Civilizing Mission

Arguably, the line between a ‘proletariat’ and a ‘volk’ is a thin and blurred one, as evinced by the fact that “independents” make up the majority of the American body politic and electorate. Also, the mysterious decline of a society’s civilization and European colonialism combine with one another and go hand-in-hand as a comprehensive explanation for both polarization and social fragmentation both in the past and in the present moment. And as mentioned before, at the heart of European colonialism is a “civilizing mission” and an aura that is cultivated to imbue the colonial and imperial character with a sense of nobility and greatness. But as recent history shows us, the “civilizing mission” is anything but civilized and noble, hence the paradox as well as the hypocrisy of the colonial and imperial character and moral order. 

As Noam Chomsky wrote: “But to reassure ourselves that the powerful are motivated by ‘elevated ideals’ and ‘altruism’ in the quest of ‘stability and righteousness,’ we have to adopt the stance called ‘intentional ignorance’ by a critic of the terrible atrocities in Central America in the 1980’s backed by the political leadership that is again at the helm in Washington.” Chomsky added: “Adopting this stance, not only can we tidy up the past, conceding the inevitable flaws that accompany even the best of intentions, but more recently, since the advent of the new norm of humanitarian intervention, we can even go on to portray US foreign policy as having entered a ‘noble phase’ with a ‘saintly glow.’” 

Hence, to believe in the so-called “civilizing mission” of European colonialism and American global hegemony is to partake in “intentional ignorance.” Edward Said spelled out the basic argument, logic, or rationale underpinning or undergirding this so-called “civilizing mission” when he wrote the following: “The argument, when reduced to its simplest form, was clear, it was precise, it was easy to grasp. There are Westerners, and there are Orientals. The former dominate; the latter must be dominated, which usually means having their land occupied, their internal affairs rigidly controlled, their blood and treasure put at the disposal of one or another Western power.” And the fact that Westerners “could strip humanity down to such ruthless cultural and racial essences was not at all an indication of their particular viciousness.” Said added: “Rather it was an indication of how stream-lined a general doctrine had become by the time they put it to use – how streamlined and effective.” 

To borrow from Wael Hallaq, colonialism and its “various arms” which serve either an economic or cultural purpose “are structurally interconnected with the discursive formations of their home cultures, especially the academic institutions and their central-domain specializations.” Hallaq added: “That these academic-corporate structures are engulfed by a wide range of sociopathologies is taken here as a foregone conclusion.” Not only sociopathic, but also genocidal. As Hallaq wrote: “Consistent with this narrative, I argue that colonialism, of the settler and nonsettler type, is inherently genocidal, in every shade this term implies, an implication that will require us to expand the meaning of genocide beyond its conventional physical forms.” 

It comes as no surprise, then, that the automatic and natural response towards genocide and sociopathy on the part of a great number of colonized peoples both past and present is a push for independence and self-determination. And in terms of the British and European experience with colonialism, one of the most important causes of the “dissolution” of British and European colonialism was that “it gradually lost its raison d’être in the eyes of a growing number of people both in the colonies and in the metropoles.” In short, the appearance of a “civilizing mission” could no longer conceal the essence or reality of genocide and sociopathy, and as a result, global public opinion both past and present have undergone a basic and general shift against colonial policies and practices. Moreover, the idea is that people can improve themselves if they are left free and independent, and as suggested before, the idea of being left free and independent is both antithetical and anathema to the basic doctrine and logic of European colonialism and American global hegemony which we outlined and spelled out above. 

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