So The Telegraph reported that the SOAS’s Student Union wants the university to decolonise its philosophy to remove Plato, Descartes and Kant. I read it just after having a pint of ale at Eastside to forget the tragedy that was my Structural Mechanics paper and my Asian flush made my face redder than the time I confessed my feelings to that girl two years ago – (She very politely rejected me). You may ask me, “But didn’t you decolonise your life and go to China to be a farmer?” Let’s just say that my mum found out and beat some sense into me. Also, I can’t fly. I now have to face the horrifying reality that I can’t blame white people for everything and to take responsibility for my actions.
So back on topic: SOAS SU said that the majority of philosophers they learn about should be African and Asian, and the university should address the “legacy of colonialism”. Now I was about to go on that whole rigmarole of decolonising my life all over again, but it just made me angry. Angry about the state of our generation and how our culture had gone so horribly wrong. To clarify my views on colonialism, it was indeed horrid, fuelled by greed and patronising ideas of ethnic superiority, leading to massive death and suffering; however, history has always been about death and suffering, with European colonialism merely the latest and most industrialised form of it. I don’t see these people lamenting the massive destruction following the Mongol invasions, the Mughal invasion of India, and the fact that African slavery was carried out by indigenous African tribes decimating their enemies. Colonialism was also not a zero-sum game of the white man oppressing the natives. It was an interchange between the rich and powerful elites on both sides collaborating to benefit themselves, while the vast majority of people were simply trying to survive. Colonialism also led to massive benefits for the colonised in some cases. In my case, schools set up by Christian missionaries in Malaysia educated my parents (and an entire generation), pushing them out of poverty. Modern medicine kept us alive, and Malaysia was a land of opportunity for millions of impoverished Chinese and Indians fleeing poverty, war, and discrimination.
On the point of knowledge and education, people have always learnt from each other. Witness how the muslim Arabs preserved the valuable knowledge and teachings of the Greeks, how Southeast Asian cultures developed under the Indian Hindu/Buddhist cultural sphere and how Europe learnt from the Ancient Romans, Greeks, Chinese and Arabs to kick start the Renaissance. SOAS students may have a point about under-representation of African and Asian philosophy, but Plato, Descartes, and Kant are part and parcel of humanity’s intellectual heritage and to demand their removal from the syllabus is stupid and beside the point.
All knowledge is important and valuable. The fact remains that European civilisation has had and continues to have an outsize impact on modern society, and to understand the world we live in, we have to learn about it. Education is about creating a well-rounded, open-minded individual who can think critically. This arrangement is not going to create that. Instead the SOAS Student Union simply wants to create racist, narrow-minded, brainwashed, and hateful idiots.
I’d like to point out the hypocrisy of claiming to fight racism and institutional discrimination, but yet pushing through an ideology of disdain for white people, for ‘white civilisation’ and for ‘white knowledge’.
Unfortunately this feeds into a wider ‘snowflake’ society where freedom of speech and now even freedom to learn are being curtailed in order not to ‘offend’ people, and where the boundary of what is ‘offensive’ grows day after day.We are also seeing how censorship is being pushed in under our noses in the guise of political correctness, to control what we can see, read, and think. No. I shan’t and won’t let these stupid people define me and my generation, the most educated, tolerant, and well-off in history.
To summarise, even if their claims of African and Asian philosophy being under-represented is valid, banning white philosophers is a stupid and ignorant thing to do, especially in a university in the UK, which incidentally is part of Europe and has developed under its cultural sphere. The SOAS Student Union is belabouring a moot point and making fools of themselves and our generation, because even if they are snowflakes, most young people aren’t. These people epitomise the hate, bigotry, ignorance, and racism which they claim to fight. You may say that we have to tolerate or accept those views, but tolerance of intolerance is cowardice, and will ultimately erode the freedoms and rights we cherish. The SOAS Student Union should focus their energies on relevant issues, not this load of rubbish.