Courtesy Reuters

Native Self-Government

APRIMARY obligation of Europeans and Americans toward colonial peoples is generally held to be to "educate the native" for self-government. In postwar plans this obligation is usually expressed in the form of an injunction that colonial Powers, or any agency which is set up to control colonial areas, shall preserve the interests of the native populations during some undetermined transitional period and instruct them in the art of governing themselves. It is implied or promised that autonomy shall be theirs when their "education" has been completed. On the political side, this represents an extension of the mandates idea; as it applies to native ways of life, it is a blend of the older concept of European colonial policy embodied in the phrase "the white man's burden" and the more modern statement of administrative technique known as "indirect rule."

The principle of tutelage from which the obligation just described is supposed to derive rests on the assumption that native peoples are less developed than peoples whose cultures are marked by a machine technology and the scientific approach to natural phenomena. Native peoples are rarely held to be innately inferior because of race. They are supposed, rather, to be culturally inferior; and because their "backwardness" is believed cultural, the efficacy of education is taken for granted. The length of time a certain native people must be subject to tutelage will depend upon how "advanced" it becomes -- that is, how readily it accepts European and American ways of life.

This approach to the problem is regrettably over-simplified. The fact is that native peoples all over the world have in many respects a high degree of competence for self-government, and that much of the present ill-feeling between native peoples and their European rulers is due to the failure of westerners to understand this fact. A still greater degree of friction between rulers and ruled is to be expected in the future if the former do not adopt a different attitude toward the problem of

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