bringing order; though Egypt and Sudan remained as Ottoman provinces de jure until 1914, when the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers of World War I. Britain officially annexed these two provinces and Cyprus as a response, which was rented to the British in 1878 in exchange for Britain’s favours at the Congress of Berlin. Other Ottoman provinces in North Africa were lost between 1830 and 1912, starting from Algeria (occupied by France in 1830), Tunisia (occupied by France in 1881) and Libya (occupied by Italy in 1912.)

(The Al-Saud ruler had accepted Ottoman suzerainty because it improved his political position. He, nevertheless, made concurrent overtures to the British to rid Arabia of Ottoman influence. Finally, in 1913, and without British assistance, Abd al-Aziz’s armies drove the Ottomans out of Al-Hufuf in eastern Arabia. However, he was compelled to reaffirm Ottoman sovereignty over all of his territory in 1914. Ironically, with the rise of Wahhabism in Arabia, the forces led by Abd al-Aziz was based on Wahhabi [neo-Salafi] Islam, thereby distinguishing themselves against mainstream Muslims, yet aligning themselves with the British.)

After Britain’s declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire in October 1914, the British sought an alliance with the House of Saud and provided Abd al Aziz with financial subsidies and small arms. As his part of the agreement, Abd al-Aziz promised to keep 4,000 men in the field against the House of Rashid, which was associated with the Ottomans.

It was neither Lawrence (of Arabia) nor the Army that conceived a campaign of internal insurgency against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, but rather the Arab Bureau of Britain’s Foreign Office. Supporting the breakaway-minded tribes would pay great dividends if a diversion of effort was needed to meet the challenge. In 1917, Lawrence arranged a joint action with the Arab irregulars and forces under Auda Abu Tayi (until then in the employ of the Ottomans) against the strategically located port city of Aqaba.

The Fall of the Ottoman Empire can be attributed to the failure of its economic structure. In many ways, the circumstances surrounding the Ottoman Empire’s fall closely paralleled those surrounding the Decline of the Roman Empire, particularly in terms of the ongoing tensions between the Empire’s different ethnic groups, and the various governments’ inability to deal with these tensions.

(In the twentieth century, World War I, ended control by the Ottomans, and Palestine came under British rule. To secure help from the Zionists, the British issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, which endorsed Palestine as a national home for Jewish people all over the world.)

Ethnocentrism can be defined as making false assumptions about others’ ways based on the narrow experience of one’s own (superior) culture. Cultural relativism was in part a response to Western ethnocentrism. It has the view that no culture is superior to any other culture and sees nothing inherently wrong (and nothing inherently good) with any cultural expression. Ethically, whatever holds as “good” means that which is “socially approved” by the majority in a given culture. That any society would call another society “evil” is anathema to the relativist. Moreover, cultural relativists are generally opposed to missionary work, because religion penetrates hearts and changes lives and some cultural change and assumptions always follow. The real issue of relativism is, “At what point is one group justified in intervening in the behavior of another group?”

This also brings into question the various social class systems where people with a great deal of power are usually viewed as “the elites” within their own societies. The physical conditions of the workplace differ greatly between the Upper and Lower (the peasants) classes. While middle-class workers may “suffer alienating conditions” or “lack of job satisfaction”, blue-collar workers suffer alienating, often routine, work with obvious physical health hazards, injury, and even death. Class or caste distinction has direct consequences on lifestyle, which also affects how children are raised. These lifestyles could quite possibly affect educational attainment, and therefore, status attainment.

In British history, there were three types of classes. One is upper class which belongs from the families who are rich by birth and their families had enormous wealth and these people do not need much work hard to gain the status and wealth and prestige. The second one is the middle class these people earn their livelihoods by doing job and these people are creative mind and they work hard to get more money and status.

This middle class is then further divided into two sub segments one is upper-middle class and the second is lower-middle class. These people from the upper-middle class belong from the professions of high paid jobs like doctor, engineer, pilots and Architects. The people who belong from the lower-middle class are those, who are doing routine jobs like clerical and data entry. There were discrimination of classes in the British those who were from the rich class have their own schools, parks and restaurants while those people who belong from the poor class does not mingle with the people of upper class. (However, race and other large-scale groupings can also influence class standing.)

