Picture: 123RF/Dmitrijs Kaminskis
Picture: 123RF/Dmitrijs Kaminskis

Jonathan Cook's passing reference to Winston Churchill was unfortunate (We need strong leaders, but let's keep our freedoms, November 19). The shrinking band of liberal democrats in SA would generally see Churchill as the great man who saved civilisation from Nazi slavery, but many in the “developing” world would not share such veneration.

Although Churchill wasn’t present at Ulundi’s 1879  Zulu Gatling gun massacre, it was committed by others motivated by the same brand of imperialism. He came of age coolly dispatching muzzleloading  African tribesmen with his multi-shot Mauser pistol at the 1898 Battle of Omdurman outside Khartoum.  In case Ulundi seems like ancient history, former president Jacob Zuma could have sat on the knee of someone who had been there.

We still justify the European imperialism of the late 1800s by saying it brought freedom and civilisation to Africa. Yes, it did stop slavery, but this was not from altruism. Cheap labour was needed for such imperialist ventures as mining. Although late in the day, I think we must be sensitive to the fact that our European ideas of justice and freedom were imposed on Africa’s indigenous population by technical superiority. As such, resentment is inevitable. Business too was a European imposition, and its rules are still not accepted; why else would employees of a bankrupt company go on strike for higher pay?

If our system of freedom and democracy was the only way to global salvation the small matter of its African introduction might be overlooked. But when we look at the current US standard bearer and how it uses “freedom” and “democracy” to cloak avaricious self- interest, we need to be careful.  Even the mother of all parliaments is being torn apart by the divisiveness of Brexit. It is our vaunted ideas of freedom, democracy and business that are leading humanity down a  broad road to destructive climate change.

James  Cunningham
Camps Bay

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