Science Fiction Project - Free Culture
Analog - All editorials - John Wood Campbell
* * Back * *


The ideas behind many a science-fiction story have revolved around problems of colonizing other worlds; it might be worth while to take a look at the history of colonization efforts here on Earth. We might get some vague idea of what approach to the problem will not work.
So many times, history is disappointing to people, because it doesn't tell them what should be, or can be, done - it's almost entirely a record of tries that failed. Sure that's disappointing - but it can save a lot of future disappointment to take a look at the record of what things not to try again!
Actually, of course, history also includes the record of things that did work... but because they did, and we use and accept them, we don't see them as "problems to be solved". Who needs answers to "problems" that are no longer troublesome, huh?
We can start with three general situational possibilities; the planet to be colonized may be uninhabitable by any life form not already possessing a high-level technology, it may already be inhabited by subintelligent life forms, or it may have intelligence already.
The first situation leads normally to a technological station - a research or technical - resource production system - rather than to a "colony" in the normal sense. Antarctica, here on Earth, may have scientific stations, and mining establishments may be installed - but people aren't going to think of Antarctica as "home". The Island of Krakatoa isn't apt to be "home" either, however interesting to vulcanologists and biologists.
What we're really interested in, of course, is the situation involving a planet with intelligent, but subtechnical indigenous life (the super-technical inhabitants mean that we won't do any colonizing, naturally!).
First, of course, we need a definition of "intelligent inhabitants". This question is about as easily answered as the one "What do you mean... Truman?" As of now, it seems to me that one way to distinguish the merely anthropoid from the humanoid - whether they have tentacles or sixteen legs! - comes down to the question of whether they have a society which acts as a quasi-conscious selective breeding system. If a tribe selects its own young - as early humans did in their "manhood rites" ceremonies - the critical step toward true intelligence has been taken. They have at that point, taken responsibility for their own fate upon themselves - they have started to determine their own destiny, right, wrong or indifferent, none the less the fate they are to have is determined by their own acts.
We'll assume a series of planets having humanoid tribes, which are definitely beyond the beginnings of intelligence, and have already developed their own language, verbal traditions and co-operative cultural systems. There's a range of possibilities in such a situation.
In simplified terms, the Terran-native relationship established can be:
1. The Terrans simply push out the natives, destroying them completely.
2. The Terrans enslave the natives, and force them to work on the Terrans' projects - dig their mines, tend their fields, build their roads, et cetera.
3. The Terrans move in with the natives, start building roads, digging mines, and sowing fields, hiring natives who work side by side with the Terrans.
These are three extremes - three pure-state descriptions. None of them ever has been - or ever can be! - actually applied in its pure form. But each technique has been tried on Earth, and studying the results is most interesting indeed!
System #1, pushing out and destroying the natives, is almost inevitable, do what you, with all good heart and intent, will under certain circumstances. If the cultural-evolutionary gap is too great, it becomes literally impossible to bridge the gap between primitive and highly technical cultural types.
Human beings evolved. They didn't suddenly he human beings. Adam and Eve is a lovely legend - but there never was a First Man who was a Man in the modem sense, Homo sapiens, who sprang, full-evolved, from some anthropoid mother. Eve's mother was not a hairy-hided, bandy-legged, knuckle-walking gorilloid creature.
Cultures evolve, after the humanoid inventors of culture have themselves evolved; cultures aren't born full-blown either.
Genetics does count. It is perfectly true that there is a distribution of talents among individuals in any humanoid group - that, in any humanoid group you will find some individuals brighter than the stupider individuals of a more highly evolved group. But that doesn't mean that the two groups have the same mean distribution!
Studies of the Australian aborigines have shown that when the aborigines encounter the high-level technical culture of the European colonists, their own cultural pattern disintegrates. Even when there is no effort whatever made to break down their primitive culture. The aborigines, however, had a culture so primitive, when white men first came there, that they had not yet evolved the nomad herdsman culture - they were, still, strictly wandering food-gatherers. The economic basis of their culture was still essentially identical with that of gorilla bands. For a period variously estimated as up to fifty thousand years, the aborigines had been isolated from the main stream of human cultural development and pressures.
