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Imperialism Notes

142 A says the whites in South Africa are like the Jews in Nazi Germany, foolish not to leave.
South Africa as a projection of European and North American fantasies. Much as he deplores China’s human rights record, his contempt for India is so much the greater. How can people avoid projecting their own values onto the third world? Always imperialism. Mine on China, his on India and South Africa. Such cases the real test of the underlying emotions that divide people. What annoyed people so much  about apartheid, what annoys me about the Chinese government. It is like the triumph of an opposing point of view, the taking for granted of opposite assumptions. The proponents of apartheid cased outrage, they seemed unfit to form a government. They seemed a kind of threat.


It is not that I really care that some many millions of Chinese are deprived of human rights. I fully recognise that people can be happy enough without them. Sinfulness of reaction. What is disliked is what  I dislike about the Chinese, the triumphal expression of an opposing philosophy. As if that philosophy, that one wants to see stamped out, can hold. It stands, like an insult to oneself.


175 We require acceptance of our own premises, our protestant view of freedom. We are in a state of war against other premises, premises that may assert themselves as nationalism. National idiosyncrasy with its will to power. With different moral standards of judgment. Impossibility of avoiding imperialistic attitudes They spring naturally out of morality, as in Bosnia.


349 Looking down to the roots of philosophical ideological etc conflicts we can get to the most basic of all, which are such things as the hostility between England and France. French imperialism precedes the republican ideology. Ideology provides the excuse for an aggressive expansionist spirit. The imperial impulse serves the ideas I happen to believe today. These ideas are not subject to ordinary rational criticism, or they would be undermined.


Napoleon seems like the almost inevitable product of the Revolution. But suppose we see Napoleon as upstart and destroyer? Tolstoy’s vision. That really the French revolution was nothing but an outburst of French imperialism. To see Napoleon as an upstart and to see him as producing no real expansion of human freedom at all, any more than any war does when it opens opportunities for individuals. I imagine the French after 1789 were like the Arabs after Mohammed. Wanting to expand and dominate they found a justification in their current political beliefs and habits.


297 One-worldism versus conflict theories. I feel inclined to say the conflict theory is the truer view. I would say there is not one world even now. That for any one theory to be successful would simply be one victorious imperialism



58 Power, freedom, authority. Empires, Islamic, Russian, British. Where is the joy in the exercise of authority unless the authority springs from your own will? How much freedom does any administrator have? And whence originates the will behind whatever action is taken? Who is free? Is the conformist free because he really believes and wants what he is permitted to do? Is the orthodox Muslim free insofar as he really believes in Islam?


132 things one finds intolerable. Slaveries, denials of freedom. It is in the context of a firmly established value or desire. The idea of the free born Englishman for example. Chesterton’s English drunkard. Common English experience between high and low, a drunken yobbishness, jealous of freedom and independence. The common Englishness of which one might not feel ashamed. Otherwise a concern for other people’s freedom is a species of imperialism. Or else sympathy for someone else’s power urge.

I do not object to the Berlin wall. I feel no sense of outrage at its existence. It does make for human diversity. That may be thought a sadistic view of life. Political setups are given, it is hardly for me to favour or not to favour them. Am I to care that millions of people are  in slavery or can do what they think they want? Can I measure their happiness? Is there some felicific calculus that may be applied? So where that is irrelevant one may take other criteria. Like aesthetic ones.


170 With loss of empire a loss of role. A general feeling of depression. Modern society seems tawdry, hardly to be believed in. Imaginatively constrictive. It seems that to feel positively about it one would have to accept some set of beliefs that there is no good reason to accept. … Dostoyevsky and the great game. Russian drive towards Constantinople. ‘Constantinople must be ours’. The desire to annex Erzurum. The alleged disinterestedness and benevolence of Russian imperialism. Compare with Britain’s ‘civilising mission’. ..Ex subjects of the old empire. Why take pride of nation or race, away from people? Because there are others who have no such pride...



212 Another aspect of decolonisation, the pressure of the morality of the weak. Take India, for example. Understandably elements in the Indian educated class got excited at the prospect of political careers. Theirs was a straightforward desire for power. The trouble is the way this struggle is presented, as thought it were inherently moral. As though all justice were on their side, and the British were arrogant oppressors. Throughout the world Britain has decolonised. The new power elites in the old colonies now present their rise to power as something inherently virtuous. Here is one of the worst aspects of decolonisation, this instillation of a bad conscience in the British. It is a load of nonsense, but sits well with American cultural imperialism. No one has an inherent right to a political career.