Have we been affected by the Divide and Rule agendas?

Institutionalised Discrimination leads to Internalised Oppression, especially when oppressed groups act discriminately toward their own group, or start to believe in negative stereotypes of themselves. They usually believe that they are less intelligent or inferior (academically and otherwise), showing jealousy and superior attitudes within their ranks, and where gossiping, verbal attacks, distancing, hypocrisy and betrayal become the root causes for remaining disunited.

Are we then at least able to agree to disagree?

Further to being ethnocentric, people who have lived in a number of countries do embrace multiple ethnicities, implicitly or explicity.  But among us, there is the problem of making Social Comparisions (i.e. I and you, them and us, look what I’ve got, the have nots, etc.). Whenever people wish to embrace them, they distance themselves, set up barriers, influence others to take sides in their biases, and work against those who wish to offer alternatives. With this sense of inequality, such people become their target with which to overcome their Tall Poppy Syndrome rather than finding resolutions.

Does Race Have Anything To Do With IQ?

(By Habib Siddiqui)

In his chapter on “Characteristics of Human Races,” Gobineau provided the traits of the black and yellow races as follows. Black: “The animal character … is stamped on the negro from the birth… mental faculties are dull or even nonexistent. .. He kills willingly for the sake of killing …” Yellow: “little physically energy and inclined to apathy… desires are feeble, will-power obstinate… tends to mediocrity in everything.. . He is practical, in the narrowest sense of the word… does not dream or theorize… invents little.” He described the white race as a superior type in beauty, intelligence and strength. Finally, he determined that all civilizations, e.g., Indian, Egyptian,Assyrian, Greek and Roman, were all created from one primary source – the white race.

Following Gobineau’s theory, it was all too natural for Europeans to believe that they were on a God-given mission to civilize others. Remember the colonial days when vast territories of Asia, Africa and Latin America were under white men’s rule? The failure of the non-Whites to resist European colonization and plunder of their territories automatically relegated them to a lower human status.

In the 19th century, thus, in addition to the rise of social Darwinism, anthropologists contributed to racism. The search for the “missing link” between apes and Homosapiens became a passionate pastime among the anthropologists and social Darwinists. They studied aborigines to see if they would fill the gap. Since anthropologists were Europeans and white, their race was put at the apex of hierarchy and the blacks at the bottom. The fact that both black and white human beings shared some common features with apes did not matter; apparently their thick lips, origin in Africa and black color reinforced the stereotype of association between apes and black people. Conveniently ignored were other signs, e.g., the apes have thin lips (it is the jaw that protrudes for apes), straight hair and ash-white skin (once the blackhair is removed) showing closer resemblance of apes to the white people.

Count Arthur de Gobineau (1816-82) was one such theorist who turned racism into a cultural and political issue, by saying that the deterioration of the modern age resulted from the mixing of superior and inferior races. He divided humanity into the black, yellow, and white races, and claimed that only the pure white, or Aryan, race was and could be truly noble. According to him, some societies remain in embryonic state, e.g., the pure blooded yellow and black races, which are unable to achieve the level of a civilized nation. He held to the belief that racial groups were physically, mentally and morally different and any attempt to civilize these embryonic groups would meet with failure.

Much later, during Hitler era we would see the worst form of application of Gobineau’s theory in Nazism where only Germans were considered superior to all other races. Truly, Nazi ideology cannot be separated from racism. Through this ideology, Nazis were able to “justify” their horrible actions by making the Jews seem less human.

In a recent article, “Rising Above I.Q.” (New York Times, June 7, 2009), Nicholas Kristof mentioned something that many of us knew for quite some time: there is no genetic or racial contribution to the black-white difference on I.Q. Drawing upon research findings from psychologist Professor Richard Nisbett’s book – “Intelligence and How to Get It”, he says that there also seems to be no genetic difference in intelligence between whites and Asians. It is education and the drive to succeed which are most important factors that translate into success. These findings must come as a shock to all those racists that believed too longin lies and myths spread by Gobineau and other Social Darwinists.

In his study on intelligence, Dr. Nisbett studied three groups of people in America – Jews, Chinese-Americans and West Indian (Caribbean) Blacks and found these groups to outperform others. For example, Jews have received about one-third of all Nobel Prizes in science received by Americans. One survey found that a quarter of Jewish adults in the United States have earned a graduate degree, compared with six percent of the population as a whole.

