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Imperialism: Why it was good

Conservative101
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4/27/2014 11:39:29 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Imperialism defined human history from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. Much of the inhabited world, previously inaccessable, was at one point ruled or influenced by a Western power. Many of history"s greatest moments are attributable to imperialism, including the first all-encompassing decision made in human history to end imperialism; the historic decision to allow all countries and all people to choose their own destinies. Indeed, few other chapters in history hold greater value than imperialism. However, it has long been a subject of intense debate whether imperialism was moral or not. Critics denounce Imperialism as "exploitation" and "slavery". This essay will outline how important imperialism was, how it has shaped modern history, and why its critics are wrong.

Before Imperialism, the world could be categorized into two different civilizations: Western and non-western. Western civilization was more advanced in almost every aspect. The west had made far more progress in the areas of government, law, technology. For example, a few western countries - the United States, Britain and France to name a couple, were governed by democracies in one form or another by 1875. Compare these countries to the average Asian or African society of the time, and we can see that democracy was completely unheard of in the non-western world. Despots, chiefs and monarchs ruled kingdoms and tribes there, under the same exact order that had existed for thousands of years. Critics claim that the non-western world was equal to the western world, but any accurate observer of history can tell that this was never true. In fact, the non-western world had more time than the west to develop into a truly-sophisticated civilization; and it never did. Certain civilizations, such as the Incas of South America, the Mali Empire of West Africa, and the Chinese Empire, advanced further than others, but even these could never compete with the progress of the West. For example, the Inca Empire was effectively destroyed by a small Spanish army. Thousands of Incan warriors who had carved out a large empire in South America were simply no match for Spanish guns and horses. If the Incan and Spanish Empires were "equal", shouldn"t the vast armies of the Inca have completely wiped out the tiny Spanish expedition? Shouldn"t Francisco Pizarro be a forgotten name, a name erased from all aspects of our culture and history? Shouldn"t the Inca Empire still exist today? This is not to say that the Incan people were inferior to the Spanish. This example, however, does illustrate the enormous advantage that more-advanced 16th-century technology gave the Spanish. Clearly, we can see that the western and non-western civilizations of the colonial era were not anywhere near equal.

But wasn"t it wrong to impose our control over technologically-inferior people? While the way the Europeans and the Americans sometimes went about colonizing is a subject of debate, the answer to the question shouldn"t be. Consider this. From birth to adulthood, age 0 to 18, children are effectively under the control of their parents. The reason why? Children need their parents. If our children were left uneducated and uncivilized, as young children tend to be, they could not function as part of society. The same thing goes with imperialism. If it weren"t for the influence of the West, non-western societies never would"ve been able to advance any further. The reason: non-western ideas at the time did not encourage technological or cultural advancement. Those societies would be the same way they were in 1500 AD, and 500 AD, and even in 500 BC. Am I saying people of the third world were incapable of governing themselves? In a way, I am. Critics of imperialism wail against westerners" "exploitation" of the natives, but it was in fact the colonizers that freed the colonized, in the long term. To understand how this is true, consider the example of freedom. Before Imperialism, many, if not all of the native people of Asia and Africa were ruled by despots. There was no such thing as democracy in the non-western world. Imperialism, though depriving the natives of their independence temporarily, actually planted the seeds of future democracy in certain countries. Many countries that were once European or American colonies are now democracies, such as Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines in Asia, as well as emerging and full democracies in Ghana, South Africa, and Maritius in Africa. True, the transition to democracy has been difficult in these countries. It is also true that most countries in Africa are not democracies. However, the Western ideas of self-government have penetrated the third world, and will likely continue to spread in the future. These ideas would not have been planted without imperialism, the reason being that the idea of democracy did not exist in the third world prior to Colonization. To relate back to the question regarding pre-imperialist societies" ability to rule themselves, the answer is no: pre-Imperialist era despots were not capable of ruling their people in a free way. The ordinary people they ruled did not have the ideas of freedom and democracy, and so they continued to follow the order that had existed for as far back as history goes. This system lasted until the colonizers from the west arrived. Unknowingly taking on the role of a parent, the nations of the west gave the ideas of democracy and freedom to the people of the third world. Because of this, citizens of the third world now have a far greater chance to achieve a democratic and free society than their ancestors did.

Another blessing that citizens of the third world have now because of the influence of imperialism is technology. The colonizers imported goods, such as cocoa and tea, and taught the natives practices that would make their lives easier. These included practices in farming and health. Improved health allows people of the third world to survive and live longer than they could previously. Europeans technology also makes the building of schools, dams, powerlines, railroads, roads, and other infrastructure possible. These technologies and practices have the potential to, and in many cases have, improve/d the lives of ordinary people in Africa and Asia.