14 American civil war, Yankee imperialism. The point made that there must have been a self interested motive in the north attacking the south. The very existence of slavery was seen as a threat to the democratic ideology by which so many people felt they gained. We must not postulate a motive of Christian compassion. Such things do not really drive, certainly not that strongly. The whole structure of southern society before and after slavery was undemocratic. The Yankee democratic sprit, described by De Tocqueville, resents this most strongly. The first phase of Yankee imperialism was thus the elimination of the south. A later phase involved the elimination of the
British Empire. A later the campaign against white South Africa. Self government, voting, what is their value? while an egalitarian ideology like democratic Yankee does permit of triumphalism and other such imperialistic features. One may think of ideological conflicts as international in scope, or as the expression of various national imperialisms.


68 There is in England a distinct cult of the second rate. Perhaps it goes far back to once having had a French speaking aristocracy. Thus snobbery would denigrate native products and look abroad for real excellence. People deliberately set our to produce second rate stuff.  How can this be satisfying except in the context of this peculiar snobbery?


Another explanation is the nature of the British Empire. Repression of intense feeling was seen as necessary to it. There was a cult of stupidity. The ideology of such an empire is necessarily conservative. One has to remain aloof and amusedly contemptuous of nationalists and revolutionary movements….. The feeling which could lead to genius or creative originality is not encouraged; instead it is suppressed. ..


162 Conrad as a writer one tends to associate with Kipling. Both are in a sense fantasists pursuing fantasies of England at its imperial height. Conrad the archetypal Slav immigrant, so grateful to
England’s liberal policies that he prepared to see England as perfect. England as home of decency, haven for refugees. This is just as much an imaginary idea as Kipling’s oriental fantasies of Empire. English ‘decency’ hides the oppression. But the political refugee may be able to treat this with full  indulgence. Oppression seems so mild that he prepared to offer his full loyalty. But his view is rose tinted,


7 Cultural imperialism. I accept that there is no intrinsic virtue in national self determination. We must not compromise with our own standards of justice, we must not become ethical relativists as far as different nations and cultures are concerned. We must not overvalue the so called culture of conformity. We must sympathise with heretics and dissident everywhere, even in China. This attitude is cultural imperialism, so be it. But these are only our own particular ethical ideas, we must not seek to impose our lifestyle from above….. We may demand the strength to rule, culturally, to assert the supremacy of our values, but not urge our way of life as something to be everywhere copied…. All this comes down to the questions of what is our civilisation and what does it stand for? Does it have a significance deeper that there mere indulgence of material wealth? In creating classes which practice such indulgence are we spreading our own civilisation?


192 In defence of Gibbon. Current movements to decry and denigrate Gibbon. Yet I say that in any historical era there are controversies, sides to be taken, types of person in the ascendant. What does thoroughgoing historical relativism amount to ? Taking the side of the dominant orthodoxy? This the tendency of Hegel, and its effect is coercive. People attack Gibbon because they say he should not take sides. But why not? Imperialism versus anti-imperialism. Gibbon accused of imperialism, imposing the standards of his own century upon past times. But what does anti-imperialism amount to? Is it so much a suspension of judgement as an acquiescence in the ruling order, a kind of toleration of oppression? This mentality, anti-protestant and anti classical. Benevolent impulse having maleficent consequences.


357 The English among the Saudis must be a bit reminiscent of Jews in Europe in the early middle ages. Perhaps the best way to relate to a really alien people is as an imperialist of one kind or another. Working for Arabs, only concerned with money, coming to despise them. As an imperialist the culture need not impinge, one may give it an exotic and fruitful interpretation. One can even be part of the culture as a kind of Kshatriya.


186 1st
Iraq war. To act like an imperialist all you really need is wealth and power. What is the need for subtlety if you  have that? Bush’s motives and reasons for gong to war may little different from what they appear to be….He bribes a lot of other countries to go along with his position. Bush does not have to worry about being wrong. As far as he is concerned might is right


1 Ideal of empire. The
British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, both basically admirable and tolerant institutions. Think of them in their role of conserving minorities. All the minority sects and  cultures scattered throughout the east, now in grave danger, The imperial idea was a worthy and admirable ideal, the British Empire was not a contemptible institution, though I suppose there was a contradiction with democracy at home.


