What are the themes of Exterminate All the Brutes?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As the title of this work of non-fiction suggests, this book concerns itself with colonialism and in particular with the supremacy and tremendous cultural arrogance that lay behind the colonial project. The title is a famous quote from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and refers to one of the character's solutions to the colonial issue. Lindqvist in his own research exposes similar shocking views. For example, he quotes the ruminations of one member of the British scientific establishment:

Africa will be shared between England and France... Under European rule, the Africans will dig the ditches and water the deserts. It will be hard work and the Africans themselves will probably become extinct. We must learn to look at this result with composure. It illustrates the beneficent law of nature, that the weak must be devoured by the strong.

In particular, Lindqvist draws a parallel between such views through examining the impact of Social Darwinism on thoughts about colonialism and then how such views were extrapoloted into the more recent past with the Holocaust. He convincingly argues that the "logic" that led to the Final Solution had its roots in European colonial thought. The book therefore deals with the themes of colonialism and the kind of attitude and philosophy that allowed Europeans to justify their actions, which were so often horrific and brutal. 

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