Friday, December 3, 2010

Millenarian Prophets of Rebellion

Maori Rebellion
During the Victorian Colonial Period, European Hegemony was often challenged by native movements that called for overturning of the world order.   Protected by magic and talismans, they violently fought their oppressors. None o f them succeeded.

Michael Adas in  Prophets of Rebellion:  Millenarian Protest Movements against the European Colonial Order covers Prince Dipanagara in the Netherlands East Indies (1825-1830), the Pai Maire or Hau Hau movement of the Maoris of New Zealand (1864-1867); the Birsa disturbance among the Mundas of Chota Nagpur in east-central India (1895-1906), the Maji Maji rebellions in German East Africa (1905-1906) and the Saya San risings in Burma (1930-1932).

The seers and prophets noted within the book have widely varying religious beliefs.  Prince DIpanagara was Muslim with Hindu influences,  Saya San was a Budhist who was viewed as the future Budha, Kinjikitile  was a native movement that gained strength from it opposition to witchcraft an sorcery, and although the Maori have plenty apocalyptic traditions of the their own, Te Ua Haumene appears to have primarily derived his vision from the Christian sources he was taught by missionaries.
The following causes of revolt are noted:
  1. Bureaucracies and Elite Displacement: it is very typical that at least some local autonomy is co-opted by the central powers of the area.  This may only be true in so far as that they may be more competently run, and thus not as easily ignored.  This particularly true where new technology and/or missionary work further changes the structure of the society.
  2. Questions of Legitimacy: Many societies weld religions and temporal power structures closely together.  It is very hard to pull apart the threads of the secular government without causing disagreement as to the basic correct structuring of the universe.
  3. Displacement and Relative Deprivation:  The former leaders of society find there avenues for position and power truncated.  Even if improvements in the bureaucratic functioning of society make everyone relatively better off.  They are not as well off as the colonizing rulers.
  4. Land, labor and taxes: To pay taxes to an outside source often requires that an economy be monetized, and commercialized.  Payments in kind may be replaced with cash payments.  Debts will be recorded and compounded over time.
  5. A Lack of Alternatives: Obviously if there is an alternative means to voicing disputes and protests can be voiced there is much less incentive to drive toward a radical millennial change.

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