The colonial mindset is deeply embedded and persists today | Letters

David Trubridge sheds light on the depths of colonialism in Aotearoa, while Daniel O’Leary says that he has never heard a single instance of praise for British colonialism in Ireland

Nesrine Malik takes on empire (Badenoch’s empire comments speak to the enduring mentality of colonialism, 27 September), but doesn’t really get to grips with the insidious depths of colonialism. I was born in Great (as it was then) Britain in the early 1950s and was soon packed off for privilege-conditioning at private boarding schools. In the 1980s I fled Thatcherism and nuclear threats, finally ending up in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

It has taken the 35 years since then of listening to Māori to begin to understand the extent of colonial conditioning. It is a deeply embedded mindset that feels like the only norm to the perpetrators. But it is a corrosive belittling of all “the other” as being lesser. Implicit in colonialism are racism, patriarchy and excess individualism or egotism.

Māori were beaten at school for speaking their language. Te reo is the means of relating to whenua or land, where words can be found to express unique flora or histories. If you lose a language, you lose connection to land. Māori say: “I am the land and the land is me.” What are they without land? They had to watch the native trees, that only they knew how to name, being torn down and burned, to be replaced by grass, insects, birds, animals and crops that were imported from a foreign land.

This happened because the colonists believed, without question, that their way was superior – and often that it was their God-given duty to impose it on the natives. But what is less well discussed is that this mindset persists today. The wealth of developed nations is predicated on much of the world being poor. And it is the poor who suffer disproportionately from the damaging effects of that wealth. In Aotearoa, Māori fill our prisons and live in our worst housing. Many pākehā (white people) today still speak of them in the same way as their colonial forebears. The trauma festers on. That is the evil essence of colonialism, not whether railways were built for them or us.
David Trubridge
Havelock North, Aotearoa/New Zealand

• Nesrine Malik states that, in all countries that had at one time been under British rule, a significant number of people would willingly welcome back the British. In all my time speaking to my large Irish family, and many Irish friends, I have never heard a single instance of praise for British colonialism, or a single instance of nostalgia for pre-independence status. But, of course, we welcome the British as well as all who visit or work with us.
Daniel O’Leary
Sawston, Cambridgeshire

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