Researching for my EN4223 class, I came across a book in which the writer pointed out how for the English colonialists in India, an illusion was a major part of coloniser-colonised relations. This illusion was that the English thought that the natives thought of them as some kind of gods, due to their incredible ability to fight and administrate. They would then play into that type, acting a little like gods.
Wurgaft underscores that the English were aware that they were putting on an act. What is more interesting for me, though, is that it is perhaps a DELUSION, more than an illusion – was it really true that the Indians treated them like gods? Or was it the colonialists’ self-deception, self-aggrandisation? It seemed to me that this was another instance of the whites imputing to the natives a tendency towards believing the supernatural. In any case, it does sort of explain why Kipling came up with his notorious term of the ‘white man’s burden’.
Reading Wallace, it became a lot clearer. The reason why the colonialists thought the natives treated them like gods was because they did behave like gods, from the outset — the very act of colonisation, when they took to domineering them and deciding right and wrong – ‘Equal justice was awarded to Malay, Chinaman, and Dyak.’ (p.71) – is an act of a race that saw themselves in a sense like gods. Thus, the delusion preceded colonialism.
Who were the ones with the tendency towards supernaturalism now, then?