Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bibles, Bayonets and Bacilli (1913)

From the January 1913 issue of the Socialist Standard

The Socialist, in his war upon capitalism and its defenders, soon discovers that religion is an important bulwark of the enemy. In the preface to the S.P.G.B. pamphlet “Socialism and Religion” attention is drawn to a Non-conformist boast regarding the commercial value of “missions to the heathen."

Further testimony as to the merits or demerits of missionary enterprise is furnished from time to time by explorers, government officials, and such like interesting personalities.

Thus Col. Sam Hughes, Canadian Minister, addressing the Canadian Club of New York (11th Nov.), said that “Britain and her colonies will stand together in the upbuilding of humanity the world over," and told how some of the upbuilding is done. He declared that "in all his travels he has observed that the missionary with his bible and the bayonet went hand in hand in the promotion of civilisation."

The colonel does but voice the claim of his class—the pretence that capitalist civilisation is best in the interest of mankind at large, Putumayo and Cradley Heath included. Certainly it suits capitalist interest well enough, and consequently the part played by the Church missionary in its promotion must have due recognition.

To be sure, the theoretic meekness and “love" of Christian teaching assorts but ill with the murderous bayonet; but history and Christian practice reconcile them easily at the dictates of material interests and social predominance.

Yes, Capital knows the worth—to capital—of the Christian missionary, and pays for services rendered; and many are the decimated peoples who have cause to rue the day when first they knew that purveyor of new delusions for old.

But a cruel blow has been struck at the humanitarian pretences of the missionary by the explorer Stefansson (employed by the New York Museum of Natural History), discoverer of the blonde Esquimaux. He points out that primitive peoples are so nicely adjusted to their often harsh environment that the slightest disturbance suffices to destroy their conditions of survival, that is, to kill them off. He shows how the Esquimaux who have been brought under the influence of white men have been almost wiped out by measles and such like diseases; and he pleads that the newly discovered people shall be protected from the interference of civilisation, and particularly that the missionary, as an undesirable, be kept away.

Mr Stefansson argues that a live heathen Esquimaux is better than a dead baptised one. Col. Sam Hughes’ bayonet-allied upbuilder of humanity may not agree—but then Torquemada had little use for live heretics!
John H. Halls

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