Colonialism made us feel backward. It was always Europe that was advanced and enlightened, and it was always the East that was backward and wretched. Rather than honestly say that they had come to plunder, the colonial rulers said that they had come to school the East – it needed to be civilized. Every European colonizer used the phrase – the French called it mission civilisatrice, the Portuguese called it missão civilizadora and the English called it liberalism.
It took an immense effort of political will in the colonies to craft powerful movements against the colonizer. Different cultures of rule and resistance marked the battlefields, with some engaged in armed struggle while others were able to build resistance through non-violent mass action. But what united all these movements was the deep desire for freedom – for a break from the experience of backwardness.