Obama the Imperialist
Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden" is one of the most excoriated poems in all of Western literary history. The piece is considered the poetic apologia for British imperialism, a concept that following the ravages of World War II and the increasing disintegration of the English empire, fell into very bad odor. Critics adhering to the doctrines of multiculturalism will find much to condemn, since Kipling unapologetically advocates European and American intervention on behalf of those nations struggling with famine, disease, and poverty. He automatically assumes the West should share its science, medicine, and mores. The application of Einstein's theory of relativity to morals and policy had not yet infiltrated Kipling's very old school British mentality that there are peoples and nations that need to be raised up by the self-sacrifice of the West. He thought it right "To seek another's profit, and work another's gain." He urged his readers:
Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease...
There are not many today, even the most stalwart old school Brits, who would defend Kipling, well-intentioned though he may have been. British imperialism, no matter how altruistically conceived, is dead as the proverbial doornail. Non-Western nations, including nations of Africa, have long repudiated any aspect of colonialism, and have been claiming their independence and their place in the sun for decades.
That is why the recent neo-imperialism and condescension of President Obama, who, along with his wife Michelle, supposedly identifies himself as a fellow black and therefore empathetic to the peoples of Africa, peoples who are longing to prosper as the West prospers, come as such a shock. The fact is that our president, so dedicated to "equality," has cautioned Africans against wanting what the populations of Europe and America have attained for themselves. They are to wait until the perfect means of energy is available for them to attain to Western standards of living.
He said: "Ultimately, if you think about all the youth that everybody has mentioned here in Africa, if everybody is raising living standards to the point where everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning, and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over -- unless we find new ways of producing energy." The YouTube video of his speech can be found here.
It is almost impossible to overstate the raw condescension and superior tone of President Obama's words. They are the flip side of the "White Man's Burden," which at least, as articulated by Kipling, was seen as a means of raising peoples by providing Western science, medicine, food and schooling. The idea later may have been seen as turning festering and rotten; it may have wound up being a cause of oblique and overt oppression; and it may finally have been justifiably rejected by colonized peoples; but at the very least, Kipling was writing about progress against such things as famine and disease. It's doubtful he would be interested, were he alive today, in forbidding Africans air conditioning, housing, and cars because the carbon-based energy needed to provide such things might contribute to global warming. It is doubtful that he would have advised the Africans to continue to suffer until the time for their aspirations met Western standards.
Obama is telling the African peoples that until they have "clean" energy available, they are not to aspire to what the West presently possesses. They are to wait lest their desires for cars, air conditioning, and homes wind up polluting the planet. It's a bad thing, the president also appears to be saying, that Africa has so many young people who aspire to such luxuries. Overpopulation can lead to bad things happening. It can lead young people to have dreams, hopes and aspirations. Didn't Obama himself once have dreams? Are dreams of the sons to be suppressed, or at th,e very least, put off? Do such dreams belong only to the West? Do they belong only to people like Obama? It is hard to escape the conclusion that Obama thinks his version of the "White Man's Burden," bolstered by the doctrinal purity of the theory of global warming, is right for the beleaguered and less learned masses of Africa. Our president has spoken from an insufferably "superior" position, letting Africans know their place in the scheme of things. Obama knows best. It's condescending imperialism at its worst.