Curiously, the nearby Maori of New Zealand had a highly evolved Polynesian-type culture, with highly developed governmental systems, and a well-developed technology.
What happened when European colonists moved into the two areas is most interesting. Note that the colonists coming to the two areas were, essentially, of one type - English cultural rebels. Many of the Australians were "colonists-by-request" - people deported for being too much of a headache to the home culture (like the Irishman who was deported to Australia by order of the Queen... and whom Queen Victoria had to greet in full formal State honors, when he returned twenty-five years later, as the Prime Minister of Australia!). The New Zealand colonists and the Australians were much of the same type, however. Middle-class English, Irish and Scottish, largely.
In Australia, the colonists pushed the aborigines out of their way, destroying the native culture, taking the land, and driving the natives into the desert lands.
The same type of colonists, in New Zealand, developed Colonization Pattern #3 - they moved in with the Maoris, worked with them side by side, and have developed New Zealand on a fully co-operative, communal basis.
It's worth considering, at least, that the difference was not in the attitudes of the colonists... but the abilities of the natives. The Australian aborigines could not bridge the immense gap between their food-gathering by turning over rocks and logs level, and the technological culture of the Europeans. The Maori could, and very promptly did.

It is of interest in the current United Nations wrangles about "colonialism" and "colonial powers" that neither the Maori nor the Australian aborigines are making any complaints.
The complaints are coming loudest from Africa; the complaints from Asian nations are far less vocal. And, incidentally, the Polynesians generally seem to have little feeling of being victims of "colonialism" - Hawaii might be taken as an example!
Africa represented, almost entirely, a Type #2 colonization program - where the Europeans moved in and enslaved the natives. The Europeans moved in, and sought to work the natives - not work with them. In New Zealand, the Europeans worked with the Maori - shoulder to shoulder, building a new culture beneficial to both peoples.
In Africa, a very different situation arose. There was the White, who was Noble, and did no manual work, and then there was the Black who was Inferior and did menial jobs. The characteristic of the system is that there must be no middle class. When the British in Kenya took over the highlands area, because of its favorable climate and rich soil - it became known as the "White Highlands" - they first drove the natives out, dispossessing them entirely, so that no African was allowed to own land in the White Highlands. But then they found that they had an acute shortage of labor to work their fields. They had fine broad and fertile acres... but no labor. The Africans, dispossessed of the best lands, nevertheless had more than enough land in the rest of Kenya, and had settled down to working their own very adequate lands elsewhere. Why, then, should they bother to serve the British land-holders as laborers, when they could work their own lands?
The British solution to this was to limit the amount of land Africans could own arbitrarily. If the African couldn't have lands of their own, then they would have to work the estates of the noble land-holders.
Given a few generations of this system, and you develop a nice, stable Feudalism... if you make very sure no Middle Class arises.
Why didn't the land-rich, but labor-poor British of the White Highlands invite the several million land-hungry British farmers, and ex-farmers who'd been crowded into cities, to come to Kenya and help work the vast, rich lands?
Impossible! It would have meant that Whites would have been doing the same kind of menial digging-in-the-Earth that was fit only for Blacks! It would have meant introducing the horrid idea that a man is a Man not because of his skin, or his racial background, but because of what he is. It would have meant importing a middle class - creating a mixed-up situation like that in New Zealand!
But... the difficulty is that the problem was not all so onesided. Certainly the British fell into a trap of folly in acting as they did. But, at the same time, the problem was not the same as the situation in New Zealand.
The Africans were not culturally evolved as far as the Maori. There was a real problem on both sides; the gap between European and African culture was not as great as that between European and Australian Aborigine - but it wasn't as small as that between European and Polynesian. Polynesians, when the Europeans first arrived, had already worked out a very high level of "constitutional monarchy" with wise, and thoroughly workable democratic procedures for selecting their rulers.
