The Widespread Effects of Neocolonialism

The following is taken from a talk given by Teresa Enrico, the International Liberation Reference Person for Pacific Islander and Pilipino/a-Heritage People, at a topic group at the Care of the Environment Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in August 2013.

In RC we often talk about capitalism, a system in which the majority of people work and produce for the profit and “benefit” of a few. We understand that in the current period, class oppression (classism) is driven by capitalism.

A new goal for care of the environment was adopted at the 2013 World Conference. It talks about the patterned, never satisfied “need” for more and more resources. This pattern of greed is built into capitalism—the system that the world is running1 on, especially the West. Generations of hurt feed this system. It’s a system that can no longer sustain itself and that is collapsing. We must look at and discharge about capitalism in order to think well about many things, including effectively caring for the environment.


Colonialism is a particularly destructive manifestation of capitalism. It is “capitalism on steroids.” Colonization takes everything from a people—their culture, language, and resources, and ultimately the people themselves. Along with brutally killing the colonized people, it attempts to “colonize” their minds. And it takes money from them and puts it into the pockets of the colonizer. It’s ugly. It’s bad policy. It’s not good for anyone.

At least ninety percent of the countries of the world have been colonized at some point in their history. European countries conquered each other for centuries. Then they “needed” more resources, so they found new places, new lands to colonize. This has continued into the present. The United States is currently the world’s “top colonizer.” Our histories of colonization mean that we have a lot of undischarged feelings about “taking over” and “being taken over.”

The word “colonialism” can make people think that it is something from the past. However, colonial patterns, policies, and practices have evolved with capitalism and are alive today. “Neocolonialism” more accurately describes our present situation. Colonizers used to get on ships, come to your country, kill people, and steal things. That still happens. However, the colonizers are now corporations. And in many cases, those doing the taking don’t even come to your land—they “take” while sitting at home in the United States or Europe.

Whole economies are built around filling the West’s never-ending “need” for more resources. Crops are planted based on the latest “food want” of the United States. Entire school systems are set up so that everyone learns English. (Indigenous languages are dying at a rapid rate.) People from other countries are “drawn” to the wealthy West in order to survive, which drains their home countries.

Colonization predates racism. Racism was devised and used to perpetuate colonization and justify it. Colonization is manifested in class oppression, genocide, slavery, militarization, assimilation, imperialism, and nationalism. It involves dominating and destroying a people and their cultures and extracting from them everything that can be taken. It is what drove the slave trade. It drove the genocide in Africa, in the Americas, and all over the world. Colonization also fuels the destruction of the environment. Under colonialism (capitalism), all forms of life, both human and non-human, are sacrificed to the operations of greed and profit. Colonization describes where we find ourselves today!


Every oppression includes recordings of violence, domination, and dehumanization. The oppressor group uses violence (or the threat of it) to dominate the target group. The targeted group is dehumanized. All of this is systematic, systemic, and institutionalized.

We are hurt in many ways as young people. As part of this, we accumulate distresses about our bodies, closeness, and connection. The oppressive society manipulates these distresses so that they become connected to sex and sexual distresses.

Our sexual distresses can be understood in the context of colonization—of slavery, domination, dehumanization, and war and other violence. Distresses related to our bodies and to closeness and connection are particularly difficult to discharge because of what was done to us as a people. We can also remember that our bodies, and being close to other humans, are our first and primary environment.


Sexual hurts, colonization, and racism are heavy topics. Surprisingly, when you put heavy and heavy together, you can make it fun. I did an early sexual memories workshop for white people and global-majority people, with racism and colonization at the center. I asked a white person how he was doing, and he cheerfully said, “I have my direction for the weekend: My people killed your people.” Not one to miss an opportunity, I said, “Great!” As a result, the rest of the weekend centered around, “My people killed your people,” and, from my perspective, “Your people killed my people.” We made up a song to the tune of a well-known Broadway musical. It went something like this (along with dance moves):

Your people killed my people,
killed my people, you know.
That is why my father incested me,
incested me, incested me.

The song had several verses, including one about slavery and one about Native people being killed by smallpox in the Americas.

At first we people of the global majority sang it separately. Then we shared it with the white people. Everyone discharged a lot. (I propose that we only use such songs for discharge!) There is something useful in not hedging on what happened in the past. It’s useful to say it right out, but with a light enough tone that people can discharge. Bad things have happened, and we can face them now because we aren’t going to relive them; we are just discharging their effects. Irreverence can be a contradiction.2


What are the three most profitable industries in the world today? They are the pharmaceutical, gun, and sex industries. It follows that we are heavily targeted by each of them. 

Drugs are generating billions of dollars each year. As many of us know, it is hard to recruit anyone into RC these days (at least in the West) who isn’t on or hasn’t been on drugs.

We are continually inundated with and manipulated by stories and images of violence, guns, and the military. As a mechanism of men’s oppression, the military systematically conditions men to be isolated and expendable, and to dominate others. The military and the growth of the sex industries are interconnected. Where military presence increases, so do prostitution and pornography, which serve to distract and numb men and reinforce their patterns.

We are all impacted by the sex industries, especially by pornography. At present, we will rarely find students for our RC classes who have not been directly affected by pornography. We need to discharge about the sex industry and pornography to think well about connecting—with ourselves, with other people, and with the environment.

The sex industry has grown exponentially and dramatically in the last thirty years along with the sexualization of society. This is a systematic and worldwide phenomenon. Younger and younger people, both boys and girls, are being targeted and, especially the girls, are ending up sexualized in their appearance and behavior.

Whether or not you think you have any relationship to the pornography industry, you do. Pornography constantly restimulates everyone’s sexual distresses as well as their oppression as females and males. It distracts all of us from working to end societal oppression. It distracts us from thinking about and caring for the environment.

Pornography has nothing to do with sex, closeness, or connection. It has nothing to do with our humanness. It is about dehumanizing, degrading, and exploiting people, particularly women. It reinforces the domination of women by men. It keeps men isolated and constantly manipulated into the oppressor role. It is designed to be addictive so that people come back to it over and over again. Users of pornography are preoccupied and in a constant state of not being able to think. The use of pornography is tying up intelligence that could be used to tackle important issues, such as care of the environment.


We can discharge and get our minds back. We can take this on3 for ourselves and hold out to others that they can do it, too. Our minds were “attempted to be colonized.” We can reclaim them. I’ve decided that I will not allow my mind to be used like that. I can decide where to put my attention—and so can you!

What is your relationship to colonization, pornography, and care of the environment?

1 "Running” means operating.
2 Contradiction to the distress
3 “Take this on” means undertake this.

Last modified: 2014-08-28 22:03:58+00