Imperialism is a word most often found in the mouths of green and hip college students, slung about in derision of cold-hearted, greedy conservatives that do little more than suck the life, vitality, and cash out of the world’s “bottom billion.” Haughty sniffs and high blood pressure are usually joined with an emotional harangue lumping the appearance of McDonald’s in poor African countries, neo-cons, and the ubiquitously materialist suburban soccer mom in one streaming monologue of angst. If you spend time with such young and activist youth in any capacity (or their trendy parents) try turning the tables on them and suggest it is groups like the UNICEF, Planned Parenthood, and numerous national aid agencies that are the true imperialists. It is these compassionate aid groups that are truly and dangerously imperialistic in ways the conservatives and Christians never will be.
Webster defines imperialism as a policy extending a country’s power and influence through diplomacy or military force. Used in the more popular sense, it most often means forcing and foisting one nation or group’s values on another through coercion. Under this definition it is hardly the appearance of capitalistic icons like McDonalds, WalMart, or Starbucks that is truly imperialistic. In fact, by definition these products of the free market can never be symbols of imperialism; after all, they have arisen out of the free trade between individuals and parties, being invited to meet a need identified by consumers around the world. In contrast to these falsely derided icons, stand the true symbols of imperialism—the Roman imperial eagle, the European and American slave trades, South African apartheid, and the intentional coercion of the women of India, Pakistan, and numerous African states by groups like Planned Parenthood, UNICEF and others.
Did you catch that last item? The stated goal of many aid and development agencies is to limit the number of children born in poor countries by handing out condoms, birth control pills, and abortion services. Knowing that many of these reproductive practices will not be accepted by the vast majority of women in traditional and religious communities, these aid groups tie food and money to their “family planning” products, only assisting those women who comply with their demands. Here is a perfect example of true imperialism—applying a foreign policy to a native group through force. These aid groups seem little concerned with the fact their views of human life, dignity, and worth wildly conflict with the deeply held and cherished views of many non-Western women.
HT: In an afternoon discussion on Poverty in the Developing World: Good Intentions & Sound Economics at Acton University, Mr. Michael Miller laid out an incisive critique of current trends in dealing with the developing world highlighting the imperialistic tendencies of secular Western powers.