A Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing Colonialism

Ask any person in the world what day it is, and what year it is. They’ll probably give you a response like this: It’s Saturday, it’s 2021.

Image from Pixabay.

The answer is the same whether you’re standing in Washington, Johannesburg, or Beijing.

Makes sense, right?

But does it?

Why is it Saturday (or Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday as you read this). In fact, why is the week seven days long everywhere in the world?

Short answer: Colonialism

Long answer:

Many cultures have different calendars. I think most people know that the Mayan calendar counted up to the year we called 2012. There were movies, TV shows and other ill-conceived hysteria about the end of the world because of it. Likewise the Inca and Toltec had calendars.

But there are also current calendars running along side the one you use, and they don’t agree, not at all.

When is the weekend? You’d probably answer Saturday and Sunday. In Saudi Arabia, the weekend is Thursday and Friday. In Israel, it’s Friday and Saturday. However, both of those calendars hold to the seven-day week, as they and our calendar share strong roots and traditions.

What about the Chinese calendar? One form does (usually) also have twelve months, but the year is only 354 days long, and in their leap years, the calendar has an extra month. It’s possible to be born in a month that doesn’t exist most years. Another form of the calendar had only ten months. The fun part is that in this Chinese calendar a week has 12 days.

What year is it (asking in July, 2021)?

In the Korean calendar, it’s Juche 110. In the Chinese calendar, it’s 4719. In the Arabic calendar, it’s 1442. It’s 1435 in the Persian calendar, 2558 in the Buddhist calendar, and in the Hebrew Calendar, it’s 5781.

So wait a second, it’s 2021. Everyone says so.

Yes, they do. Why is that true?

Well, it started with European colonization of most of the world, known and unknown. After World War II and the last European empires were being divested of their empires, the largest global economy was the United States, which absolutely embodied European methods and standards (except metric). Even more recently with globalization in the information age, all of the software that makes it work is based on US standards.

Realistically, for the modern economy to work, there had to be some standard, and the most obvious, most widely-accepted one was the one of the colonizers.

So if you want to understand how colonization, or its more inflammatory term, white privilege, affects the modern world, you need look no further than your phone’s calendar app to see the beginnings of it.