Exterminate All the Brutes by Sven Lindqvist Essay (Book Review)
Is it possible to consider the world and society in which the phenomenon of Holocaust develops as civilized? Is it a result of the Nazis’ brutal actions or the consequences of the development of racism in the history of the Western civilization? In his work Exterminate All the Brutes which was first published in Sweden in 1992, Sven Lindqvist tries to give the answers to these controversial questions with references to the peculiarities of the historical process during two centuries and analyze its effects for the 20th century.
Sven Lindqvist develops his vision of the issue accentuating the fact that Holocaust provided by Hitler is just the representation of the events known earlier as the effects of imperialism and colonialism. Thus, Holocaust is a kind of racism which supports the idea that there are superior nations which can rule the world and to do it effectively, it is necessary for them to “exterminate all the brutes” (Lindqvist 5).
Exterminate All the Brutes is written in a form of a travel diary. That is why this book combines such genres as the travelogue, literary criticism, and historical analysis. Such organization of the work helps the author develop his considerations about the nature of Holocaust on the basics of the travelling observations which gives him the opportunity to provide definite examples and with paying much attention to the history of such social and political phenomena as imperialism and colonialism.
The title of the book is the words taken from the novel written by Joseph Conrad Heart of Darkness. These provocative words reflect the main idea which is developed in Lindqvist’s work and can be explained as the imperialistic intentions of Empires to create the world where there is the place only for the civilized ‘whites’.
The possible way to expand the power and then to ‘clean’ the territories is to kill the native peoples. Lindqvist accentuates that such terrifying method as killing the masses of people was not provided only during Holocaust but also characterized the Empires’ expansions at the ‘wild’ territories. To understand the reasons for such authority’s actions, Lindqvist discusses the basics of the social theories which were spread among the public in the 19th – 20th centuries (Lindqvist).
Are all the races equal? The history of imperialism and the development of racism prove the opinion that colonialists had a rather strict vision of this issue.
Racism was justified by the progress of such theories as social Darwinism and the evolutionary theories. The main principle of these theories was the idea of natural selection. It was considered by sociologists as appropriate for both biological and social spheres. Thus, according to this theory, weak examples of definite species cannot survive under the pressure of the environmental conditions, and that is why they disappear.
In relation to the social development, weak people disappear under the pressure of dangerous natural effects, and the whole communities of aboriginals disappear because they cannot live according to the principles of the civilized world. However, Lindquist concentrates on the violent character of these events, and many native peoples are just killed by colonialists as the weak element of the natural and social chains.
The next important feature of the book is the author’s development of the concept of ‘darkness’ with references to Conrad’s novel. At first sight, it is possible to speak about ‘dark’ aboriginals who do not know the benefits of living in the civilized world and reject the implementation of its symbols and innovations in their native realities.
Colonialism can also be considered as the attempt to educate the dark masses of the Asian and African territories. Nevertheless, Lindquist states that the historical reality is cruel and the real meaning of the word ‘darkness’ in this context is hidden in the violent nature of colonialists whose real intentions can be associated with imposing darkness on the colonies instead of providing light and education.
Thus, the author pays the readers attention to the fact that “the educated general public has always known what outrages have been committed and are being committed in the name of Progress, Civilization, Socialism, Democracy, and the Market” (Lindqvist 68).
Every phenomenon has many sides and its special price. The perspective from which the historical situation is observed can influence greatly its interpretation by the public and researchers. Thus, the author of the book focuses on the idea that it is unnaturally to try justifying the destruction of the whole cultures of definite peoples with principles and needs of democracy or progress. Colonialism as well as genocide should not hide its devastating nature behind the appeals to contributing to the development of the world and society.
In his book Exterminate All the Brutes, Sven Lindqvist presented the complex analysis of the historical situation of colonialism which was developed on the principles of expanding progress and civilization and resulted in violence, racism, and discrimination directed toward the native peoples in colonies. Moreover, the author compares the events of the 19th century with the examples of genocide in the form of Holocaust provided by the Nazis in the 20th century.
Lindqvist, Sven. “Exterminate All the Brutes”: One Man’s Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide. USA: The New Press, 2007. Print.
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