05 November 2007

Empire? Our "new" hope?

With my post of October 23rd serving as a very tiny indication of where I might go, I thought I could expand my views and discuss theological issues concerning the idea of Empire. The goal of this blog (all my blogs) is to explore and explain the world around me. Believing, as I do, that God is the center of all things, the Truth of all things, then everything I discuss or talk about will, either explicitly or implicitly, be discussing or talking about God. Or at least attempting to.

Our pastor last year did a speaking tour across the US entitled "Everything is Spiritual". It will be coming out in DVD shortly. In brief, Pastor Rob's teaching explains that we are spiritual creatures in a physical world. Our drives, our desires, our thoughts, our actions, and our words all stem from a deep desire for connection. We were created to live in perfect harmony with God and the rest of Creation. Through the fall of Adam, sin destroyed that harmony, and now, whether we realize it or not, we are driven by the desire to reconnect fully with God, Creation, and ourselves.

Therefore, every decision we make has a bearing on our spirituality. Every action we commit to has a bearing on our spirituality.

When we choose to keep things or give them to charity, it's spiritual. When we choose to speed on the highway, it's spiritual. When we choose to eat more than we have to, it's spiritual. When we choose not to eat enough, it's spiritual. When we choose to buy things we don't need, it's spiritual.

When we choose our politicians and leaders, it's spiritual.

Within that framework, then, is where we must start when thinking politically.

When considering this topic, obviously, one can point out brilliant high points of any empire. The fact that Roman roads are still in use, or at least the routes they took, all over Europe, is testament to the engineering capabilities that probably would have not been possible if not for the military and political power of the Roman Empire.

The education, infrastructure, public health and worldwide trade that came along with the British Empire make a strong case in India, China, the Middle East, and America. Yes, America. The British Empire was perhaps the biggest motivation our politicians and early leaders had to establish the new country as a world power. Would we be the global superpower we are today if not for the constant competition with the British Empire?

Speaking of that, what of the American Empire? We hate to think of ourselves as such, but aren't we? Is there a place on this earth that America cannot influence, if not outright control? Nial Ferguson, in his books, makes the claim that empires can be good. He examines in detail the British Empire, and also what he calls the American Empire, and explains how they have benefitted the world in the past, and how they can continue to influence the world for the better in the future.

Empires can exert their control for the betterment of society, and often do. As I said, the Roman road system was excellent for world trade at the time, allowing various civilizations to contact and trade with one another. Along the way, Greco-Roman thought and ideas were spread far and wide, giving birth to Western culture. Before that, Alexander spread his Greek influence into Africa and all the way to India.

The British Empire, as mentioned above, greatly improved the health of many peoples around the world, bringing them medicine from the West's scientific revolution, bringing them infrastructure, bringing them structured government that was able to keep peace and promote prosperity. Many benefited from the education they received from British-run schools and universities, all things that these different people groups would not have had access to had it not been for the British Empire.

Today, America finds itself in a unique position, without all the physical trappings of an actual empire, but with more influence worldwide than any empire has had in the past. Our governmental model, at least in theory, has proven itself over and over again, and fledgling democracies are taking shape all over. More and more political systems are allowing more and more freedoms to their people, and we would be remiss if we did not consider America at the very least an inspiration for those peoples demanding more freedom.

Our economy, despite what everyone is saying, is strong, able to generate much income that can be used to better the lives of many people, not just in this country, but abroad. The aid we provide to many nations is the only way their governments can retain solvency, while we both work towards propping them up to stand on their own.

This financial power serves another wonderful purpose: We can afford to research and experiment and discover ways to improve the world even more. Science is strong in western civilizations. We have brought ourselves, through a unique combination of private industry, economic power, and political will, from testing the first aircraft to leaders in the space race, in just now one century. If anything can demonstrate the power of scientific advancement, it is the aerospace industry. This scientific knowledge can and does benefit all of humanity, and might not be as powerful or as advanced if it were not for the power of the American Empire. This sort of scientific advancement is happening across the board, in all fields, and can only continue under the good graces of a structure that continues to hold the power and influence that America does.

We find ourselves in a unique position indeed. So is Ferguson right? Is the world better off under the influence of empires?



-Tim said...

Hmmmm, empires of the world.

Great post and very insightful. I will be the last person who argues that empires have not brought much good to the world. But at the same time, we have to ask ourselves, "At what cost?"

The British occupation of India had many good sides, but at the end, during the Indian revolution, man, what massacres and atrocities were committed! And all to stave off the dying of their global colonies. The examples of history and empires are rife with similarities. Most even before the empire falls, throughout the colonization and forced behaviorization / culturization of their peoples...

As far as the American Empire (and be of no doubt, that is exactly what we are, if only in influence) goes, that is a more sensitive issue. We spread wealth and democracy across the world. But our history of foreign policy the last 30 years is again, rife with legitimate complaints. The U.S. support of the Islamic Fundamentalists during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan directly leading to the Afghan civil war and the formation of the Taliban. Rumsfeld playing buddy-buddy with Hussein during the Iran/Iraq war even after his use of chemical weapons on the Iranian civilians and his massacres back home? We gave this guy everything he needed to prop up his regime further and then give us the finger 10 years later!

Wheee, here come my leftist politics again! Obviously hindsight has the advantage of 20/20 vision, but the U.S. knew very well what we were doing and who we were supporting. And those are only two of many examples. No don't get me wrong, being Isolationist is exactly NOT what I am arguing for. But when we are making choices between the lesser of two evils, maybe we shouldn't. There are always third options.

An interesting book you may want to check out, then again you may not want to; is Noam Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest For Global Dominance". Mr. Chomsky can go a bit overboard at times but his research is unquestionable.

"The empires of the future will be empires of the mind." Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

P.S. - This response was much better and well thought out but when I went to post it, Blogger balked at some of my HTML coding and when I hit the back button to edit it, lost everything. Grrr!! So you get, believe it or not, the condensed version, with extra crappy-ness.

P.S.S. - I would love to say that I am a repository for surprisingly apt quotes, but tragically, I am not. I like to use http://www.quotationspage.com/ and the search function until I find one that fits my needs. :-)

The Wingnut said...

Patience!!! Part two and three will be along shortly! As a matter of fact, you may have even given yourself a starring role in part two...we shall see!!

Your views are only leftist because you grew up in a righty-tighty (is that even a phrase?) community. I don't see this as politics, I see it as looking back at history and calling a spade a spade. Granted, differing opinions may be reached after examining the historical facts, but the facts themselves are not political. A political statement would be something to the effect of "The Republican regime of Reagan created the Taliban." Obviously stretching the truth, but we should definately be aware of the consequences of the Cold War policy of containment, and of our foreign policy in general.


-Tim said...

:-) *Whee-hee! Politcal commentation is fun!* :-)

Tell you what, I look forwad to it. I really like reading your insights since it gives me a contemplation viewpoint I rarely see/think about AND I get more elequent when commenting on your blog than when writing on my own!

Maybe we should just create a joint blog with dual writing authority and then just post back and forth on the main page!

See you next round, Toodle-oo.

thegreattim (aka: science bitch)

-Tim said...

P.S.S.S. (Righty-Tighty) = Phrase indeed! I think it describes West Michigan perfectly. Conservative politically and cheap financially. :-)

I beleive its a portmantu of right-wing and tight-wad...

-Tim said...

Arrrg. That should have been *portmanteau*.

The Wingnut said...

I called it first then!!! It's mine!


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