Look what is happening now to minorities in the middle east and elsewhere, National independence means more homogenisation.


185 French Revolution throwing things into confusion. With this the onrush of what Nietzsche called plebeian ideas. Problem of culture coming to terms with this. Then, towards the end of the nineteenth century, the ideology of imperialism.


After the end of imperialism, and the experience of the horrors of the twentieth century, what is there left as ideology? As cultural guidance? Following the collapse of empire we experienced a very enjoyable period of antinomianism. We abandoned the values of empire, of moral integrity and sexual restraint.


88 When the imperial venture came to an end what was left? When you give up the pleasure of ruling over other societies one is forced back into one’s own, one has to try to find fulfilment within the context of one’s own native culture. To satisfy this too must be able express itself as an overcoming. It is not satisfactory to live entirely as is expected of you. For life to be really satisfactory one needs a sense of intrinsic superiority. The democratic and egalitarian ideal, like the essentially Chrisitan, is inevitably evil and repressive. Therefore you know what you must look for if you want to find what is really worthwhile in modern society.


England of the 1860s…. for a while imperialism interrupted this. See how someone like Swinburne became an enthusiastic imperialist.


30 It is a natural thing for moral integrity to turn into cultural imperialism. But the American moral integrity and hence its cultural imperialism is infantile. Perhaps, despite itself, being at the mercy of economic interests, it sometimes does good.


Alvin Toffler The Third Wave. All American decadent and moralistic fads pressed together as the wave of the future. Also what is essential? Economics? Religion? Biology? Philosophy? He sees the radical discontinuities between wave and wave. If we accept the Nietzschean psychology the real one is between master and slave. And that remains the same whatever the technological or even the ideological order. The technological stuff interesting and reasonable but the sociological stuff disguised American cultural imperialism


245 It was not till the nineteenth century when Britain suddenly found herself in possession of a vast empire that she decided to take on the rather thrilling role of a ruling race. The imperial mentality was something rather like a game or a work of art, Kipling may well be judged a great writer. Of course the British were in no sense as quintessentially a ruling race as for example the Romans. Rulership was merely one thing we took it upon us to do. Not the fulfilment of the one destiny though sometimes sufficiently satisfying a role to make it seem so. The point to make is that in the context of the wider aim, which is cultural imperialism, political imperialism is merely an incident.


44 The British Empire was founded upon Locke as the French upon Descartes. Descartes was the greater figure in the history of civilisation, but he contains the weakness of imposing but specious rational argument. Ie he is Catholic, Locke protestant, Locke does not insist in belief, but on careful attention to empirical reality. This can be a very successful method. I am thinking here psychologically. .. Descartes has a grand moving idea, effective, influential, largely erroneous, though that does not altogether matter. Locke works on the detail, but still manages to encompass all human ends. …What was the British Empire? Something that arose out of the eighteenth century enlightenment culture. Some classical ideals were retained because they are real. the true paths to success and happiness. Judge the empire in the light of true philosophy and it was a real culture, a real achievement, certainly the equal of many of the cultures it took over. So this culture sets itself as a ruling culture, proud and confident. There are those slightly outside this ruling culture who feel somewhat disvalued by it


159 Socialism thrives on the existence of the dispossessed. The British Empire helped breed it, attitudes of racial superiority breed great resentment. …The French make a brave effort in Africa to introduce an almost Chinese style tradition of higher culture to the educated elite, Read Baudelaire and admire Napoleon.


40 The idea of an Empire is an antithetical concept to that of a people. It has its advantages. The idea of a people can be very claustrophobic. The idea of Empire has a universality to it. If you belong to a people there is always the great taboo, that of treason or betrayal. The advantages are a sense of sympathy with all classes, young, old, rich poor. A sense that the possibilities within oneself are exemplified in the other members of society.


206 Anti-imperialism is none possible western creed, perhaps drawing sustenance form someone like Herder. It represents a very distinct and ins some respects contentious view of the world. If it is imperialism to engage in dialogue with the whole of the human race one must be an imperialist.


