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ESSAY : THE MASKS OF NEW IMPERIALISM
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Friday, 04 July 2014 02:50




THE MASKS OF NEW IMPERIALISM

"Fighting brutality against women and children is not the expression of a specific culture; it is the acceptance of our common humanity - a commitment shared by people of good will on every continent. Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment. Yet the terrorists who helped rule that country now plot and plan in many countries. And they must be stopped. The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women". (George Bush)

George Bush is not the First Empire builder to wage war in the name of women: THE GUARDIAN (September 21, 2002)

Whether it is fight against terrorism, WTO negotiations, Climate debates, Development aid, hegemonic powers of world have always used them as euphemism or veil to mask their covert aims of wielding and concentrating even more power and spreading their sphere of influence.

Imperialism is the creation and maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationship, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination. From ancient Roman Empire to medieval Mongolian to modern British; all occupied foreign territories to expand their kingdom and power and indulged in exploitation of residents of those territories to bring wealth and prosperity for their own rulers and aristocrats.

Initially it used a very explicit policy of might is right and brutal force was the usual means to capture territories, however later in modern times especially after American war of independence and French revolution with advocacy of liberty, fraternity and equality it became difficult to justify brutal use of power to home and colonial population, Thus to hide their double standards world powers have since used new veils and euphemism as masks. And thus evolved the new terms like white man's burden and noble cause of enlightenment to glorify the cause of imperialism and mercantilism and hide its associated evils.

There were many reasons why the imperialistic West wanted to seek overseas colonies.

The three things a colony could provide its master are –

♦ Natural resources.

♦ Cheap labour to exploit these resources with and to work in other industry.

♦ New markets for the master's goods.


Following World War-2 with criticism of imperialism and war, former colonies became new nations and it became almost impossible to occupy populated foreign territories (with few exceptions like Puerto Rico, Bermuda). Since then the world is facing a new type of problem of covert or implicit imperialism where territories are not captured and instead resources are transferred through acceptable means with factors of exploitation involved. Sometimes this wave has been called neo-colonialism too.

These acceptable means get their legitimacy through various factors like paid media campaigns, cultural hegemony, and free trade arguments through international institutions like WTO, World Bank, IMF, etc. Power used to be military in past, it is economic now. Capturing territories has given way to capturing wealth, natural and monetary. All the powerful countries today dictate terms to developing countries through their monetary power by following carrot and stick policy. Most modern shape of this system is wave of globalisation which seeks to minimise all forms of barriers between nationals, be it financial, trade or cultural. Information revolution has made communication very fast and efficient which has resulted in very fast global financial flows acting as most potent source of exploitation the world has seen so far. As a matter of fact Africa today pays more money every year in debt service payments to the IMF and World Bank than it receives in loans from them, thereby often depriving the inhabitants of their countries from actual necessities. This dependency allows the IMF and World Bank to impose Structural Adjustment Plans upon these nations. Such Adjustments largely consist of privatization programmes which result in deterioration in health, education, and inability to develop infrastructure, and in general, lower living standards in poorest region of world.


Masks that imperialism wields can take forms such as –

Foreign aid: It is undeniable that foreign aid is a tool of international relations, it serves some purpose to the country giving the aid. This purpose, it is claimed by those accusing the West of neo-imperialism, is to retain a sphere of influence over other countries by making them dependent on their  support. For example USA today says, North Korea, you're developing nuclear weapons? Now if you want aid you're not supposed to do that!

Cultural imperialism: When foreign aid is given, or companies set up abroad, they often take the culture of their homeland with them. This, it is claimed, destroys the heterogeneous nature of the world. Accusations of cultural imperialism range from American products being on sale in the third world and Asia pacific to Africa adopting Western legal and government practices.

FDI (Foreign Direct Investment): When MNC's  set up units in other countries, it creates euphoria in recipient country because of  employment generation, infrastructure improvement, etc. However, it turns out that such companies often indulge in illegal gratifications to Govt officials to get policies in their favour eg. Enron company case. Sometimes they export natural resources, thereby adversely affecting environment eg. companies like Coca Cola, British Petroleum. They also do not pay the employees of the developing contries' vis a vis their own standards in home country.


Economic imperialism has reduced third world countries to a status of sub colonies where powerful countries dictate their policies and plans for their own benefits which results into long term dependency of poor countries on them and further accentuates the differences between core and periphery. This modern form of imperialism backed by an updated form of the old imperialistic system that has caused many nations to openly dislike and oppose the United States and its allies. It is often apparent that the United States is the leader in developing neo-imperialistic relationships with other nations. Many nations believe that this neo-imperialistic attitude that the United States often takes through strong foreign aid packages and an intrusive foreign policy add up to just a modern form of the old British Empire that many of them fought for years to throw off.


Cultural neo-colonialism is also a threat. When rich nations give aid to poor nations, quite often the culture of the stronger nation is accepted along with the aid. The result is often a strong cultural clash, as can be seen when we see people in Third World nations receiving aid and demonstrating symbols of the cultures of the industrialized world. This can often result in the alteration of and destruction of cultures, which is another strong danger of neo- colonialism.

This begs the question of whether or not neo- colonialism is morally right. On the one hand, without the large aid packages, the already-low standard of living in many Third World nations would be much worse than it already is. On the other hand, however, it does give industrialized nations, such as the United States a great deal of influence and power over other nations when it comes to foreign policy. It is a question that will have to be resolved in order for the modern world to be at peace.




 

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