A Reflection on Empire and its Ruins

Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve always been fascinated by history. To me, understanding the history of the world was the only way one could make sense of the future.

That was what drew me to Humanities Core. But Humcore was not just another history course. There was literature, linguistics, themes of power and conflict, cultural identity, imperialism and so much more.

And that has completely changed how I think about the world and how society has reached where it is today. I’ve begun to see the ubiquitous patterns of imperialism and empires rising and falling not just in the traditional sense, but in modern contexts as well in the form of multinational corporations and crime syndicates. And many countries don’t attach the suffix of “Empire” to their name, but retain the attributes nonetheless.

That was what drew me to write my post about The Rise of China as a Global Hegemon and the Subsequent Collapse of the American Empire. The patterns of nations attempting to dominate one and other has been seen countless times throughout history and will most likely be seen countless times in the future.

Every quarter this year, I’ve taken my Humcore seminar with a different professor, so that I may learn a different point of view and I’m grateful to each of my professors for introducing me to their unique point of view.

During the my first quarter, I explored how certain civil rights and liberties are not as black and white as one might think at a glance. And that despite all our progress in America, we keep slipping into habits of regression and bigotry and hatred. And it is so important to fight that regression and bigotry so that we can keep moving into the future.

And that perhaps is the most important lesson that I’ve learned from Humcore.  It might be a cliché, but there is a quote by Winston Churchill that really encapsulates that lesson: “ Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” Especially in today’s society, its more important than ever to learn history so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. We can do better and we should do better.

The Company That Conquered a Country

From its origins as a small London enterprise, the East India Company (EIC) emerged as a powerful commercial and political organization, whose presence in the Gulf helped shape the region’s modern history. Image result for british east india company

Concerned that the English were falling behind to the Dutch on these new trading routes, on the 31st December 1600 Queen Elizabeth I granted over 200 English merchants the right to trade in the East Indies. One of these groups of merchants called themselves Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies, later to become simply The East India Company.

The British East India Company was a privately owned company which was established to create profitable trade with countries in the region of Asia called the “East Indies” and quickly became one of the most powerful mercantile organizations in the world by maintaining a monopoly on the importation of exotic goods (notably cotton, tea, and silk) from India into Britain. This strategy appeared to pay off, as by the 1700s the Company had grown so large that it had come to dominate the global textile trade, and had even amassed its own army in order to protect its interests. Most of the forces were based at the three main ‘stations’ in India, at Madras, Bombay and Bengal.

Image result for british east india companyThe standing military was used in many cases to consolidate and enforce local authority in Indian territories. Official Company rule of India, or Raj, began in 1757, and was in full swing during the Romantic period, only coming to a close in 1858 following a bloody uprising and revolution.

In addition to establishing political and economic aspects of imperial power, the East India Company’s influence on British society was great. The availability of new and exciting products from foreign lands was very significant in the evolution of British identity, clearly evidenced by the well-known custom of “tea-time”. The fascination that many Romantic literary figures had with the “Orient” was undoubtedly due in some part to the East India Company’s dealings.

In my research paper, I will be exploring not only the economic hegemony that the British East India Trading Company established around the globe at the time, but the groundwork for British imperialism that they laid out. The Royal Charter that Queen Elizabeth granted to the British East India Trading Company marked a pivotal point in not only the history of the British Empire, but in the world, as it enabled the basis for British global dominance. I will be breaking down and analyzing the document and see the privileges and powers that the crown granted to the BEITC and how it introduced British imperialism to the East Indies.


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The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Following Germany’s defeat in the second world war, the country was split between the victors – the Western Allies’ occupation zones became the Federal Republic in 1949, while the Soviet zone was reconstituted as the German Democratic Republic shortly thereafter.

Image result for berlin wallGermany’s capital, Berlin, was also split down the middle. In 1952, the East German government closed the border with West Germany, but the border between East and West Berlin remained open. East Germans could still escape through the city to the less oppressive and more affluent West.

