What truly motivates imperialism is a question for the ages. Many would argue that greed is the culprit; others would argue that nationalism or something as simple as intolerance is what motivates one to amass enormous military forces in order to conquer lands. Whatever the case may be and whatever perspective one holds as to what in particular motivates certain individual to partake in imperialism, no one can deny the mind of an imperialist is an arrogant one. In the mind of an imperialist, his culture, cause or reasoning is superior to that of those he seeks to conquer. In the mind of an imperialist, no matter how inhumane his deeds, he is not a criminal nor is he a violator of human rights; he is a hero. Using the articles of Makau, Mosse, Grewal, Stoler, and Arendt and various other documents, this essay will explore and determine the reasons imperialists use to excuse their actions relating these to imperialistic actions of today.
All past and present leaders of imperialist states have, in some way, attempted to justify their endeavors . Some have tried to insert some type of noble, honorable and beneficial reasoning for their ambition; others have simply attempted to change the colors of the picture into black and white for their populace, to make the people believe that :the other is evil in one way or another. Black and White, I.e. “Good and Evil” The slogan of Ana imperialist leader has either obtained one of two ambitions, they have either been that the aim is solely run of the fuel to the hopes of prospering their nation or on the other hand, their actions of war were provoked by lesser, uncivilized and inferior enemy. been “My ambition is solely run on the fuel of the hopes of prosperity for our nation” or “Our acts of war were provoked by and lesser, uncivilized, evil and inferior enemy”. In either case, arrogance anboth cases, arrogance and the belief of superiority takes its rightful place in the minds of imperialists.
The first objective slogan is motivated by the thought that the “”Right to own through ability to obtain”” mentality, as in, one believes that since a nation, a people, or one individual he has the ability to take from others, hetherefore deemings themselves himself superior thus, they he has every right to take what theyhe wants form the other.himself. The latterlatter goal is obviously motivated by the notion that the dominant culture, beliefs and values are deemed superior to the indigenous peoples therefore not only is it justifiable to fight the indigenous, but also obligated to force righteousness upon them, for apparently, their own sake “My culture, beliefs and values are superior to yours, therefore I am not only justified in fighting against you, but I am obligated to force my righteousness upon you…for your own sake”; thus trying to paint themselves as saviors and champions of truth in order to cover up their true intentions of obtaining power, glory and wealth.
In his article, Makau touches on the mentality of Imperialism when he says’…The first dimension of the prism depicts a savage and evokes images of barbarism. The abominations of the savage are presented as so cruel and unimaginable as to represent their state as a negation of humanity.” (Makau 2). Makau takes us on a journey into the mind of the imperialist as it pertains to how they perceive their potential captives. He goes on explains how the imperialist praises himself as a savior and a leader of the civilized portion of humanity/, Whilewhilst his opponent is a savage and seen asand thus, is inferior, therefore the desire to occupy and eventually conquer his lands is nothing short of admirable, honorable and above, actually beneficial to the captives.(Makau 7)s, The controlling of the captives and their lands are thought to be beneficial given thatince they will then be exposed to, in Makaushis eyes, the clearly superior culture and traditions(Makau 9).
Makau also hints at the existence of the black and white perspective, or rather the “Good and Evil” perspective in the justification of impmperialism when he states: “…The state only becomes a vampire when “bad” culture overcomes or disallows the development of “good” culture” (Makau 2). Mr. Makau also gives an example of the elitist mentality of many imperialist states when he describes the blaring hint is supremacist thinking on the part of the European colonists in many parts of the world in the following quote:”…The fifth flaw concerns the role of race in the development of the human rights narrative. The SVS (Savages-Victims-Saviors) metaphor of human rights carries racial connotation in which the international hierarchy of race and color is rein trenchedrein- trenched and revitalized. The metaphor is in fact necessary for the continuation of the global hierarchy. In the human rights narrative, savages and victims are usually non-white and non-western, while the saviors are white. This old truism has found new life in the metaphor of human rights.” (Makau 5).
In the last quote, Makau gave a prime example oif how many times , the imperialist sees himself as the savior. This reinforces this idea that tThe imperialist justifies his ambitions by labeling his captives as savage and uncivilized, while he deems himself to be civilized and therefore superior. Thus, he is not be seen as a encroacher of human rights, but rather, one who the savage, inferior and uncivilized from themselves and forces upon them a far greater culture. Makau also exposed the hypocrisy in the modern day Human Rights movement in that its has adhered to this notionperception of white supremacy in the face of colonialism, the obvious reason being that the modern day human rights movement is led by European/Wwestern nations, therefore, there will be an inevitably biased view towards human rights violations committed by these nations. If any of the Western countries commit violations now or even in the past, they are seen as justified or not even acknowledged at all. Anna Stoler also gives us insight on this particular method of justifying imperialism when she says “Racial degeneracy was thought to have social and political consequences, both tied to the domestic arrangement of colonialism in specific ways. Interracial unions generally, and concubine in particular, represented the paramount danger to racial purity and cultural identity in all its forms” (Stoler 25). Stoler gives a rough view of the mentality of the European colonists in Africa, in that they too viewed their captives as inferior, thus deserving of ill-treatment.