308 It is hard to understand the revulsion of people like Orwell for the Empire. What does self government mean anyway? If one is concerned about the individual often individuals do better under Empire. The individual as a minority of one. Popular sovereignty is a load of myths. It is impossible for the ‘the people’ to rule, always it is only some people. Perhaps so many members of the ‘English upper classes felt sympathy for the frustrated power urges of the potential upper classes of the subject nations.’ We’ve got our country to rule, it’s only fair you should have yours. A somewhat limited range of compassion. It is the bad logic of anti-imperialism which is so pernicious. When you have such bad logic predicated as a guiding principle for action, ultimately it can only render ineffective and impotent.

Different questions to consider. With the  loss of empire what can Britain do with her energies and what can the upper classes do?

The upper classes can carry on running the show, with extra power if the y become socialists. Or they can involve themselves in intelligence, all the Le Carre stuff, to give extra romanticism and excitement to life.


British Empire was not built by Kiplingesque virtue, that pleasing romantic fantasy, but by greed and ambition. The slave trade, the drug trade. The desire to get rich, extremely rich, at a time when wealth offered more rewards than it does today. These days though Englishness seems to be on the side of authority and orthodox virtue. Therefore it may seem boring,


Churchill's Grand Alliance, by Charmley P 35. "However much it might seem to foreigners that America is about materialism, consumerism or mercantilism, For FDR, his forbears and heirs. America is about the truths that make men free".

P 52. "This brave new world as envisaged by FDR, Wallace, Derle Welles, and a host of publicity seekers and self proclaimed American Messiahs, was the Democratic agenda writ large. … in foreign affairs it meant an end to imperialism and protectionism, indeed to any barriers which stood in the way of the imposition of 'Americanism' on an unsuspecting world. This is not to say that FDR was simply after replacing the British Empire with an American one; his ideas were both more recondite and more naïve than that. The President (like all liberals) genuinely believed that his ideals were those which ought to be shared by all sensible people, and he should have regarded as wounding (as liberals do) any allegation that his policy was self serving…..FDR regarded colonialism as an outdated system and thought that the British needed to "recognize a world change" which had "taken deep root"  in India and the other colonial countries. Perhaps, mercifully, he had the tact not to put these patronising views in quite this form to Churchill".



303 This so called post modernist ethos is like the imperialism of the modern west, its silly rationalism, its silly posturing. How can we relate it to the meaningfulness of art as to modern art?


364 Anti colonial feeling. 100 years ago imperialism seemed exciting. Effects of war etc so that ultimately imperialism cane to seen a joke, all the romantic thrill of the imperialist some kind of philistine brutality. Exciting as India was, it was all dismissed. This may seem small minded, feminine even. But those who cultivate a narrow snobbery may find they have excluded too  much.


334 Working on Stonebridge. I feel like a benevolent colonial administrator. It is not as bad as 15 years ago when I went there. I almost feel it would be a pity to pull it down It has a certain distinctiveness, that rows of little houses will not show. Colonial administration has much more appeal than English local government. Perhaps it is something to do with the opposite of homesickness. I see the kind of socialist vision that created such an estate and can sympathise with it. I don’t want to see the towers pulled down. People, mostly blacks, from a lot of different countries  living together in a new community. That does have a certain fascination


347 Arrest of Pinochet. This interference in the politics of another country for reasons of what are supposed to be moral absolutes.

See how imperialism may come from the left rather than the right, though it is dishonest and springs from strength and moral conviction rather than straight ambition

British empire built upon the overthrow of ‘tyrants’.


373 Reflections on imperialism. Liberalism, Pinochet. How the language of  human rights is the language of imperialism. How the empire was built up not by Casesarism but by the passion to extend universal human rights to everybody. Will to power covered with a veil of sanctimony. Imperialism as a left wing cause. To that extent opposed by conservatives and traditionalists. The free spirit, the Nietzschean, the aristocrat, the immoralist versus the moralist, the sanctimonious self righteous humbug. Whether one likes or does not favour imperialism. What does it really come down to?


149 Martin Jacques in today’s Guardian attacking the imperialist mentality, cult of freedom and individualism. His won views are so strongly held as to amount a sort of imperialism in their own right. On attacks freedom in the name of unfreedom. Explain why what he says is rubbish and an expat's view on national decline.  Personal freedom is a myth, if often ill founded that is quite capable of securing social cohesion. The attack on freedom is like Kuan Lee’s upholding of ‘Asian values’ An attack on the west in the name of…The most obvious point is his desire to impose his own view, his own sentimentalised interpretation. One imperialism is attacked by another