*Recently, someone in academia (no point in revealing the exact location) was criticizing the West for destroying Middle Eastern and other cultures. Academically, this instructor was teaching of the “evils” of the West, and how Middle Eastern cultures were suffering and being erased. The instructor used imperialism as the model.
The imperialists overtook the foreign lands and exploited their resources and their citizens, making the lands colonies. The colonies surrendered their wealth to the imperialists who got fat and enjoyed the bounty of the land. The indigenous people of the colonies worked hard to make the lives of the imperialists easy and prosperous. The great thing about academics is that if one theory works, it can probably explain other events, and if that theory fits your personal ideology and position, all the better.
Imperialists considered themselves monarchs who achieved their positions via merit, when in fact their rewards were simply fate, being born to certain people in certain places.
While luck is described as preparation meeting opportunity, for many of the imperialists, preparation was simply being born in the right family, and opportunity was people that you could lord over because you held greater power. The idea that there was meritocracy to the administration of the colonies is a cruel joke. The idea that the best and the brightest led the colonies is disproven by the foolish management of them, and anyone who was the best and brightest would never have justified, under any framework of reasoning, the atrocious treatment of the indigenous people. That’s my view of history, and certainly not held exclusively by myself alone, it seems to be a consensus.
So now, according to the colonialist/imperialist interpretation, the global market is imposing the cultures and attitudes of the West upon the Middle East and other regions, according to the instructor. Western values have little regard for the any values other than their own, according to the theory of Western Globalization, which must concur with and mainly follow the path of the imperialism theory. First, we enslaved you and took whatever you had that was valuable. Now, we’re destroying your culture with hamburgers, pizza, donuts, coffee, nice shoes and denim pants, not to mention cell phones and computers.
The exploitation is no longer the British East India Tea Company, it’s Apple, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and Pizza Hut.
The evil Western values that are corrupting the Third World are Corporate America, whose evil conspiracy is to lure the naïve citizens into their ideology and get them to abandon the values of their culture and adopt the ideologies of the imperialists.
Now, there’s some thinking for you.
How did we package imperialism?
Just hidden in all of those tasty treats and that convenient communication device that doubles as a computer?
Perhaps there is some devilish chemical we put in all of those double lattes.
The largely internecine conflicts in the Middle East, presently in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen (with undertones well beyond those states) are forcing citizens out of that region of the world, with the total emigrating population larger that the population of Spain, over 25 million and counting. Could it be that they are leaving a culture that justified the poor treatment (and by poor treatment we mean beheading, stoning, torture) of their fellow citizens?
The people fleeing these troubled lands seem to be from a culture of intolerance and greed, as well as complete disregard for their fellow countrymen. While one could shoehorn the Western imperialist ideologies into some sort of culprit for this malicious treatment of their fellow citizens, anyone making that case would encounter some very difficult answers to provide, which they more than likely could not answer at all.
One of the unpleasant questions I am asking, is if other countries where these refugees are attempting to settle really want people who think killing and torturing those of your own country with whom you disagree should be a policy; and, if they can’t get along in their country, who is to say that they won’t start the same thing wherever they go?
The case could be made that the refugees have family and religious ties much deeper than those of the state, which would cause one to question their loyalty to any state, would it not? If your state has chosen to torture and treat you as if you weren’t even a citizen of that state (minorities too numerous to mention here, but Untouchables, Uyghurs, et. al.) leaving is certainly an option. Leaving before they kill you us not as much an option as a necessity.
While the West has its share of discrimination and mistreatment, the mistreatment of some of the refugees in the Middle East is atrocious in the extreme. This is not the culture that the West is exporting. Even the colonial culture realized that killing people was a waste of resources, but I am in no way denying that the imperial power murdered people, nor am I condoning it. It is just that comparing the imperial behavior to present behavior is like comparing apples to warheads.
Many of the Middle Eastern theorists seem to be of the opinion that the superpowers are using the corrupt leaders of their region as pawns, and to a certain extent they are correct, but the dictators and unelected leaders who are being played for chumps by the Western superpowers are getting something out of it.
The age-old question prevails: “What’s in it for me?”
Corrupt leaders have existed ever since there were leaders and corruption which lines the pockets of those leaders is by no means a new idea. Harry Truman said it best: “You can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.” The bottom line seems to be that from the perspective of some of the modern theorists, the Western values have corrupted the Middle East and other places and caused them to behave in some of these more atrocious ways. These theorists seem to want to blame the West on the problems that they face, as if the West has been the source of corruption and assault on their culture.
But the global village theory of Marshall McLuhan, where the bias of the Western media has influenced the naïve minions has had the effect on what would be considered one-way: The Third World and the Middle East are adopting Western values, and some are being killed for doing so. After all, if they’re out to kill your culture, just kill them. Not a policy of the West, thank you very much.
Certainly, the West has exploited other cultures; no doubt about it, that was history documented to the most miserable of detail.
Now, the so-called imperialists are offering tasty food, fine-fitting clothing, great coffee and sugary donuts. I am just as sure that if you were to offer the opportunity to market a great product to the West, in spite of people willing to market and distribute your great product while they take all of your profits, you have that opportunity.
Presently, the Third World offers only commodities such as coffee beans and crude oil, among other commodities in which West prefers to indulge. Consider some of the delicacies or common street food that would not make it in the West, like fried pigs heads (yes the whole head, from China) and partially incubated duck eggs (from the Philippines) and while we’re at it, how about some grilled guinea pig or surstromming, fermented fish so strong that it is only opened outdoors.
Bollywood of India makes, on the average one-thousand more films that Hollywood makes in a single year. How come we’re not drowning in Bollywood films here in the Western world?
Anyone still naïve enough to fall for the idea that social media will help people create the “global village” (a term coined in the early 1960s, by the way) and bond everyone together is dreaming.
Countries like China and Iran, neither of which could be described as terribly friendly with or interested in becoming another America, block social media as much as they can. I am not opposed to foreign cultures, we have a lot of diverse cultures in the U.S., and the only restrictions we insist upon are the rights of all citizens that our Constitution demands. Some of the folks who have resettled here are insisting that they have rights to violate others’ rights because their culture demands it. The Unites States has never accommodated those who wish to discard our Constitution because it disagrees with their culture, and Constitutional rights are our culture, period.
Our Western culture recognizes rights that Americans have fought and died for; insisting that the Western culture is one resembling the repression and slavery of the imperialists is a non-starter. Our attempts to assemble governments in other countries that resemble our own Constitutional government have been met with accusations of attempts to destroy the culture of those countries, mostly because those countries have cultural biases and mistreatments that some would prefer to retain. That is their choice, just don’t insist that we’re trying to destroy those biased and unfair cultures; they make imperialism look tame.
Jeffrey Neil Jackson is an
Educator & Literary Mercenary