The wall was erected by the East German leadership in August 1961 to stop the flow of citizens from East to West, completing a sealed border that elsewhere ran along the frontier between the two German states. Established crossing points between the Western and Soviet sectors were closed, dividing neighborhoods and separating families overnight. From a barbed wire barricade, the Wall would eventually develop into a fortified concrete structure encircling West Berlin and isolating it from the surrounding East German territory.

The Wall’s opening was the product of two processes that had gathered momentum throughout the second half of 1989: the peaceful demonstrations and protest marches of a number of newly constituted East German civil rights organizations, and the growing number of East German citizens leaving from the GDR’s side doors.

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The official purpose of this Berlin Wall was to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state, but it primarily served the objective of stemming mass defections from East to West. In all, at least 171 people were killed trying to get over, under or around the Berlin Wall.

The Berlin Wall stood until November 9, 1989, when the head of the East German Communist Party announced that citizens of the GDR could cross the border whenever they pleased. That night, ecstatic crowds swarmed the wall. Some crossed freely into West Berlin, while others brought hammers and picks and began to chip away at the wall itself. To this day, the Berlin Wall remains one of the most powerful and enduring symbols of the Cold War.

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Does Britain owe reparations to India and its other colonies?

The sun never sets on the British Empire. With a span of control extending from North America to Australia, the British Empire directly and indirectly influenced hundreds of millions of individuals living in their colonies. But a question must be asked, “Did colonization ultimately improve the state of Britain’s respective colonies as claimed by proponents of the British Empire, or was colonization and unmistakably harrowing experience for the colonies that requires reparations for the wrongs committed?”

Historians like Niall Ferguson and Lawrence James have painted colonialism in a Image result for british colonialismfavorable light. Proponents of the Raj frequently evidence that the British offered English as a unifying language for the divided princely states which is ultimately responsible for the continued survival of Indian democracy. They go on to justify Western colonialism by citing that the British were not the first to subject India to colonial rule: the Mughals conquered most of the subcontinent prior to the arrival of the British. As such, Indian natives were exploited in the name of Mughal imperialism and utilized to build monuments to Mughal power like the Agra fort and the Taj Mahal. The British also spent millions on developing the capital of New Delhi, an act that Professor John MacKenzie of Lancaster University refers to as, “an imperial folly which left India with one of the greatest capitals in the world.”

The justification of British imperialism has long been that it was occurred for the benefit of the colonized in a form of civilized and rational despotism that enlightened the natives of the colonies. But it cannot be denied that British rule was responsible for the exploitation of the country’s resources and the subsequent poverty and landlessness. British officials exploited and oppressed millions of people around the world, laid the groundwork for internal chaos and division by partitioning India based on religion. Moreover, they were directly responsible for the deindustrialization of various colonies and the deaths of over 35 million individuals as a result of famines that were caused by British stockpiling of natural resources and food as their own reserves.  Prior to British arrival in India in the 18th century, the country made up 23% of global GDP, which subsequently dropped to less than 4% post-colonial rule.  Thousands dead as a result of massacres notwithstanding, the colonized subjects found themselves in dire poverty and starvation as the British left their countries. In post-colonial India, 90% of the population was living below the poverty line.

Image result for british colonialismIt is of course, folly to ignore or deny that there were benefits to British rule, much of which continue to be enjoyed by former colonies today. But such benefits like democracy, civil services, infrastructure, English language, cricket, and political unity, were designed to serve the British empire and any advantage to Indians were either accidental or came despite the British. Concerning the issue of democracy, it was actually denied by the British until forcibly claimed by the colonized and that too with limited franchise.

Former British colonies around the world continue to experience the aftereffects of British presence even decades after their independence from colonial rule. For example, Africans in the Caribbean continue to suffer from the immense psychological damage that has been done as a result of their dehumanization by the British. Caribbean social traditions, authority structures, and property rights have all been destabilized in favor of British structures and traditions. Many of these countries’ current issues including the creation and continuance of racial, religious, and ethnic tensions are a direct consequence of colonialism. This would support the necessity of a moral debt that must be repaid.