The Africans were, when the Europeans arrived, still in the level of pure ritual-tabu tribalism - with the exception of a Moslem-influenced fringe at the borders of the Sahara, and some of the Zulu tribes in South Africa.
When it's recognized that the same pretty generally homogenous people - the British - showed, under three different conditions, the three extreme responses to the colonist-native problem, it begins to appear fairly probable that the nature of the natives has a great deal to do with the thing! The British in New Zealand responded by working shoulder to shoulder with the Maori; in Australia, they drove out the aborigines, but at no time sought to enslave them to work for them. Yet these same British, in Africa, enslaved the Africans.
It's at least reasonable to raise the question whether or not the Africans were, themselves, responsible for that situation.
The British had gone in in another section of the planet. Now, the African colonization is quite clearly in very dire straits. Australia and New Zealand are certainly healthy and happy and successful. And so is the British-founded North American colonization. By contrast, the Spanish-founded North American colonization achieved nowhere near as high a level of success in the same period.
The United States represents a colony of the Type 1 system - the natives were pushed out and destroyed... in major measure.
At this point, I think it's necessary to introduce a new term. "Genocide" has been defined as the murder of a people. I want to suggest something else; "geneocide" - the killing off of a gene, a particular characteristic of a people.
In the United States today, the Mohawk people are, very definitely, not killed off! Outside my office window, a new skyscraper is going up - with Mohawk high-steel workers completely dominating the scene. The Mohawk Valley in New York State is still a Mohawk valley, with neat and prosperous, well-managed farms run by Mohawk families.
But the deadly Mohawk raiders, the killers that the colonists of two centuries ago feared and hated, are dead. That characteristic of the Mohawk people has been destroyed. The Mohawk high-steel workers have their work, because the Mohawk appears to be blessed with a genetic immunity to fear of heights - which leaves his mind free to pay attention to what he's doing five hundred feet above the ground, instead of battling his internal self-doubts and so missing his step. As one who cannot climb a twenty-foot ladder happily, I sincerely envy the Mohawk.
In other words, in a high-level technical culture, the tendency-to-be-a-raider is a highly contra-survival characteristic, while that genetic immunity to fear of heights is a highly pro-survival characteristic. The interaction of the Mohawk people and the highly successful European cultural system produced a geneocidal effect - but not a genocidal effect.
Thus when a high-level culture colonizes an area where Type 3 co-operative interchange is not possible, the natives may be driven out and destroyed - not, however, as a people, but as a genetic type.
In an individual, the characteristic "homocidal mania" makes co-operation impossible; in rejecting that individual, we are not rejecting him, actually, but the intolerable characteristic that we are unable to separate him from.
If the natives of an area are driven out and destroyed, it's usually because geneocide is necessary; genocide is not intended or wanted.
Type 3 cultural interchange can exist only when there is mutual respect and mutual faith-and-trust. Such interchange with a group such as warrior-raiders is self-evidently impossible. They have homocidal mania as a Way of Life; you can't establish faith-and-trust respect with them.

What are the conditions that do produce a mutual co-operative hybrid cultural system?
When the Puritans first landed here, they learned, and learned rapidly from the local Indians. They adopted the Town Meeting system, the technique of planting corn in hills, with a fish for fertilizer. Both social and technical lessons were freely accepted and learned.
The Indians did not learn anywhere nearly as rapidly from the Europeans. The Indians were happy to teach - to be superior to the stupid immigrants. But they weren't at all willing to be taught. The Mohawks were one of the most advanced Indian tribes; many of them did learn from the "stupid immigrants".
The Maori were willing to teach... and be taught.
Now you must respect a man to learn from him. You do not have to respect a man to teach him.
But this doesn't mean that you have to respect a man in all things to learn some things from him. The true test of mutual respect, then, works out to the test of mutual learning-and-teaching. Where that exists, men can work side by side. Where it does not exist, co-operative co-endeavor becomes impossible. And the failure lies with the side that will not learn.
