Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Looking back at the Age of Imperialism (1880-1914), do most people around the world, even those living in the core (most advanced capitalist) countries that have a history of pursuing imperialist policies, want imperialism 19th century-style? Are we proud that apartheid conditions were created in South Africa during the Age of Imperialism? Are we proud that Britain reduced India into a pathetic colony and deprived this great nation it of its potential to serve the needs of its own people and pursue autonomy ans self-determination?

Is the world looking back with pride at what the US did in the Philippines (with the concentration camps) and Cuba in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War? Is what France did to Indochina and Algeria, reducing them to colonies and exploiting labor and resources, such a great thing that we must go back to those days? Was all of this worth it so that a few thousand families could be the barons of wealth, others enjoying the glory of military mights, and still others glowing over the political power they enjoyed?Are people today delighted that a form of a new phase of imperialism, a subtle phase under globalization, is practiced and causing social upheaval, economic polarization, political instability?

I am simply going to assume that the answer is a resounding NO for the vast majority of the world's population, at least those with a modicum of a social conscience.  Yet, the world is tolerating a return to the Age of Imperialism in the early 21st century in the name of globalization engendering economic growth neoliberal style for all nations, although within those nations the middle class is shrinking in size and in terms of income levels, while the working class is faced with constant bombardment of hard-fought rights like collective bargaining, eight-hour day, health care and benefits, and a social welfare safety net that is filled with large gaps.

Although social safety nets in the developed countries amount to 1-2% of GDP, the reactionary elements favoring corporate welfare instead of social welfare consider that any tax money going to the safety net is excessive. This is largely because the socioeconomic and political elites have accepted the idea that the political economy of the market system must be converted into a "market society". In my view this a reverting back to the Age of Imperialism when Western imperialist politicians, businessmen and bankers viewed the world as a marketplace that the state must secure on behalf of business.

The rise in socioeconomic polarization since the fall of the Communist bloc ought to give pause to all people on the planet who believe that the panacea for humanity rests with the political economy of state-supported capitalism. While in 2000, there were 322 billionaires with combined assets of $898 billion, in  2012 there were 1426 with assets totaling $5.4 trillion. While in 2002, nine of the ten top billionaires were US nationals, in 2013, five of the top ten billionaires are US citizens, with a combined assets of about one-quarter of a trillion dollars.What kind of a human being feels great that there a handful of billionaires while one billion around the world live a under one dollar per day, and two billion people live on less than two dollars per day? Does one not have to have an absolutely atomistic, self-centered nature and total lack of social conscious to have billions while knowing 30,000 babies per die die of starvation?

One hundred years from now, when our great grandchildren look back at the world in which we live today will they be proud of the legacy we left for them, or will they be immersed in shame as we are that our ancestors enslaved Africans, created colonies, killed people for demanding living wages, isolated and discriminated against women merely because they wanted to assert their humanity no differently than men? If we have for-profit health, education, utilities, and everything else, why not have a for-profit value system that permeates our identity? Why not measure our individual worth by the market system instead of intrinsic value as living beings? Has the market system so totally absorbed our value system that it too has become a marketable commodity no different than a machine? In that case, am I any different than the computer I using right now to communicate this message to an otherwise market-oriented audience? Will people look back with pride and glory one hundred years from now and praise my generation for its legacy or condemn it?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Might it be suggested that to answer the questions presented in this discourse, research begin with the Ottoman Empire? The Ottoman's seem to have been more cultivated in social collectivism by 1915.