Furthermore, the concept of paying reparations is not without precedent, Italy has paid reparations to Libya for the Abysinnian crisis, Japan to Korea, and even Britain has paid reparations to the Maoris of New Zealand.

This in turn, raises the question, if Image result for british colonialismreparations are indeed owed to Britain’s various colonies around the world, how do you place a monetary value on all that the colonies have suffered and lost under British rule? Perhaps the issue is not really of a monetary sum, the necessity of which is rather negligible for countries like India whose GDP is set to overtake that of the United Kingdom within two years, but the principle. Is there a debt? Do the British owe reparations and can they acknowledge a wrong that is done? Or will they continue the pretense that British colonialism was a beneficial act? One cannot necessarily blame today’s British citizens for the acts that their ancestors, but if one can give aid to those starving in Yemen, merely based on the principle that there are wrongs that must be corrected, the principle of reparations cannot be denied.





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The Rise of China as a Global Hegemon and the Subsequent Collapse of the American Empire

According to Liu Mingfu, an ex-colonel in the People’s Liberation Army, “It has been China’s dream for a century to become the world’s leading nation.”

In today’s society, the Chinese people aim to make their nation a strong and prosperous great power, capable of guarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity.  China’s rapid rise to power is unprecedented in terms of scale or speed throughout global history and it’s growing economy has made it a strong competitor in regard to the USA in influencing the way regionalism is emerging. China seeks to enhance its economic and military capabilities so as to become a leading power capable of challenging the global US dominance and reinforcing its role in leading the international system. The continuing rise of China will equip it with more leverages to influence the world stage.

china1More​ ​than​ ​half​ ​the​ ​world’s​ ​population​ ​lives​ ​in Asia,​ ​and studies indicate ​that​ ​the​ ​global​ ​system​ ​is​ ​experiencing​ ​a radical structural​ ​change;​ ​the​ ​center​ ​of​ ​the​ ​world​ ​is​ ​moving​ ​from​ ​the​ ​Atlantic​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Pacific, situating China in an ideal location to become the center of the international system. According to Henry Kissinger, “The type of Asia built will be vital in deciding what kind of world is built in the modern world.”

China has taken steps to remove international safeguards, utilizing their economic leverage to ignore boundaries of democracy, sovereignty, and human rights. If China becomes the dominating world power, rules of the international system set during the era of American dominance will irrevocably change. With not much priority in promoting democratic institutions, China will let communism crush democracy, and small states will be forced to comply with terms set by strong states; patterns already evident in China’s current coercion of neighboring countries over trade and business practices. And there is little probability that despite their displeasure over China’s growing economic and political dominance, the US will be able to compete with Chinese interests given their lack of capable leadership, economic decline, and growing debt to China. If the United States attempts to check Chinese actions through trade tariffs, the Chinese government merely responds by dumping Treasury bonds, resulting in higher interest rates for American corporations.

china2By taking advantage of the global strategic flux caused by the Trump presidency and US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Chinese has taken further steps in consolidating its control of world trade. Their most recent economic initiative, the One Belt and One Road (OBOR) initiative, is made up of more than a physical network. China plans to utilize OBOR to connect the world in a the world’s largest trade network, creating a system where it can influence countries into respecting and supporting its rise to power. Such frameworks are dangerously similar to imperial empires of old.

While there are many conflicting views on what an ideal world power should look like, it is expected that the ideal world power would look past its own national interests so as to see the international system in a wider context, and serve the interests of the world.  In this, China has made it evident that it is capable of doing so, even when the United States is not, making impressive strides in fighting climate change, investing in underdeveloped African nations, and leading the United Nations.

