Here’s a thought-provoking piece from Le Monde Diplomatique.
I always like a broad historical perspective on current events, especially one that emphasizes process and contingency, rather than ’twas ever thus or the equally shallow now everything is different forever. This article is a useful reminder that our world, which we tend to see in terms of nation-states, is still very much a legacy of empires. A great many current events can be seen as struggles over how to reconcile tensions either created by empires, or masked and suppressed by imperial control.
I’ve often thought this before, especially when conversations turn to Russia or China. To hear some people talk, you’d think both were liberal western democracies before Communism came along and turned them into warmongering despotisms. In fact historians a hundred years from now will probably speak of a Mao dynasty, as just one more in a long line, and not the first one founded by a popular uprising against the wealthy. Russia was an imperial power, with designs on eastern Europe, long before the Revolution. In fact the Revolution came about largely because Russian elites sent their people off to be slaughtered uselessly in the First World War.
I’m from Ireland, the first of England’s colonies and perhaps the worst-abused. Yet Ireland also supplied many of the soldiers who carried out England’s conquests, and many a slave overseer for the Caribbean colonies, too. Colonization is not a simple thing, and the lines of division are often drawn in sand, not chiselled in stone. The linked article is a reminder to keep that imperial perspective in mind when looking at a world in which no one admits to being an empire.