Many new voices that we hear more and more today in politics, business and art and culture were not heard as recently as fifty years back. Colonialism, slavery and economic repression never let these voices surface and come onto the world stage.

Slavery/Colonialism

This is not my attempt to equate slavery and colonialism. Slavery was and isfar harsher than any colonial era in history. My intention is to bring all repression due to race/color under one large umbrella.There is a difference in degree, but the repressors have the same goals,in which the greed of the offenders and lack of power-sharing play a big role.

When a group is systematically repressed, its voice is crushed, its history is distorted, and its political and socio-economic freedom is violated. The power is with the colonizer, and as a result, the native culture is portrayed as low, lacking high morals and ideals.

During the colonial era, the powers (whether they were British, Spanish or any other) tried to structure the education of the colonized masses to create good clerks.They kept the modern education for their own children while curbing the new voices. The best example I can think of is the Indian sub-continent where we still see two parallel systems of education. One has English as the medium of education and is equipped with all the resources provided for by private funding.The other has the national or provincial language as the medium of study and is provided with minimum possible resources. The powers, whoever they may be, also divided people by creating a wealthy class of subjects. This elite class was faithful to the rulers for the sake of protecting their new prosperity. 

Language and Culture

When your language is repressed or at least forced to take the back seat as happened in Indian sub-continent and other places, your voice is subdued if not completely throttled. Your language is usually not understood beyond your borders.To speak loudly in order to go beyond borders, you are forced to learn the language of the rulers. Command of the new language does not happen in one generation, and if education is not provided or is sub-standard, it does not even happen in a few generations. The time spent in finding a voice in a new language is also the time spent in repression. The colonial forces are actively destroying your world view, creating low self-esteem, pointing at the culture constantly to prove it inferior. Culture is also tied to language. When you give a language a backseat, you undermine its culture too. This means that you inculcate low self-esteem and lack of confidence in the minds of the young generation and encourage them to be the puppets of the oppressors to gain any standing in the society.

Photo by Pavan Gupta 

History

History was written by the oppressors. Sometimes, they justified their actions by showcasing the benefits they have brought to the colony and at others by framing the culture of the natives as low and desperate for help. These historians of course wrote in the language of the colonial powers and there were no voices to deny what they were writing.Those who were repressed probably were not even equipped with the tools to use the language of the repressor and rarely had have enough freedom of expression to establish a front.Therefore,they were never heard in mainstream politics and society within their countries and outside.

New Voices

In the first half of the 20th century, a great many people appeared in the repressed societies,using their voices in the language of colonial powers and paved the way for freedom. These voices gave power to their people and their expression of who they were and what were their aspirations. Later, the Internet further expanded the reach of these voices. New voices not only appeared to achieve freedom and defend rights, they also appeared in art and literature, and of course in business, politics and technology. A conservative mind usually finds this power-sharing threatening, as it challenges the status-quo. Our recent history has witnessed unrest in which the colonial/conservative mind unleashed its weapons on more progressive, power-sharing structures and its people.

Photo by Yeo Khee 

If we want an equitable world, then we need to realize the importance of these new voices. We need to acknowledge them, even celebrate them.Without these voices we are chained to the past and its repression. These voices may have anger and pain, and they may be loud, but they are the voices of strength and valor. These voices can be an asset for a democracy and for a better and equitable future. If the forces, whoever they may be, continue to try to shut them down, they will call for chaos and decline.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon 

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