While China may be far better equipped to lead the world and reconstruct the international system as hegemon than the US, it will have to make steps to change their governmental policies. History has evidenced time and time again that authoritarian states tend to be more fragile than their democratic counterparts. Authoritarian governments tend to retain failing policies longer than their democratic counterparts as societies in authoritarian countries tend to lack free media to publicize failures and challenge polices and elections for different possible directions for policy.

china3China’s rise to power raises the question of whether the international system cannot function with a superpower filling the top spot. Historically, empires have successively claimed their hegemonic crown successively till their inevitable collapse. China’s rise to power seems to be further evidence that the international system cannot exist without a superpower supporting it. This does, however, raise the question of whether the United States will be able to reclaim its position as hegemon. United States has been desperately clinging on to the last vestiges of its power, funneling its remaining economic resources into a purposeless military, neglecting the infrastructure and care of its citizens who were responsible for its rise to power. Trump’s view is indicative of a rather myopic realist, unable to see that in a world of increasing globalization, disengaging from the world stage is not a sign of power, nor necessarily beneficial for America or its citizens. The President’s inability to skillfully navigate global politics is detrimental to American interests, as global opinion of America falls and other countries move to fill the void created by the President’s ineptitude in maintaining good diplomatic relations with even its own allies. A fundamental concept that China understands that America has failed to realize is that as the world enters a period of never seen before interconnectedness and globalization, it is no longer possible to return to the primitive nationalistic ways of life that existed before. For the first time since its inception as a nation, the United States is now in the position of facing decline, a notion nearly unfathomable to most Americans.

Perhaps it is time for US citizens to start learning Mandarin.





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The Story of Colonization

“Colonization is a story that Empires and colonizers and colonized tell themselves”- Professor O’Toole

Empires throughout history have used various methods of conquest and imperialism to influence, assimilate, and maintain hegemonic control.


But perhaps the most surreptitious of these methods is that of re-education: rewriting the history. The systems of colonial expansion overlap with those of  linguistic imperialism, working to integrate groups, erase certain histories, and influence learning, even in a post-colonial setting. With nearly all written accounts of the Inca empire composed by outsiders, the story of the Inca empire was written by its conquerors.

An integral part of the ideology of colonial expansion is the “justification”. Authors like Max Weber insisted that: “Neither scientific, artistic, governmental, nor economic evolution has led to the modes of rationalization proper to the Occident”. Following this mode of thought, if the Inca society and religion were inferior, the Spanish could implement a system that simultaneously promoted Spanish religion and culture and discredited Inca society and religion. Spanish conquest, however, sparked the Valladolid debate, where scholars and clergy argued whether the indigenous populations of the Americas were capable of converting to Christianity and ruling themselves. Juan Gines de Sepulveda, the primary proponent for Spanish rule in the Americas, argued that the Spanish had four main justifications for war against the Indians. Firstly, the natives’ natural state of being left them incapable of self-rule, which made it the responsibility of the Spaniards to act as masters and guide them. Additionally, Spaniards were duty-bound to prevent the cannibalistic practices of the natives as it was a crime against nature. Such was also the case concerning the human sacrifices that the natives made. Lastly, and perhaps the most important justification for Spanish presence in the Americas: it was important to convert the natives to Christianity. Even supporters of the Indians firmly believed that Christianity was the superior and “true” religion. Their argument was based in the ideology that the natives could convert to Christianity without force, and then rule themselves. But only Christians were capable of ruling themselves.inca2

Colonialists all over the world seized this justification for their rule, and took advantage of the power that education has in shaping the psychology of individuals. Sir Charles E. Trevelyan, reveals the power of intellectual control in the words, “the natives will not rise against us, because we shall stoop to raise them”. If the colonizers could “stoop” and westernize the Indians, he argued, the colonizers would never be overthrown.

As Pizarro and other Spanish conquistadors conquered South America, and subdued the native populations, they enforced a forceful conversion to Christianity, against the wishes of the Catholic Church. The conquistadors claimed to have educated the uncivilized natives in the ways of the “one true religion.” Following the collapse of the Inca Empire, local populations began relocate and as colonization began to increase, Spanish missionary work was able to spread unimpeded. Within a single generation, the entire continent fell under Christian influence.

