The Aftermath Of Colonialism: A Struggle For Identity

A struggle for identity

Post-colonialism is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “the state of affairs representing the aftermath of Western colonialism.” Post-colonialism is a hot button issue for a lot of academics, including those in Southeast Asian countries once under the rule of Western colonizers. If recent events have taught us anything, it’s that the aftermath of British Colonization runs deep.

We may think we got off relatively scot-free, however, the reality is far from that. to deny the effect colonialism has had in shaping the cultural identity of Pakistan is at best, foolish and at worst, dangerous. The bottom line is that after decades of colonial rule, the states of South Asia undoubtedly face problems of social identity, governance, as well as development, and welfare.

In January of 2021, an video went viral. watched by millions throughout the country, the video showed a conversation between the owners of the restaurant Cannoli and their manager. The conversation revolved around malicious mocking by the owners over their manager’s grasp on the English language.

Widely circulated online, the video sparked outrage due to it being a disgusting show of belittlement of anything non European. The position awarded to the English language, which was the language of those who oppressed us and ruled over us for 200 years, over Urdu, our own, is hardly a new thing. However such a blatant display of elitism proved to be very difficult to swallow.

The debate it sparked, proved to be a very interesting one. It became clear that English is considered an elite, exclusive language. It also became clear, that people in Pakistan, tied their countrymen’s value to the language they spoke. Since English is considered an elite language, it effectively elevates those who speak it over others.

This discourse proved to be very interesting in juxtaposition with the critique PSL’s 2021 anthem Groove Mera received. This time the same people were unhappy with the singer’s way of pronouncing the English words, among other things.

This contrast leads to a realization that the critique of Cannoli owner’s display of elitism comes not from those who find themselves excluded from the exclusive bubble, but are rather closely associated with the language. An adjacent population.

The question of a Pakistani identity, can never be considered without acknowledging the aftermath of colonialism. and understanding that British influence or their language can never be excluded from it. on some level, we have all been guilty of accepting the alleged superiority of our colonizers.

The practice of holding English, and ultimately those to whom English comes easily, above everyone else is nevertheless, wrong.

One can argue that this atrocious attitude is tied directly with our education system. If you recall, the British empire rules over us for over two centuries. the current education system was set up by them to create a nation of people who were willing to follow orders. Not only this, but the system was also used to convince the native population that the British way was superior.

Indian farmers at work while the white master watches
Measuring land for cultivation, Allahabad, India, 1877. © Global Look Press / Science Museum

When it became clear that the subaltern resistance was a serious obstacle for the British Empire, a politician by the name of Thomas Macaulay proposed that that official language, which was Persian at that time, was replaced by English. Macaulay was once noted as saying that “It is, I believe, no exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been collected from all the books written in the Sanskrit language is less valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgment used at preparatory schools in England”.

The British Raj exploited the Indian subcontinent to assist their own development. This included creating a class of elite natives who would help them rule. They changed the education system into an English Medium System and began systematically brainwashing us into thinking their way of living was superior, while the sub-continental way was primitive and backwards

This made us as a nation develop an intense inferiority complex and caused us to look up to the British as our standard of perfection. After 74 years, we still suffer from this colonial mindset and prioritize their language at the expense of our indigenous heritage.

There is no shortcut to getting rid of this mindset. But what each of us can do, starting today is look critically at the attributes we as a nation deem ideal and understand why that may be. Start with yourself.