As discussed earlier, Imperialism brought the ideas of freedom and self-government to the countries it affected. However, neither the colonizers nor the colonized back in the 19th century could"ve imagined the results that those ideas would eventually unleash. Now, 50 years after the end of Imperialism, with the exception of a few special islands and territories, independence has been granted to all nations of the Third World. Independence has not brought peace and prosperity however. Over the last few decades, much of Africa has been ravaged by civil war, political corruption, genocide, disease and epidemics. Critics of Imperialism and Westernization have unsurprisingly taken advantage of the unrest, blaming these problems on Imperialism. Their intentions are not good; Indeed, they are not attacking Imperialism because of the often-cruel ways it was instituted. The real reason behind the vocal attack on this system that is no longer even in use is simple: Imperialism is a symbol of the west. Imperialism is a reminder of Western affluence, success, power, and prosperity. Many of these critics therefore see Imperialism as a reminder of Western technological and military superiority over the rest of the world. This is appalling to them; Their doctrine is equality, and Imperialism demonstrably defied the system of equality that the anti-imperialists cherish so much. Because of this, anti-imperialist try to invoke Imperialism"s misdeeds in their accusations, and these misdeeds include the problems plaguing Africa today that Imperialism supposedly created.
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Conservative101
Posts: 191
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4/27/2014 11:41:01 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
These critics are all wrong for one reason: these problems existed long before Imperialism. Africa was no better of a place before Imperialism than it is now in the post-colonial era; war and turmoil dominated it then as it does now. The only difference is that the influence and ideas left behind from Imperialism actually gives people of the third world a chance to escape this chaos. Already, we can see that it makes no sense to blame Imperialism for Africa"s problems when it in fact provided the solution to Africa"s problems. However, anti-imperialists may have a hard time accepting this. Let"s look at some of the problems facing Africa today. First, civil war and political corruption. Today, democracy has yet to spread across all of Africa. Military leaders and strongmen such as former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, "President" of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe and Ugandan dictator Idi Amin have and continue to rule many countries in Africa. Many of these leaders have or do hold onto power for as long as a few decades through terror, propaganda and fake elections. Civil war rages off and on in various countries between ethnic groups in Africa or between political parties. But can these problems really be blamed on Imperialism? As far back as human history goes, wars between different groups in one nation have been fought. Tyrants were not introduced to Africa through Imperialism; in fact, the natives of Africa had been subject to monarchies and despotism long before Europeans arrived. Modern tyrants such as Gaddafi and Mugabe merely seize power the way countless tyrants before them had. Imperialism isn"t the cause of dictatorships and despots in modern Africa. The cause is the failure of many people in Africa to learn from Imperialism; to learn how to build a strong, stable, fair democracy. What about the Rwandan Genocide? There was an article about the Rwandan Genocide that blamed the killings not on the people who orchestrated them, but on Imperialism. The article claimed that the Belgian colonizers created racial tensions between the Tutsi and Hutu people, and these tensions lead to the genocide. This assumption is historically and realistically incorrect. Tensions between the Hutu and Tutsi races extend back before the Europeans even arrived. By the mid-18th century, the Kingdom of Rwanda had become the dominant power in the region of present-day Rwanda. Under King Kigeli Rwabugiri, the Tutsi-ruled kingdom implemented several systems, one of which was uburetwa, where Hutu had to work for chiefs of the Tutsi. These changes greatly divided the Hutu and Tutsi people. While the Belgian method of maintaining control of colonial Rwanda through encouraging racial inequality was wrong, the overall problems of the Rwandan Genocide were not created by Belgium. The Belgians merely created the circumstances needed for the poorly-treated Hutus to commit genocide against the Tutsi population. It makes no sense to blame this problem, and problems like these on the Europeans.

Imperialism did have flaws. Surely, the people of the third world deserve to govern themselves and to be free. It is also important to remember that the colonizers were not often good people. European nations were engaged in the scramble for Africa not because they wanted to help the natives, but because they wanted more land and more power. Some European powers, such as Belgium and Portugal, did not govern their colonies well, and in fact, left very little for the people in their former colonies. Certainly, the motives that guided Imperialism were not very pure. However, Imperialism will have a large positive effect on the countries it touched for years to come, because it made democracy in these countries possible for the first time and spread western technology and ideas that have the potential to make lives easier. Today, countries once touched by Imperialism, such as India, the Philippines, South Korea, and South Africa are emerging as successful economic powers. These countries will play important roles in the future world economy and political system. Many people living in these countries will likely have prosperous and successful lives in the future, and they will owe their success to the influence of Imperialism.

Bibliography:
http://www.ehow.com...
Mamdani, Mahmood. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda. Princeton University Press, 2001. Print.
http://en.wikipedia.org...
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thett3
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4/27/2014 11:42:06 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I'll read this later--I'm about to go out.

I'll debate you on imperialism over the summer if you want to
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Conservative101
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4/27/2014 11:42:35 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Got this from a friend, so don't give me credit. I thought it was really good; if you think imperialism was bad in the long way, then this is the essay for you.
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Kc1999
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4/27/2014 2:59:22 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Well, firstly, no, Imperialism was not good.