In modern times, the predominant religion in South America remains Catholicism, a lingering remnant of in- depth Spanish indoctrination. The polytheistic beliefs of the Inca have nearly disappeared from the face of the earth. As Inca religion disappeared, so did its language: Quechua. Once spoken across the continent, Quechua was seen as not as civilized as Spanish, the language of the Spanish empire. As such, those who spoke Quechua were seen as second-class citizens and were frequently discriminated against. Such views on Quechua and its speakers have persisted throughout the centuries, with the few modern speakers of Quechua becoming victims of political conflicts and ethnic persuasion. During the Peruvian Civil War in 1980s, war parties made up of almost exclusively whites and mestizos targeted Quechuas, with the death toll reaching nearly 70,000. In addition to the targeting during the Peruvian Civil War, Quechuas were almost exclusively targeted by the forced sterilization policy of Alberto Fujimori, with more than 200,000 Quechua women were forcibly sterilized.

inca3Almost nothing was left of the Inca civilizations after the conquest by the Spanish, as culture was not as significant as gold to the new conquerors. The unique indigenous road and communications systems were essentially lost. The only things that persisted of the original culture are the very few artifacts that remained and the minute cultural aspects, such as language, that was left behind by the small percentage of Incas who persisted. The ultimate goal of the Spanish, regardless of the public justification for their invasion, does not appear to be sharing learning or resources, but rather shaping indigenous thinking to appreciate and respect Spanish language, culture, and religion.

Although later waves of progress and reform have worked to take apart this system in the post-colonial era, its aftereffects still affect modern Peruvian education. And that is the true strength of imperialism, capable of altering even the most basic understanding of historical identity, language and religion.



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The Paradox of Tolerance

Image result for freedom of speech on campuses

The Freedom of speech is an essential right afforded to all Americans and should be valued and protected on University campuses… to a certain extent. Colleges and Universities exist not only to merely educate students, but as a platform for the exchange and competition of various ideas. The true strength of a university lies in this competition, and if students or faculty members fear punishment for expressing unpopular views or views that are not favored with university administrators, this competition cannot happen properly. Censorship of such views or speech deprive individuals on university campuses from inviting speech they would like to hear, or debating or protesting speech that they disagree with.

There must exist a limit to a freedom, as freedoms without boundaries or checks can cause chaos and damage society. Unregulated and unlimited speech, historically, has led to those with extremist and oppressive views utilizing the freedoms to build a platform to take away the rights of others. Such was the case of how the Nazis gained power in Germany during the 1930s, by exploiting existing freedoms of speech implemented during the Weimar Republic. While the First Amendment to the Constitution protects the freedom of speech regardless of how offensive the content is, it does not and should not protect speech or behavior that supports harassment or threatening behavior or creates a perpetually hostile learning environment for vulnerable individuals.

Image result for freedom of speech on campuses

And while opposing ideas and narratives are vital to generating discourse and advancing the boundaries of knowledge, it seems contradictory to extend freedom of speech to extremists and hate mongers who if successful, will ruthlessly suppress the speech of those with whom they disagree. And while it may be difficult to define the boundaries of hateful and offensive speech, for society to preserve itself and institutions of liberty, the freedom of hateful and violence inciting speech must be restricted, as society’s reasonable right of self-preservation supersedes the principle of tolerance.

As Karl Popper, the father of the paradox of tolerance, once stated “if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant.”



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‘Hate speech’ or ‘free speech’? A plea for open, respectful debate on campus





The Greatest Bulwark


While the United States has traditionally been known as a beacon of press freedom and defender of journalism, in recent years, campaigns of fake news and anti-press rhetoric have undermined the role of a free press in a democracy. Historically, since the creation of the First Amendment, journalists and the press have been responsible for keeping a check on power. Delegitimizing the news is a method to convince people that the only truth is the truth that comes from the government, the ultimate power. Anti-press rhetoric paired with inflammatory language is responsible for an increase in threats against journalists and reporters and will ultimately lead to violence.

