The West’s language of imperialism

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

Zafar Bangash

Dhu al-Qa'dah 20, 1428 2007-12-01

Reflections

by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 36, No. 10, Dhu al-Qa'dah, 1428)

Western imperialists have a number of strategies that they use to impose their will on others. Brute military force is one such weapon, of course, but the language used to justify it is just as important; in fact, often more important, if the victims of imperialism can be persuaded to consent to their own exploitation. The resort to force is often a tacit admission that the moral argument has been lost. This is what has happened to the rhetoric of the “war on terror”, launched by the neocons in the wake of 9/11. Almost the entire world, except for some Americans, recognise it as a war of terror waged by the ruthless, murderous capitalist elite that rules the US with no regard for human life or any other moral value.

There are also numerous other expressions, equally divorced from reality, that are used not to serve the cause of peace or justice but merely to advance the West's exploitative policies. Such expressions as the “will of the international community”, the “peace process”, and the “promotion of freedom and democracy” have become staples of political discourse. One might assume that the “will of the international community” refers to the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the world's population or their leaders. Not so; it refers only to the will of the US, its surrogate Israel, and sometimes their British, French or Canadian allies, or their puppets in other parts of the world, whose opinions might be taken into account for political convenience. The other terms have similarly been mangled beyond recognition.

During the “Cold War”, there was another expression in vogue: the “free world”. This was used to distinguish the West from the “captive” world that lay behind “the Iron Curtain”. Millions of people in Eastern Europe were duped by Western propaganda about freedom and democracy. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe has been opened up to Western multinational corporations, and its people have been driven into poverty without discovering any of the apparent benefits of freedom. For Muslims the experience has been even more harrowing. When America talks about freedom and democracy, Muslims immediately think of the torture chambers of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and the Bagram Airbase. They also think of the million Iraqis killed since 2003, and the tens of thousands more in Afghanistan, and the millions trapped in the concentration camps called Ghazzah and theWest Bank. In Palestine the “peace process” has become the magic expression that is supposed to end the Palestinians' misery. As long as the Palestinians accept without question whatever demands the Americans and the zionists impose on them, the peace process is said to be “alive”. If they question the zionists' unjust demands, they are immediately accused of prolonging the misery of their people. Thus the Palestinian leaders, not the zionist occupiers and their American backers, are held responsible for the Palestinians' never-ending suffering.

Such distorted language has been an effective tool in the hands of oppressors throughout history. European colonialists went intoAsia and Africa to “civilise” them. These societies are still paying a price for the white man's civilising mission. Modern equivalents include the “developed world” as opposed to the “undeveloped” or “under-developed” world; i.e. the non-West. Development is defined in terms of material possessions alone, acquired by fair means or foul, mostly foul. There is not even a hint that human values may have a role in determining the extent of a society's development. The US may be the most technologically advanced country in the world, but morally it is bankrupt. It has a skyrocketing divorce rate, a thriving industry in illegitimate children, and incredibly high levels of violence against women and children. It also has the largest prison population in the world. The US also excels by a wide margin its nearest rival in inflicting pain and suffering on other peoples, killing millions in the process. So can the West really be regarded as civilised and developed? “Savage” and “barbaric” would be more apt descriptions. The situation in the rest of the Western world is little better.

The twentieth century belonged to the West. It is also the century that witnessed the killing and exploitation of more people than any other century in recorded history. If the capacity to kill is a measure of progress, then the West indeed is the most advanced civilisation in history. But the intensity of resistance to its brutality indicates that the overwhelming majority of people in the world reject such notions of freedom and progress. If this resistance is coordinated, the West's (and especially the US's) domination of the world can be successfully challenged and defeated. The starting point must be to reject the language of imperialism that is used to justify and advance the West's exploitative agendas.

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