The Question of Imperialism

Of the many difficult questions a person can ask about the rights of man, one of the toughest is whether the people of a country are ever their own supreme authority.  To err toward an absolute "yes" or "no" seems to lend credibility to a variety of atrocities, and trying to strike a balance between the two extremes can plunge the answer into useless subjectivity.  But a good answer is readily available for those who concern themselves with sound principles.

First, a claim to nationhood is a positive claim to geographical authority, which implicitly forfeits jurisdiction beyond a country's expressly defined boundaries.  But this jurisdiction may be extended should desperate situations or intolerable violations of natural law occur (Second Treatise of Government, sect 144).  As such, a nation's majority vote by itself does not necessarily grant that nation's behaviors international legitimacy, as our natural rights provide the basis for both international justice and what is known as imperialism.

Second, those totally rejecting the legitimacy of imperialism oftentimes forget that most people, whether citizens of the USA or the UAE, have not had the opportunity to enter into a social contract.  In fact, most are born under the authority of governmental entities, regardless of consent.  In addition, although many vote to influence their government, the ability of individuals to reject authority according to their personal reason and cultural development is not necessarily a universal right.  Instead, most people find themselves under the legal authority of others, both past and present. 

And thus, it is necessary to recognize that the moral value of the democratic republic exists partially in its reflection of the majority's will, but never in a refusal to subject unwilling citizens to law.  Interventionism, for its part, can be similar to strictly national laws in that people are held to moral standards regardless of their consent, and by countries which they did not necessarily form or expressly choose.  And perhaps more interestingly, this similarity increases greatly when influenced governments are ruled by despots.  

Third, it is only fair to say that even should the entire world not arrive at an entirely uniform consensus of what is "good," for a people to become less evil and more good under the influence of others is not only beneficial, but moral.  And conversely, it is fair to say that a people remaining evil or influencing others to become more evil is not only less beneficial, but also wrong

Therefore, since no nation can ever be its own supreme authority, and all governments must force someone to abide by law against his will, and positive influence is always good, the question arising from cultural imperialism is not whether it should take place.  Rather, the question concerns who is right and what is good.

Herein lies great danger, as even the most ignorant and unstable people are oftentimes convinced that if the world were Plato's allegory of the cave, they would be the sole escapee to have discovered the sun, and they thus believe themselves entitled to impose their "enlightenment" upon others.  Within this tendency toward narcissistic ignorance is found the likelihood of barbaric imperialism, by which morally inferior cultures seek to influence others by force or the threat thereof, for purposes contrary to the unalienable rights of man. 

Resulting from such immoral imperialism, two primary reasons exist for a nation's forgoing interventionism.  The first reason exists in the acknowledgment of multiple morally variable, ethnocentric cultures with armies, and thus in the interest of self-preservation.  But the second reason for non-intervention, which errs in the opposite philosophical direction of wrongful imperialism, results from a relativistic, multicultural worldview.

It is interesting to note, however, that while many multiculturalists claim to oppose cultural imperialism and an objective code of morality, their actions suggest otherwise.  In one instance, President Obama decries our "imperialist" past, yet he declares that "[t]he genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all."  It is impossible for Darfur to shame us unless we are called to justice beyond our borders in order to stop those who -- also in the name of necessity, morality, and even democracy -- commit atrocities.   

Thus, the only true and moral answer to the question of intervention is that there lies within man an understanding, however polluted by environment and selfishness, of natural law (as explained by C.S. Lewis).  There must either be a standard by which men judge both themselves and the world, or men must never war, intervene, argue, or vote unless something affects them in a displeasing way.  That is to say, they must only act entirely selfishly.  And if man's motives are entirely rooted in subjective selfishness, then he has lost his claim to moral superiority in affairs both foreign and domestic.  In short, he must always appeal to a universal concept of civilization if civilization is to exist at all.

America's forefathers knew where this code of civilization originates.  It is not in contradictorily defined and enforced ideals such as liberty and equality, and it has not evolved from the ape to the human, nor is it evolving in our day and age.  It is and must necessarily be a declaration from our Creator, a Truth which exists beyond the authority of the human, beyond the tampering of intellectuals, beyond culture, beyond race, and beyond nation (Second Treatise, sects 135 and 136).  And to those who disagree, it is only fair to ask from where their Truth and rights come and whether or not someone who disagrees with them has a right to enforce another standard.

It must be confessed that the purpose of this article is not to foster an interest toward the invasion of every country in the name of human rights.  Americans are not moral enough as a people to do so, nor do they have the resources to do so, nor would uncivilized people necessarily recognize the benefit of Judeo-Christian liberty given to them against their will.  But it must be recognized that cultural imperialism in itself is neither necessarily evil nor disposable, and it is practiced by almost every person on the globe on some level or another.  In certain cases -- such as nearly uncivilized Rome -- it has even been beneficial in the long term.  And it must also be realized that conservatives (particularly Biblical Christians) have been hoodwinked into rejecting the universal applicability of conservative values, yet leftists will not reject the universal applicability of leftism. 

Americans must understand that imperialism is not imperialism when it is an enforcement of real, objective morality.  Rather, imperialism under these circumstances becomes the cause of justice, of righteousness, and of goodness.  But without the firm acknowledgement of the Noble Code, man's government comprises subjectivity, sheer will, and brute force, with tyranny as his only form of intervention. 