To further this idea that race had a huge part in the mentality of the Imperialists, Referring back to a historical occurrence of human rights violations in the name of “Justified imperialism”, one may recall the colonization of Africa by the Europeans. The Europeans, like many before and after, justified their reign of terror in the African continent by simply degrading the African peoples to less than human; therefore dodging any attempt to mark them as murderers, as they were, after all, simply killing what they saw as savages. Hannah Arendt makes us realize the mentality of the European conquerors when she says”…Race was the Boers’ answer to the overwhelming monstrosity of Africa-a whole continent populated and over populated by savages-an explanation of the madness which grasped and illuminated them like ‘A flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate the brutes'” (Arendt 14). Again, the justification of the invader for neglecting the basic human rights of a people is simply because they are “inferior”.
When one speaks of the atrocities of the Nazis, one cannot neglect to speak of the Jewish population in Europe at that time, since they are believed to have suffered the most at the time of Hitler’s’ reign. A thorough analysis of Hitler’s rise to power and the eventual annexation of most of Europe into his empire will clearly show the superiority mentality of imperialist leaders (Hilter 154). The atrocities that took place in Europe are a clear example of how the mentality of imperialists to cleanse the inferior people plays out. Hitler needed to give the downtrodden German people an enemy to focus on, therefore uniting them to rebuild the nation (Hitler 98) and to eventually put Hitler into power. George Mosse gave a clear perspective on Hitler’s mentality towards the Jews: “The stereotype of the so-called inferior race filled with lust was a staple of racism, part of the inversion of accepted values characteristic of the ‘outsider’ who at one time threatened society and by his very existence confirmed its standards of behavior. Racism branded the outsider making him inevitablyy member of the inferior race, wherever this was possible readily recognized as a carrier of infection threatening the health of society and the nation” (Mosse 134).
Mosses’ objective was to show the strategy of the Nazis in how they pushed to instill a sense of superiority within the German populace over their Jewish neighbors. The Nazis realized that if they succeeded in pushing this view upon the German people, they would then unite under the man whom they saw as the one who gave them their identity as the superior race, therefore, locking Hitler’s influence into place, and insuring his future as Fuehrer. Hitler’s justification for his ambitions was a mix between giving the notion that his cause was noble, in that he was ridding the world of an “inferior race” (Mosse 134), and his belief that the Aryan race was entitled to wealth and prosperity at the expense of lesser nations, since it was his nation alone that acknowledged the superiority of the Aryan race. We all now understand, however, that Hitler’s true intention was to gain power for himself, not to uplift the German people, nor to rid the world of any real danger.
Hitler’s legacy is reproduced in various different ways of domination in this day in age. Let us now observe a more recent example of the mentality of imperialism as it pertains to human rights and the superiority complex within the hearts of the conquerors. The difference in the imperialism historically versus the imperialism that is going on today is that it is hidden, “not appearing imperialist” (Gindin, Pantich 37). Most, if not all of us are familiar with the current conflict raging in the streets of Iraq. Virtually almost all nations worldwide haveWe have all heard the adamant supporters of the illegal U.S- IraqU.S.-Iraq war claim that the sole intention for the invasion was to not only to spread freedom and democracy, but also Iraq was in need of humanitarian intervention. Yet, many people us still today are puzzled at the response of most Iraqis towards this supposed movement to “free” them. Michael Knight pushes us deeper into the mind of the American imperialist in his quote: “…In this case, the “we” is in the words of former Pentagon advisor Richard Perle, who is reported by The Pittsburgh Tribune Review to have said the “Bush doctrine” to promote democracy in other arts of the world is the only way to combat an “intensely ideological movement,” especially in the Middle East, that fosters global terrorism.
” Such are the pearls of political wisdom. This doesn’t mean imposing democracy by force. We can’t do that, and we know we can’t do that. But sometimes the obstacles to democracy can only be removed by force,” He said:
Such are the pearls of political wisdom. We cannot impose democracy by force. We can only remove the obstacles to democracy by force. Darling I would never rape you. I am just tearing your clothes off so we can make love…” ” (Knight).