The American Indians were pushed out by the white colonists in North America, because it proved impossible to establish co-endeavor. The Indian would not learn from the White... the Indian wanted to be a Noble Savage, which included not working for his living, not grubbing in mines for metals, or slaving in workshops to forge and shape steel, or stewing vile chemical brews to make gunpowder.
For some reason, the Noble Savage lost his homeland as a result. Oh, he liked and happily used the White Man's guns; what he didn't accept was the White Man's hard work that produced those guns.
We might add a new Beatitude: blessed are the do-it-yourselfers, for they shall inherit the planets!
The Spanish, in the Conquest of America, never got anywhere at all in any of the areas where there was not an already-developed hard-working civilization. The Aztecs, the Mayans, the Incas - these people worked and built their cities. The North American Indians had not reached that level of cultural evolution; the North American Indians could not be enslaved, and the Spanish wanted only slave-worked areas. They were definitely not do-it-yourself addicts.
The Spanish enslaved the less-highly-evolved cultures they encountered... and here, the Spanish were playing the Noble Savage! They didn't want to work; they made the Aztecs and the Incas work, they taught the natives to build with new techniques, to mine iron, make steel tools, and establish industry.
Curiously, the Noble Spanish lost their new homelands, as a result.
Recommended reading on the situation in Africa today is Louis E. Lomax's small and very cogent book, "The Reluctant African". Lomax is an American Negro reporter, and a professor of Philosophy; he was in a position to observe data, and to evaluate what he observed, when he went through the length of Africa in 1960. He reports one interesting and revealing incident - of a Ghana representative somewhat sneeringly commenting on the lower standards of living in Liberia and Ethiopia, the two African nations that have been independent for more than a few years. The Liberian representative replied, "We have not had the benefits of colonialism, as you have".
It was the Ghana natives who built the roads, the cities, the telephone exchanges, the power plants... but it was Europeans who taught them how, and supplied the capital - which means the tools to make those tools, and the skilled labor to use them properly.
The Africans are in a somewhat peculiar position; they were not willing learners - as were the Maori - nor did they build what they now have themselves (as the Aztecs and Incas had built even before the Spanish came).
It rather looks as though whether Colonization System 1, 2, or 3 is installed depends far more on the nature of the natives, than on the determination or choice of the colonists. It was not a British policy to enslave the local natives - it was a Kenya policy, an African-area policy. But the same British acted differently in Australia, North America and New Zealand... because the natives were entirely different.
When colonists go into an area - whether it be a continent or an alien planet - where the natives are too far below the cultural level of the colonists, the natives will be pushed aside. Type 1 colonization system results.
When the natives are somewhat higher, they will be enslaved - whether the colonists so choose or not, it appears. And that will, inevitably, result in the destruction of the colony, and a rapid rise in the cultural and living standards of the enslaved natives! In the long run the natives benefit far more than the enslaving colonists!
If the cultural gap between natives and colonists is not too great, the colonists and natives will fall into the third pattern - mutual teaching and learning, and co-endeavor to establish a new, and vigorous hybrid culture. New Zealand, Hawaii, and Alaska all represent that pattern.
At first glance, it may appear that the Eskimo had a very primitive culture indeed; in many respects he certainly did. But the Eskimo was a technologist par excellence; in his environment, a highly evolved social pattern wasn't essential to survival - but a highly evolved technology darned well was! The Eskimo has proven to have a fantastic degree of innate mechanical aptitude; a group of Eskimos who had never before seen an outboard engine or any other gasoline engine has been known to disassemble the device completely, and reassemble it in perfect running order. The Eskimo may have been retarded in his social development - but the masterpieces of mechanical engineering the Eskimo achieved demonstrate beyond doubt that they were a highly developed people. They have been delighted to study and learn the White Man's engineering technology - and willing too, to teach the White Man their highly developed skills of arctic survival.
In consequence, the Eskimo, like the Maori, has neither been driven out, nor enslaved. People don't tend to enslave or deport their schoolmates - their fellow-learners.

April 1961