A disturbing amount of politicians have joined the attack on the press, seeing the attacks as a way to rally their base and distract voters from the weaknesses of their own candidates, without having to answer specific allegations. Currently, the highest of elected officials single out and attack individual journalists and press institutions for reporting truths that the powerful would rather have remain hidden, or for pointing out lies as lies, or for questioning motivations that deserve scrutiny.

Enemy-of-the-People    Of these officials, perhaps the most culpable for this era press delegitimization is the president himself. Trump has frequently used his platform to launch attacks upon the press, and single out individual reports, usually in front of an angry mob of his supporters. He has labeled the media as the “enemy of the American people” thus, paving the way for a distrust of the news. This devaluing of the media enables those in higher offices to govern without the balancing forces of public scrutiny. Donald Trump’s attacks on media outlets he deems “fake news” has sent a message to authoritarian and conservative leaders around the world that it is acceptable to crack down on the press.

3819608-the-first-amendment-freedom-of-press_t580Such patterns of delegitimizing the press and dissenting opinions can be seen throughout history, most notably with Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda machine in Nazi Germany. By delegitimizing other sources of news, tyrannical central governments systematically undermine the objective truth. Those who are brave enough to speak out against this censorship of the truth are labeled as unpatriotic or un-American and ostracized. As citizens no longer know where to turn to for the truth, they ultimately turn to the government for the truth, who is then able to create a singular narrative, free of diversity and opposition. Once they are able to do that, the stripping away the essential freedoms and basic rights of citizens can be done with impunity. The freedom of press is the greatest of bulwarks that protects the erosion of all other freedoms and rights that are essential to the functioning of a true democracy.





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The Antithesis of Americans


In today’s sociopolitical environment, Islamophobia enlivens a modern form of racial prejudice: the conflict between Christianity and Islam is not new, it extends centuries into the past predating even the Crusades. It’s deeply entrenched in American government, modern political discourse, and determinations of who was a citizen and who was not. But as a consequence of the war on terror, and fear-mongering rhetoric of politicians like President Trump, the bigotry has been given an unsuspecting population to spread. Modern media, liberal or conservative, indoctrinates polarizing views of Islam as being a religion that is entirely antithetical to the West. State-sponsored Islamophobic programming designed to instill support the “war on terror”, encourage the belief that Muslims are pariahs that are in need of policing and being dealt with by the government.

Currently, oil interests in Middle Eastern countries, which are predominantly Muslim, are vitally important to the US economy. A continued military presence in the region which drives down the price of oil can be justified by fighting terrorism. Oil lobbies offer generous contributions to political candidates in exchange for continued support for political support for military presence in the Middle East. This economic interest in anti-Muslim sentiment is also expressed by the military-industrial complex, whose funding has increased more than 50% following the terror attacks on 9/11. It is vital that people understand that Islamophobia is being spearheaded by state policy, not merely individuals on the fringe, and it is deeply entrenched in the American psyche.


This racialized hatred is not limited to Muslims, it also impacts those in Latinx/Mexican communities and many others who are predominantly non-Muslim. Contrasting xenophobia that targets Muslims, xenophobia that targets Mexicans show historic roots in economic necessity. When the economy flourishes, and companies are in need of low-wage workers, Latinx are the go-to-help. But when the economy declines, anti-Latino sentiment rises, and are blamed for stealing jobs from “hardworking Americans”. Despite being critical to the U.S. economy and often being US citizens, Latinx are discriminated on anything from the color of their skin to their language to country of origin. Historically, Anglo- Americans have viewed Latinx as an underclass of foreigners and stereotyped them as stupid, lazy, and undeserving.

While a multitude of prominent politicians blame unemployment and a struggling economy on Mexicans stealing jobs, researchers like Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard who studies labor and technological change, disagree, “ Over the long haul, clearly automation’s been much more important – it’s not even close.” Technology, however, is not as easy to blame as China or Mexico, and the economic contributions of technology companies cannot be overlooked nor can the deep reliance most individuals on technology. Today, over 54 million Latinos live in the United States, and are the largest minority in the United States, and while strides have been made to afford them equality, many continue to face racial bias and hate every day.


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