Thursday, October 27, 2011

To think beyond the present

I sat in a meeting with African journalists yesterday who are taking part in the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists as part of the US State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. Only half of the entire African group was present - the English speaking half - and a separate meeting will be held today with the French speakers. The split got me thinking about the legacy of colonialism and the concept of imperialism.

Let me say, I have no respect for a person who accuses the West or anyone else of “imperialism.” It isn’t that they’re wrong. Financial institutions, defense contractors, oil companies, and all types of multinational corporations are motivated by the same impulses that states used in the past to take over foreign lands. Yet the persistent use of the term imperialism is a wall erected in the minds of people who seek to blame someone else for their problems, a wall that insulates them from the realities of human existence. People lived before us, and people will live after us. We don’t exist outside history.

We human beings who are breathing at this moment in time too often don’t grasp the fact that history is happening now, that people in the future will look back at our time and call it history just as we look back at the Persian Empire or the Roman Empire or the Mongolian Empire. “Imperialism” has always existed in one form or another. To chalk up the world’s problems to Western imperialism shows a profound lack of critical thinking skills and an inferior level of intellect. The present does not stand alone. All of history is interconnected. Islamic imperialism was influenced by Roman imperialism and influences Western imperialism. What’s happening in Palestine didn’t suddenly start in 1948; it started at the dawn of history. Perhaps if the Arab world studied more European history, it would understand why Israel exists now. Now, history is no excuse for the atrocities that Israel commits, but understanding that history could lead to a more productive thought process to solve the problem rather than looking at it with blind rage.

As the world moves away from a state-based economic system to one dominated by multi-national corporations, we are seeing less freedom than what was shown during the twentieth century promise of democracy. We all face global corporate imperialism at this time, and the imperialists come not only from the West, but from every country on this planet. We can either work together - East and West - to fight it or refuse to cooperate, point fingers, and let it take away the rest of human freedom.

What do you choose? Choose to occupy.

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