Friday, October 11, 2013

Imperial Visions, Imperial Hypocrisy, Imperial Culture.

The first well documented empire seems to have been the of Sargon, almost 4500 years ago. A couple of thousand years later, Cyrus came up with a radical innovation. Whereas previous empires had been frankly exploitative and xenophobic, Cyrus claimed his conquests to be for the benefit of both conqueror and conquered, bringing them the blessings of higher civilization. It was an innovation subsequently widely adopted, and also invented independently elsewhere.

This was a radical departure from tens of thousands of years or human experience in which we divided ourselves into we, the real people, and they, who weren't really people at all. This new inclusiveness, Prof Haarari points out, was hardly hyprocrisy free, but it had long term consequences in terms of the internal digestion of foreign cultures. Over periods of many centuries, the conqered became one with the conqerors. This is vividly illustrated in the cases of the Roman, Arab, and Chinese empires, where assimilation into the imperial culture eventually became almost complete.

He points out the irony that modern anti-colonialism, which both promoted and grew out of the collapse of the old European empires, has it's roots in doctrines that came from and were promoted by those very empires: human rights, self-determination, socialism, and so on.