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Thoughts On Empires

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caldrail View Drop Down

Joined: 21 Jan 2014
Location: Rushey Platt
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    Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 01:45
For some people Empires are the stuff of science fiction and fantasy. For others it's the glory days of the Roman, Greek, or Persian civilisations. There might be people who point at the Orwellian contestants in the global war of ideology that engulfed the last century. I've no doubt you can think of further examples.

Recent events have shown what is an essential truth about the dynamics of Empire. Tribalism is a fundamental part of politics, an extension of our social animal behaviour, groups that have identities and loyalties of their own. Strictly speaking, an empire is the domination of other tribes by a stronger tribe. This has usually been the case in human history, although our modern world has invented the concept of a cooperative union that does away with domination, or at least in theory.

The USA is an interesting case. It has a wide mix of ethnicity and origin, a varied cultural base, and yet manages to maintain itself as a coherent federal state. There is no doubt that geography plays a part in this - the Americans are blessed with a regional identity that underpins their local sentiment, but it must also be said that an important aspect is the patriotism that the Americans foster among themselves.

In another case we have the European Union, a development of the Common Market that was set up after World War Two to help prevent the onset of conflict there. The sanguine expectations of a cooperative union have however been co-opted by bureaucrats and politics, leading to a situation where the Union is being converted to a federal super-state, a sort of European Empire if you will, based on the face of it with democratic ideals. In a sense the European Union has chosen to develop itself toward a competitior to the United States. The Soviet Union no longer exists of course, despite the persistent dominance of Russia among former members. For that matter, the British Empire has now largely vanished.

Unlike the Americans however, Europe has a vastly heavier emotional baggage to deal with, history that extends for thousands rather than hundreds of years. Lacking the pioneer or immigrant spirit of what was a frontier, Europe has very old and very persistent local identities. This lack of European identity is a problem for our fledgling empire. For some decades now Europe has sought to downplay nationalism, to accentuate our common belonging to Europe. In doing so, it has weakened some of the ties that once held nation states together. Veneto in Itlay, Catalonia in Spain, Scotland in the United Kingdom, and Sardinia are all pressing for independence based on local identity, no longer content with being part of their parent state.

Europe has already failed in an important sense of creating a common identity that it needed to foster the federal super-state. The reason is obvious. Withoit a strong central culture, an empire cannot hold together. Whether it would have been Britain, France, or Germany, the truth is that the European Union cannot build the world it wants openly for that would prove it was exactly what it says it isn't.

Are empires a good thing? Many would argue that the Roman Empire was, for all its faults, and the question of whether the United States - a nation built on classical principles - is a good thing still encourages hot debates. In fact, many of the same arguments can be applied to Britain's colonial glory, with the benefit of hindsight, or indeed the Soviet Union or any other. It seems that very often we moan about the empires that rule us, and remember fondly the empire that did. Sometimes it's the empire we want that makes us conveniently forget anything else.
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toyomotor View Drop Down

Joined: 15 Feb 2014
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote toyomotor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2014 at 13:02
Geo/political empires, in the 21st Century, can be good if they provide a sense of strength and unity while still preserving the ethnic culture of the member states. Of course financial flow ons could be expected with the increased buying and co-operative marketing powers of the "empire".
And I think that's what we're seeing today with the EU. A geo/political/ financial empire with no borders, one currency, increased trade and so on.
On the other hand, there are more subtle empires, like that of the USA. While not dominating other countries physically, the USA influence over many other countries is overwhelming, due to military and financial superiority.
The word "empire" conjures up thoughts of a number of countries being dominated by one more powerful country, but today that description doesn't necessarily hold true.
Todays empires can also be non government multi-national business ventures, encompassing many countries, and these are clearly evident.
Australia remains part of the British Commonwealth, as does Scotland, Wales, Canada, New Zealand etc. and we all benefit from those ties, in one way or another.
As in the case of the British Empire, if the individual member countries wish to remain part of the empire, while not being ruled or dominated by another single country, so be it.

Edited by toyomotor - 02 Apr 2014 at 13:04
From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.(Chief Joseph)
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