Chew on this for example:

Some people hold the rise of the west as just negative feedback, caused by religion. For example, if we are to take the means of governing, then middle eastern city-states adopted democracy way before Athens did, and although they did not exercise the powers of democracy as effectively as the Athenians did, democracy, or at least council democracy, was imposed.

I also therefore hold that democracy is not the best system of governing a country, or any country. Democracy is good, but the current system of representation is simply horrible in my opinion. It causes disunity in the nation, causes tensions and civil disobedience, and above all, it is in effective in it's hold and usage of power. Therefore, I can hold that not all countries are ready for democracy, or want democracy either.

Your point on technological superiority; the Islamic and Asian world did have technological superiority during the mid 12th century. Do you then hold the beliefs that they had every right to expand to the west?

It's 3:00am and my brain never works; I have been against imperialism for a long time. The imperialists were the ones who took the honour of our nation away, and they also took the prestige of my fatherland as shown here:

http://www.debate.org...

And I hold that there are no inferior cultures, but only different ones.
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bsh1
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4/27/2014 5:54:49 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
Is there a tl;dr version of this?
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Jifpop09
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4/27/2014 6:09:50 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I believe in economic and political imperialism. The term has gotten way out of context though, to always imply bad hings.
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Stephen_Hawkins
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4/28/2014 5:12:13 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/27/2014 5:54:49 PM, bsh1 wrote:
Is there a tl;dr version of this?

"Orientalism? No, I've never heard of it!"
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Conservative101
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4/28/2014 7:50:12 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/27/2014 5:54:49 PM, bsh1 wrote:
Is there a tl;dr version of this?

What do you mean?
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Kc1999
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4/28/2014 7:58:23 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/28/2014 7:50:12 AM, Conservative101 wrote:
At 4/27/2014 5:54:49 PM, bsh1 wrote:
Is there a tl;dr version of this?

What do you mean?

Typo of tidier, which usually means shorter.

I support Neo-Imperialism against those who cannot develop economically :P
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Conservative101
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4/28/2014 8:03:34 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Well, the essay focuses on three main points:

1. Imperialism has encouraged cultural advancement
2. Imperialism has encouraged technological advancement
3. The conflict that came after independence cannot be blamed on imperialism
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Stephen_Hawkins
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4/28/2014 9:58:12 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 4/28/2014 8:03:34 AM, Conservative101 wrote:
Well, the essay focuses on three main points:

1. Imperialism has encouraged cultural advancement

I'd rephrase that more neutrally to: "Imperialism encouraged non-Western cultures to adopt Western values", and then I'd start shouting Orientalism with

2. Imperialism has encouraged technological advancement

http://imgs.xkcd.com...

3. The conflict that came after independence cannot be blamed on imperialism

This is a more valid point, but I just strongly disagree with the way the essay phrased it. "Tyrants were not introduced to Africa through Imperialism", if we mean the modern understanding of the phrase, is clearly false. Tyrants require the existence of the nation-state (or larger), and the concept did not exist in subsaharan Africa until either the Ottomans or the West invaded, so the concept of tyranny would be rather difficult.

Similarly, there's the argument that pervades the piece of 'it existed before, so it's not caused by the Imperialists.' For example, "the Belgian method of maintaining control of colonial Rwanda through encouraging racial inequality was wrong, the overall problems of the Rwandan Genocide were not created by Belgium". It is so well known that Belgium not just let the racism (let's not be cutesy and say 'racial inequality') fester, but exploded the tensions to make more profit, that to say imperialism did not actively promote (instead of combat) these tensions is damning. Even if they did nothing, though, it would still be an equally damning claim to the proposition that imperialists "culturally advanced" the regions. It seems obvious to me that you cannot culturally advance a country by promoting racist sentiments!
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Stephen_Hawkins
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4/28/2014 10:42:41 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Also, meant to add, saying 'South Korea, India, and South Africa, etc. are greatly developing economic countries now!" is silly on three counts:

1) The common hypothesis is they are great despite, not because of, imperialism. This alone really smacks of just bad research, more than anything else.

2) Ignoring China and Japan, the two largest nominal GDP nations other than the USA, when making this claim smacks either of extremely missing a large hole in your argument, or if not, then cognitive dissonance. I'm assuming the former, but it seems like a bit of thinking about what the other side would say would make this rather obvious. Similarly, it ignores all the countries like Bangladesh or most of Africa which used to be imperialist victims, and are now plagued with economic terror. Indeed, they are the majority. So why is it that imperialism is the cause for helping the minority, and not the cause of harming the majority? There must be some other factor at play in at least one of this data sample, and, whether you believe it to be imperialism helped or not, to not address this point seems really like the original remark was thrown in haphazardly.

3) While they are growing quickly, the fact that they are growing quickly after imperialism, and after it by a long time, really doesn't mean anything. it sounds similar to saying that French growth is currently being fueled by its absolutist past, or that Germany experienced its economic miracle due to the policies of the Weimar Republic.
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