Some time after sunset

Severian comments at Morgan’s place:

Ever read any big histories of the British Empire? Even the ones specifically designed to make them look awful (i.e. every book on the subject ever written after, say, 1960) show a civilization just brimming with confidence, and they accomplished amazing things. We on the right know, for instance, that the Atlantic slave trade was stopped by the British navy and not, say, transgendered disabled Wiccan performance artists. They decided it was a moral evil, and ended it. Just. Like. That. Was it “imperialism?” Sure. But — no more slavery. Imperialism ain’t all bad.

This is germane because we’re the first unquestionably top-dog civilization to a) deny that it is the top dog, and b) act like it’s not the top dog, and c) actively try to take away its own top-dog status. The left would cheer all three of those things, and it’s true that some aspects of American “cultural imperialism” are rather ugly. But there’s never a situation where nobody’s the top dog; it’s only a choice between this hegemon (to slip into grad-school-speak for a second) and that one. Think America sucks? Oh, you’re gonna love taking orders from the ChiComs.

Thomas L. Friedman’s heart would definitely leap at such an opportunity.

And let’s face it, no one asks “What would Britain do?” anymore; Her Majesty’s Government is more concerned these days with making life easier for the criminal element and propping up the corpse of Global Warming™.


  1. Lisa Paul »

    1 February 2011 · 7:48 pm

    Hmmm. I think Severian needs to reread his history books a little more carefully. The British “abolished” slavery, not for humanitarian reasons but because they thought it would cripple their traditional enemies and trading competitors, Spain and France. So they made sure to “abolish” it, not by changing laws in their own land, but by commandeering French ships and firing on French and Spanish owned ports in Africa.

    Then, during the American Civil War, they quite happily jumped in on the side of the South, because they were concerned what a lack of all that slave-produced cotton would do to their large mills in the Midlands.

    So I doubt if the thought of the plight of African Americans ever entered any policy discussions.

  2. CGHill »

    1 February 2011 · 8:10 pm

    I’m sure it didn’t: the British didn’t invent “Because we can,” but they did put it to use with great vigor.

    Which I guess indicates that most variations on the theme of “cultural imperialism” have some drawbacks, especially if you’re on the receiving end thereof.

  3. Marcel »

    2 February 2011 · 7:14 am

    It’s as simplistic to say the Brits abolished slavery – first the slave trade, and then slavery in their empire – only or primarily for economic reasons. Moral opposition was central to abolitionism, as it was to the civil rights movement and is to the pro-life movement. Of course moral opposition was also central to prohibition – the road to Hell, etc.

  4. CGHill »

    2 February 2011 · 8:05 am

    It is, however, easier to see moral aspects of something if they happen to fall in line with your economic objectives.

    I submit, though, that the result is more important than the motivation.

  5. Lisa Paul »

    2 February 2011 · 9:35 pm

    If it was British moral opposition was so strong, why was the British Empire firmly behind the South in the American Civil War? Now doing the right thing for the wrong reason still leaves right being done. So I’m not bashing them. (Especially having married one.)

    But if you want to talk about the people who opposed slavery and worked tirelessly to abolish it — quite apart from any economic or other self-interest — you’d have to look to the American Quakers. Who, we’d have to agree, were the granola-chomping, left-leaning Peace-niks of their day.

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