The Imperialist Character

And if the combination of polarization and social fragmentation is the overriding factor of international affairs at the moment, one must go one step further and determine the cause or the impetus of polarization and social fragmentation itself. And what we find is that colonialism and the perpetuation of colonial policies which stem from the very top are the primary causes or the impetus behind polarization and social fragmentation both past and present. As Arnold Toynbee argued, colonized peoples or those who come face-to-face with colonial influences and powers react to these colonial influences and powers in one of either three ways. For one, colonized peoples can assimilate to colonial influence and power. Second, colonized peoples can become anti-colonial zealots of various forms and orientations. And third, colonized peoples can become a “proletariat” in response to colonial influence and power.

And as Toynbee highlighted, the overwhelming majority of the people respond to colonial influence and power by becoming a “proletariat.” In turn, the colonization of a people and society is an indicator or sign that the lifespan of the civilization of the peoples who are being colonized has come to an end or is coming to an end. As a result, given that polarization and social fragmentation has now taken root in the United States, we can then perhaps infer that the lifespan of Western civilization is receding as was the case with the lifespan of Islamic civilization or that of Asian civilization in the past. And as the lifespan of Western civilization recedes, we see a resurgence of sorts occurring in Islamic and Asian civilization at the moment, even though on one hand the lifespan of Western civilization has yet to fully recede and on the other hand Islamic and Asian civilization has yet to fully resurge after centuries of decline and stagnation. 

As Henry Kissinger wrote in regards to what is essentially the colonial or imperialist character and persona we have now fully become accustomed with as well as the overall context and situation which prompted the colonial and imperialist character and persona:

“The global order during the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century was predominantly European, designed to maintain a rough balance of power between the major European countries. Outside their own continent, the European states built colonies and justified their actions under various versions of their so-called civilizing mission. From the perspective of the twenty-first century, in which Asian nations are rising in wealth, power, and confidence, it may seem improbable that colonialism gained such force or that its institutions were treated as a normal mechanism of international life. Material factors alone cannot explain it; a sense of mission and intangible psychological momentum also played a role.”

Hence, there is a combination of material and psychological factors which go into the colonial and imperialist character, but the psychological factors require a greater focus on our part, given that there is an equilibrium of sorts which is now arising between East and West in an economic and military sense. Kissinger added:

“The pamphlets and treatises of the colonial powers from the dawn of the twentieth century reveal a remarkable arrogance, to the effect that they were entitled to shape a world order by their maxims. Accounts of China or India condescendingly defined a European mission to educate traditional cultures to higher levels of civilization. European administrators with relatively small staffs redrew the borders of ancient nations, oblivious that this might be an abnormal, unwelcome, or illegitimate development.” 

And what the West perhaps saw as a “civilizing mission” outside of its borders was ultimately perceived and viewed as domination and subjugation by those who were on the receiving end of the so-called civilizing mission. And as Kissinger wrote: “It all but ensured that, after long periods of subjugation, the colonized peoples would eventually demand – and achieve – self-determination.” 

The “hallmarks” of the colonial and imperialist character were “avariciousness, cultural chauvinism, lust for glory” to borrow from Kissinger. And as suggested before, underneath the hallmarks of the colonial and imperialist character is the “civilizing mission” or the sense of a “White Man’s Burden” that has to be shouldered by Western peoples. As Hannah Arendt wrote: 

“The fact that the ‘white man’s burden’ is either hypocrisy or racism has not prevented a few of the best Englishmen from shouldering the burden in earnest and making themselves the tragic and quixotic fools of imperialism. As real in England as the tradition of hypocrisy is another less obvious one which one is tempted to call a tradition of dragon-slayers who went enthusiastically into far and curious lands to strange and naïve peoples to slay the numerous dragons that had plagued them for centuries.” 

Arguably, the colonial and imperialist character and its ‘civilizing mission’ mistakes the all-too natural cycle or phenomenon of generation and corruption with the notion or idea that there is something inherently defective or flawed with colonized peoples, even though the cycle of generation and corruption is something which the West itself is now experiencing and reckoning with to a certain extent. 

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