Jeremy Egerer is a recent convert to Christian conservatism from radical liberalism and the editor of the Seattle website www.americanclarity.com.
Of the many difficult questions a person can ask about the rights of man, one of the toughest is whether the people of a country are ever their own supreme authority.  To err toward an absolute "yes" or "no" seems to lend credibility to a variety of atrocities, and trying to strike a balance between the two extremes can plunge the answer into useless subjectivity.  But a good answer is readily available for those who concern themselves with sound principles.

First, a claim to nationhood is a positive claim to geographical authority, which implicitly forfeits jurisdiction beyond a country's expressly defined boundaries.  But this jurisdiction may be extended should desperate situations or intolerable violations of natural law occur (Second Treatise of Government, sect 144).  As such, a nation's majority vote by itself does not necessarily grant that nation's behaviors international legitimacy, as our natural rights provide the basis for both international justice and what is known as imperialism.

Second, those totally rejecting the legitimacy of imperialism oftentimes forget that most people, whether citizens of the USA or the UAE, have not had the opportunity to enter into a social contract.  In fact, most are born under the authority of governmental entities, regardless of consent.  In addition, although many vote to influence their government, the ability of individuals to reject authority according to their personal reason and cultural development is not necessarily a universal right.  Instead, most people find themselves under the legal authority of others, both past and present. 

And thus, it is necessary to recognize that the moral value of the democratic republic exists partially in its reflection of the majority's will, but never in a refusal to subject unwilling citizens to law.  Interventionism, for its part, can be similar to strictly national laws in that people are held to moral standards regardless of their consent, and by countries which they did not necessarily form or expressly choose.  And perhaps more interestingly, this similarity increases greatly when influenced governments are ruled by despots.  

Third, it is only fair to say that even should the entire world not arrive at an entirely uniform consensus of what is "good," for a people to become less evil and more good under the influence of others is not only beneficial, but moral.  And conversely, it is fair to say that a people remaining evil or influencing others to become more evil is not only less beneficial, but also wrong

Therefore, since no nation can ever be its own supreme authority, and all governments must force someone to abide by law against his will, and positive influence is always good, the question arising from cultural imperialism is not whether it should take place.  Rather, the question concerns who is right and what is good.

Herein lies great danger, as even the most ignorant and unstable people are oftentimes convinced that if the world were Plato's allegory of the cave, they would be the sole escapee to have discovered the sun, and they thus believe themselves entitled to impose their "enlightenment" upon others.  Within this tendency toward narcissistic ignorance is found the likelihood of barbaric imperialism, by which morally inferior cultures seek to influence others by force or the threat thereof, for purposes contrary to the unalienable rights of man. 

Resulting from such immoral imperialism, two primary reasons exist for a nation's forgoing interventionism.  The first reason exists in the acknowledgment of multiple morally variable, ethnocentric cultures with armies, and thus in the interest of self-preservation.  But the second reason for non-intervention, which errs in the opposite philosophical direction of wrongful imperialism, results from a relativistic, multicultural worldview.

It is interesting to note, however, that while many multiculturalists claim to oppose cultural imperialism and an objective code of morality, their actions suggest otherwise.  In one instance, President Obama decries our "imperialist" past, yet he declares that "[t]he genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all."  It is impossible for Darfur to shame us unless we are called to justice beyond our borders in order to stop those who -- also in the name of necessity, morality, and even democracy -- commit atrocities.   

Thus, the only true and moral answer to the question of intervention is that there lies within man an understanding, however polluted by environment and selfishness, of natural law (as explained by C.S. Lewis).  There must either be a standard by which men judge both themselves and the world, or men must never war, intervene, argue, or vote unless something affects them in a displeasing way.  That is to say, they must only act entirely selfishly.  And if man's motives are entirely rooted in subjective selfishness, then he has lost his claim to moral superiority in affairs both foreign and domestic.  In short, he must always appeal to a universal concept of civilization if civilization is to exist at all.

America's forefathers knew where this code of civilization originates.  It is not in contradictorily defined and enforced ideals such as liberty and equality, and it has not evolved from the ape to the human, nor is it evolving in our day and age.  It is and must necessarily be a declaration from our Creator, a Truth which exists beyond the authority of the human, beyond the tampering of intellectuals, beyond culture, beyond race, and beyond nation (Second Treatise, sects 135 and 136).  And to those who disagree, it is only fair to ask from where their Truth and rights come and whether or not someone who disagrees with them has a right to enforce another standard.

It must be confessed that the purpose of this article is not to foster an interest toward the invasion of every country in the name of human rights.  Americans are not moral enough as a people to do so, nor do they have the resources to do so, nor would uncivilized people necessarily recognize the benefit of Judeo-Christian liberty given to them against their will.  But it must be recognized that cultural imperialism in itself is neither necessarily evil nor disposable, and it is practiced by almost every person on the globe on some level or another.  In certain cases -- such as nearly uncivilized Rome -- it has even been beneficial in the long term.  And it must also be realized that conservatives (particularly Biblical Christians) have been hoodwinked into rejecting the universal applicability of conservative values, yet leftists will not reject the universal applicability of leftism. 

Americans must understand that imperialism is not imperialism when it is an enforcement of real, objective morality.  Rather, imperialism under these circumstances becomes the cause of justice, of righteousness, and of goodness.  But without the firm acknowledgement of the Noble Code, man's government comprises subjectivity, sheer will, and brute force, with tyranny as his only form of intervention. 

Jeremy Egerer is a recent convert to Christian conservatism from radical liberalism and the editor of the Seattle website www.americanclarity.com.

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