Asian-Americans (especially the Chinese-Americans), in general, have earned better grades than other students (much in contrast to Gobineau’s characterization that yellow race tends to mediocrity). West Indian blacks with roots in the Caribbean are one-third more likely to graduate from college than African-Americans as a whole, and their median household income is almost one-third higher. Nisbett says that the evidence is overwhelming that what is distinctive about these three groups is not innate advantage but rather a tendency to get the most out of the firepower they have. A common thread among these three groups may be an emphasis on diligence or education, perhaps linked in part to an immigrant drive.

As we know quite well, a country that has allowed immigration has always prospered better than those countries that did not. American success story owes it to its immigrant community who had energized the country through their hard work and drive to succeed. Even if the first generation immigrants were not all highly educated, they made sure that their children studied hard and worked harder than others to succeed. Immigrants are also a small minority and as such their smallness innumber in the society has put an extra burden to succeed in their adopted homes.

Jews always have been minorities in the countries they lived (outside the Zionist state). They have also known from their bitter experience that they could lose or be robbed of everything they possessed except their intellect, and as such, they have inculcated the importance of education within their own family. It is no-brainer that they are more educated and have been controlling top positions in both academic and corporate world.

When comparing the social status of most Black Americans with others, including those from the Caribbean islands, one usually forgets that most Black Americans come from broken families who don’t have father figures in their families; most children are raised by single mothers. Then for centuries they saw how they were discriminated and badly treated. None of these factors helped to encourage a young Afro-American to understand the wisdom behind education and hard work. If you factored in such information, it is not difficult to understand why they are behind West Indians whose success has been identified to be rooted in: the classic diligence and hard work associated with immigrants, and intact families.

Unfortunately, what the Nisbett study does not say is that success, like failure, has ripple effects in the society it originates. Thus, one’s success story in the community can encourage others to follow his/her footsteps to better their lives. And as long as there is no discrimination, such successes can boost the morale of others to succeed. But when a person is denied success in spite of all the right characteristics, such can adversely demoralize others that are close to that person. And the sad fact of our life is discrimination happens too often. I know many such examples where persons with less education, less skill, less experience, and less qualification have been chosen over more talented, educated, qualified, better candidates. Jews in the pre-Hitler era in Germany have been accused of such  discriminatory practices against Germans, monopolizing the entire system wherever they had been able to grab some important positions. They denied entry of Germans into many coveted positions.

Today, top positions in many important institutions, financial and otherwise, in the western world, esp. the USA, government/public and private sectors, are held by Jews. Such role models of success can have a tremendous positive impact to boost the latter generation of Jewish people to succeed. Thus, as a race, they are more prone to succeed, something that others can’t claim as much.

Based on years of analysis, some analysts have even accused that once the Jewish people had held those top level positions, they ensured that the  next in line would also come from their group (e.g., by forcing early retire mentor firing of a talented non-Jewish aspirant for the position). If such accusations are true, one can only ponder as to how long can such discriminatory practices be sustained! Have not these guys learned anything from their German experience?

Success can also have a caustic effect. Success of a community can translate into a belief that it is more deserving of those high positions than someone coming from outside its racial, ethnic group. It can instill a racist mentality. Thus, discrimination of others becomes part of success story of a particular group. I remember while working as a Director of a multi-billion dollar global company how often I was initiated by my boss and peers about the importance of perception in the business world, and how I should do succession planning in leadership so that someone perceived better suited for a job was preferred over a more qualified and talented person. I was literally told that so and so did not really fit the position compared to someone else who appeared more like them. Interestingly, my experience was at odds with their perceptions.

In spite of the reality that prejudice and discrimination are quite common in our world, and that education and hard work may not always translate into success, there is no denying that Professor Nisbett is right in that “Intelligence and academic achievement are very much under people’s control.” Let’s motivate our children and loved ones to excel in these two sectors without worrying too much about the outcome – the material success. Let the future take its own course while we take control of the present. That would hopeully be the beginning of our drive to regain our lost heritage. That will be enough for now.

Dr. Habib Siddiqui  is an anti-war activist. His essays appear in a number of websites and newspapers. He has written eight books (three of which can be found in the


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