Western empires will fall, if not dramatically then in daily dissent by the people that they have devastated.
From the United States to Europe, we are witnessing a transnational decline of empire. And with it, we see a return to fascism. The struggle against the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is a global struggle.
In “How Do You Know If You’re Living Through the Death of an Empire?,” Patrick Wyman explains, “The fall of an empire — the end of a polity, a socioeconomic order, a dominant culture, or the intertwined whole — looks more like a cascading series of minor, individually unimportant failures than a dramatic ending that appears out of the blue.”
The United States has demonstrated clear indications of the fall to its empire: from its mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic to the well-documented violence exacted against Black people and people of color by law enforcement and the legal suprastructure.
In close proximity, the European empire deteriorates as well.
As I study in Europe, particularly Finland, I notice an exceptionalism evoked by my classmates. The United States is an anomaly, in the abject injustices that it perpetuates. Europe, on the other hand, is separate from and even superior to the events and notably the failures that transpire in America. Europe is not racist, because Europeans do not see color. Europe is more hospitable, because several European countries have assembled a welfare state that offers more protection than that of the United States.
Yet, it has been noted by academic author Kenan Malik that instead of race, Europe deploys “culture” and “ethnicity” to perform the same symbolic work that “race” plays in the United States.
In The Meaning of Race, Malik notes, “…the replacement of racial theories of human difference with cultural theories…helped undermine the power of scientific racism. The concept of culture…rearticulated the themes of racial theory in a different guise.” Ethnicity, when used instead of “race,” works to “remove the political connotations of racial difference” so that social difference can be observed “in a neutral, value-free fashion.”
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Moreover, European welfare states and colonial pillage are inextricable from one another.
Professor Gurminder Bhambra and sociologist John Holmwood explain in “Colonialism, Postcolonialism, and the Liberal Welfare State”: “…the welfare arrangements of colonial powers such as France, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy and Germany are characterised by hierarchical arrangements of inclusion and exclusion, where rights developed in the metropole are not extended to the colonial possessions and, indeed, those possessions are understood to serve the prosperity of the metropole and its ‘local’ hierarchies.”
European welfare states are funded by the profits of colonial exploitation; former and present colonies are not proffered the same arrangements as the metropole.
It is true that in recent weeks, American fascist impulses have become transparent, like the abduction of protesters in broad daylight. Europe’s fascism, however, is nowhere more evident than in its handling of the “migrant crisis” — which it also created.
European countries like England, France, Germany, and Poland (to name a few) played a considerable role in the destabilization of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Afghanis, Iraqis, and Syrians now account for the majority of migrants who constitute the so-called “crisis.”
In the latest affirmation of fascism by a European country, Greece abandoned more than 1,000 migrants at the periphery of its territorial waters with inflatable life rafts.
Furthermore, 19 European countries have demonstrated increased support of nationalist (neo-nazi) parties that oppose immigration and paint asylum seekers and refugees as non-citizens unworthy of basic protection and rights — which woefully erases the histories of colonization and dislocation that resulted in their migration to Europe.
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Necropolitical border regimes like that of the European Union are but another desperate and violent attempt to seize onto the little control that remains for colonizers. The United States may have a wall, but Europe tactfully uses the perils of the Mediterranean Sea to dispel non-citizens.
I will not write “former” colonizers, because colonialism has not ended.
“Faced with the militant peoples of the ex-colonial territories in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, imperialism simply switches tactics,” writes Kwame Nkrumah in Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism. “This means, so it claims, that it is ‘giving’ independence to its former subjects, to be followed by ‘aid’ for their development. Under cover of such phrases, however, it devises innumerable ways to accomplish objectives formerly achieved by naked colonialism.”
But, “naked colonialism” persists as well. For example, France still reaps monetary gain from a “colonial tax” imposed onto 14 of its “former” colonies in Africa.
Nonetheless, Europe’s colonial and imperial hold is under threat, as to be expected with its decay as an empire. On August 18, 2020, coup leaders in Mali, a former French colony, overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and forced him to resign. It must be noted that Keïta saw “broad support from former colonial power France and other Western allies.”
As soon as the coup proved successful, news outlets warned of a future “destabilization” that could actualize in Mali and even spread to the Sahel region in West Africa, a diagnosis readily given to any state that threatens colonial or imperial rule.
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Across the world, the very rule that has led to an ecological, economic, and social collapse that we face today is under contestation. Western empires will fall, if not dramatically then in daily dissent by the people that they have devastated.
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