In a slightly comical way, Knight reveals to us the mentality of the American imperialist. He also shows us how American imperialists use the notion of a “noble and just cause” to justify their acts of war. American iImperialists also believe their way of democracy is superior; therefore, they are justified in “saving” their supposedly lesser, inferior Middle-Eastern counterparts by bringing them their values, s…by force if necessary. Thus, though many believe their actions to have been illegal, immoral and a violation of human rights, because American iImperialists hold to the beliefnotion of “American cultural supremacy “”, they do not accept this perspective on their deeds. This is not an attempt to demean or insult Americans, I am simply showing how many still today, justify their nations international ambitions and crimes with words of arrogance and bias. Showing how many still today justify there nations international ambitions through crimes however terrible and demeaning to humans they may be with words of arrogance and bias by taking part in actions and ideas of superiority nationally and racially throughout the globe.
Mr. Inderpal Grewal also inputs his knowledge on the subject of American Imperialism when he says”…While these were also acts of solidarity with a particular idea of America, many other nations-states used the new solidarity against “terrorism” as an opportunity to repress insurgent movements and thus to support nationalist projects of state power in many parts of the world” (Grewal 545). Here Mr. Grewal explains how America and many other nations are using the newly made “Islamic-enemy” to justify their attempts at economic, political and military progress.
Furthermore, It has been argued by many that War , the invasion of Iraq in particular, cannot be declared on a noun or tactic because it is virtually a declaration of un-ending, eternal war(Baer, 36). Furthermore, it is the opinion of most experts that although the invasion of Afghanistan could be justified, the invasion of Iraq is a travesty that will cost the United States of America and its allies much more than in its immediate casualty rates (Scheur,124). The invasion of Iraq led many neutral Arab Muslims around the world to become more negative and even radically opposed to the hegemony of the United States worldwide upon witnessing the sheer magnitude of hubris in its assumption that their lives are worth more than those whom they have invaded and abused and continue to do so.
There is even a more hidden and less obvious way of how America and the West in general peruse imperialism in developing countries. The method of keeping developing nations under imperialistic rule is by offering loan services to these countries. Companies such as the IMF provide funds to struggling countries that need money to repair their countries in various different aspects. Although this money is not free is it simply a loan with high interest rates attached to it (Elich 374). In this way, Western countries can maintain control of other less wealthy countries. Since these developing nations are unable to pay back the enormous amount they owe in debt, the wealthy countries who are in charge of such organizations like the IMF impose strict regulations and sanctions for the country to help pay back the debt (Elich 375). Using this method, Elich says that historically imperial countries use a different technique, less obvious then in history, to control, maintain and violate human rights in certain areas and to certain populations (Elich 376).
In order to properly prevent imperialistic actions to continue which further the development of human rights abuses we must understand the roots of the actions itself and the very history of the people who commit these actions to help prevent them from furthering. To stop the current wave of imperialistic actions, it is necessary to put into perspective how this terrible cycle of power itself began and why it is being carried on. We must look at the political motivations of the world leaders now and historically pushing for this type of domination and carelessness for human life to continue and we must question their motivations. If the evidence, as clearly shown throughout this essay conveys that more innocent people are being harmed rather than helped why should the world sit by and let this continue? It is up to each of us to seek out the appropriate answers and to motivate others all around us to put a stop to these abuses.
Matua, Makau. “Savages, Victims, and Saviors: The Metaphor of Human Rights.” Harvard International Law Journal, (Winter 2001). Pp. 201-245.
Inderpal, Grewal. “Transnational America: Race, Gender and Citizenship after 9/11.” Social Identities, Vol. 9, no. 4(2003). Pp. 535-361.
George, Mosse, “Race and Sexuality: The Role of the Outsider.” Nationalism and Sexuality: Respectability and Abnormal Sexuality in Modern Europe. N.Y.: Howard Fertig, 1985. pp. 133-152.
Ann Laura Stoler. Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995.
Hannah ,Arendt. “Race-Thinking Before Racism.” The Origins of Totalitarianism, NY: Harvest 1948. pp. 158-184.
Knight, Micheal. “Empire America- Republican or Democracy?” Empire America- Spreding freedom, Democracy and Terrorism June 9, 2005. November 11, 2008. http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/6-8-2005-71265.asp
Gindin, Sam and Leo Pantich. “Theorizing American Empire.” Empire’s Law. UK: Pluto Press. 2006. Pp. 23-41
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Marina Books: 1998.
Baer, Robert. See No Evil: The True Story of A Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002.
Scheuer, Micheal. Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. New York: Potomac Books, 2004.
Elich, Gregory. “The Cold War and the New Imperialism: A Global History, 1945-2005.” Science society. Vol 72, no 3(2008). Pp. 376. (Academic Journal)
“…Race was the Boers’ answer to the overwhelming monstrosity of Africa-a whole continent populated and over populated by savages-an explanation of the madness which grasped and illuminated them like ‘A flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate the brutes'” (Arendt 14).