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Past present: Hegemons and hypocrisy


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As the most powerful force in world history over the last four or five centuries, imperialism has carved up whole continents while oppressing indigenous peoples and obliterating entire civilisations. Related to power, it may be an individual endeavour where talent, skill and professionalism are deployed to achieve greatness and glory through conquests and occupation. An imperialist nation uses military power to defeat other nations and assert its greatness.

Whether achieved by an ambitious individual or with the unanimous consent of the majority of people, past experiences show that in both cases imperialist forces slaughtered people, and looted and plundered their resources. Land would be occupied, people enslaved and even sold in markets.

When the Athenians defeated the Persians, several Greek cities were freed from Persian control. After the Persians were driven away, the Athenians, returned to the ruins of their city, proud to have fought for freedom. So triumphant were they that they hardly noticed their losses and began to rebuild their homes and the city walls. Eventually the Delian League was formed in 478 BC with a goal to make Persia pay and to free the Greeks under Persian dominion. The member states of the league could either offer armed forces or pay a tax to the joint treasury.

When the Island of Samos rebelled against Athenian domination, the Spartan assembly voted for all men to be killed, and women and children to be enslaved. Later, the Assembly realised the harshness of their decision and reversed their vote.

Another case was the Island of Milos. The Melians claimed Spartan descent but remained neutral throughout this conflict.

When the Island of Milos was invaded by the Athenian armies, it is said that the general wanted the people of Milos to surrender to the Republic of Athens. The rulers of Milos asked the general that if they were neutral and harmless for the Athenians, why were they were being forced to surrender?

The general responded that the Athenians wanted their surrender because they were weak and Athens was powerful, and as per the rule of nature, the weak should succumb to the powerful. Eventually, their refusal to surrender led to a war in which they were defeated. The Athenians slaughtered the male population, while women and children were enslaved.

The arrogant attitude of the Republic of Athens raises a number of questions. On the one hand, the Athenians valued freedom but on the other hand, they deprived other nations of it. An invasion was always supported by a majority vote – all perfectly legal and democratic. When the victors returned home, the entire population welcomed them with jubilation. There was no regret for the massacre committed and the blood spilt.

In another example of imperialism, the French Revolution raised slogans of liberty, equality and fraternity and the leaders of the Revolution tried to establish a society based on these concepts, yet failed to abolish slavery in the Caribbean islands where France had an economic interest. When the slave revolution broke out in the French colony of Tahiti, it was brutally crushed. Napoleon emerged out of debris of the revolution and built an empire after bloody wars and conquests, trampling revolutionary ideas without any remorse.

Another example is the United States’ fight for independence against Britain. When the war was over, a Declaration of Independence was immediately issued and the constitution drafted with an amendment of the Bill of Rights, but the slaves and their rights remained unmentioned.

The US claims to be a democratic government, but its foreign policy has little tolerance for democratic values, rights or economic and political freedom. The American invasion of the Philippines, Mexico, Vietnam, and political intervention in Asian and African countries is well known. How the US overthrew the governments of Iran and Chile are also on record.

If powerful democratic countries continue to value freedom within their system but violate it in other countries, it is a contradiction of their moral values. Freedom should be recognised as the fundamental right of all nations. Only then, imperialism can be prohibited.

Comments (11) Closed

hassan zaman Sep 15, 2013 09:13am

well said !

BISWAJIT ROY Sep 15, 2013 10:10am

NO i dont think so ...imperilism will not end ...btw i think this kind of injustice help mankind on the evolution front and check population from time to time..and darwin was right when he says survival of the fittest.

umer Sep 15, 2013 10:49am

Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. -Martin Luther King Jr -

BRR Sep 15, 2013 12:11pm

Imperialism is not the only evil of our times or through history. Conquests of foreign lands and subjugation of locals has been very common, including those of Eastern Europe, Balkans and parts of Caucasus by the Ottomans, and parts of Punjab and Sindh by muslim armies comprising turks and arabs. Such wars have been bloody - rivers of blood have flown regularly. The imperialists often were not blood thirsty, being motivated by money and power, and not by religion. Religious wars have been blood thirsty - ask any historian about invasions of Europe by Genghis Khan, by the Ottomons, and the crusades. History is replete with atrocities committed - the writer need not just single out imperialists.

Talha Sep 15, 2013 01:23pm

There is a factual error in this piece, The French colony was Haiti and not Tahiti

manjiani Sep 15, 2013 06:41pm

@umer: hi umer .once the imperialist army of punjab with their pathan payout mercenaries collect all the from sindh ,even gas is not given to sui people but given to punjab .it is is better to be with hindu raj where it is not such persecusion

tabi Sep 15, 2013 07:54pm

I think, he is exposing hypocrisy of imperialists, and he is right in many of his observations he mentioned in the article..... every one of us supports democracy and individual freedom... but when it comes to freedom of poor states and vested interests of powerful then we forget the spirit of democracy

Indian Sep 15, 2013 08:54pm

Yaa ,you have correctly said in your article. But missed to mention the Islamic barbarism and invasion ,Committed against many countries. Mainly against India for centuries. If you don't give correct facts in your editorial , you are cheating to yourself.

Sri1 Sep 15, 2013 10:50pm

Well written. But very very naive. "To each his own" is always the golden principle. First yourself, then your family, then your relatives, then your ilk or similar kind of people, then your city or state, then your nation, then human kind - this is the natural and normal priority for any person.

People in the same "multicultural" nation seem to abhor this diversity and either mildly stereotype or extremely use violence against the "others" or minorities or dehumanize those "others"!! So why would a representative democracy like the USA care about people outside its borders. It is for the people of those nations to choose a leadership of their own instead of a clique or general or a plutocracy. Don't blame the west for making hay while the sun shines - it is the foolishness of those nations whose people have decided to be meek followers.

Akil Akhtar Sep 16, 2013 07:08am

Man has not progressed an iota when it comes to civilisation the only improvement is technology. Man's behaviour is as savage as it was at the times of Alexander the biggest mass murderer. The US is now on a war path to destroy all muslim states that have an iota of capacity to stand up to Israel. In Syria they will make false pacts for peace until all chemical weapons are removed first and then find another excuse to attack and destroy its conventional army as well. Pakista will be next........

Dr HR Ahmad Sep 17, 2013 04:21pm

The messages from "Past Present: Hegemons and Hypocrisy" show how the present is well connected with the past. Dr Mubarak Ali has lucidly shown how the virus of imperialism is being transmitted from the republics 3000 BC till today. Since USA a is a gold medalist champion in defense budget. it ignores the public service being continuously on war front since WWI with no pause for even pop corn. The book death of the liberal class by Chris Hedges and Dr Mubaral Ali concluding paragraph enlighten us with mechanisms of imperialism. Those nations who can fight against it are free. But those who are in their laps, are enslaved. Bismark has rightly said that in every alliance there is a rider and a horse. In this context, most of the artificial states after the WWII are under the grip of imperilism to control resources and market. Thank you Dr Mubarak Ali for your eye opening article to wake us up from the long sleep.