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American Man’s Burden

I came across this the other day

It’s the official seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, founded in 1629. You can’t see it very well, but the Native American is represented as saying “Come over and help us”…

Interestingly, a Native American is also represented on the current day seal, though without the arrow (originally held downwards in a sign of peace) and no longer pleading to be force fed Christianity and foreign culture.

I wonder how many Native Americans are left in Massachusetts now? 0.6% of the population according to the 2005 census.

So what you may ask? Well, an article (which I can’t find anymore) made the point that the current attitude of Bush et al. , that they are doing the world a favour by spreading ‘freedom’ in Iraq and other places, is very much the same attitude that enabled the colonial nations to simultaneously destroy cultures and exploit people around the world while at the same time sighing about how tough it was to be so good to the natives…

Extracts from The White Man's Burden by Rudyard Kipling. It was written in 1889 after America took the Phillipines from Spain (full text)

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

Consider some more contemporary comments by American intellectuals (from here):
the US "has become an empire, the most magnanimous imperial power ever" Dinesh D'Souza

"And the truth is that the benevolent hegemony exercised by the US is good for a vast portion of the world's population. It is certainly a better international arrangement than all realistic alternatives." Robert Kagan

America has a "uniquely benign imperium." Charles Krauthammer

**Update 22/02** Here's an article about the American use of water torture in its colonisation of the Philippines.
**Update 23/02** Well, here's a quote that makes the point well I think, I came across it listening to a very interesting BBC Radio documentary about Arab-Americans Marines who served in Iraq. It's Bush announcing the beginning of the invasion of Iraq (18 March 2003):
My fellow citizens. At this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger. (George W. Bush)

... thanks, but no thanks mate.


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Richard on :

Talking of empires, I found this a rather interesting article. It certainly suggests a more practical method of empire building.

julian on :

Yes that is interesting, I had never thought of the EU as an empire, but it makes sense...

The language used is quite postmodern: "it does not dominate, it disciplines" a la Foucault... :-|

Though I disagree that "European has become an identity as strong (or as weak) as American or Chinese." I find that the strength of national sentiment is routinely underestimated in Europe.

Richard on :

I guess the success of the EU is because it doesn't play down the national sentiment. You are both a national of your country and a European. I find that people are generally proud to be part of it. That is apart from the British, but then they have chosen not to join the bits that benefit people generally (like the Euro) so don't see the immediate benefits.

julian on :

Ya, it's a balancing act. When you see the results of the various referendums on treaties and the like, the outcome has always been very close - like 49.5% vs. 50.5% and stuff like that.
I think most people want to have the advantages of the EU, but many don't want to be told they're 'European' rather than 'Italian' (or whatever). Though with younger people no doubt that is changing a bit...

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