Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Poor Man’s Burden

The preemptive war of 1898 brought America onto the world stage as an imperial power.
"The first shot was fired halfway around the globe in the Spanish-controlled Philippine Islands. Admiral George Dewey, acting on orders from Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, attacked and sank the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. After the defeat of Spain, America now had stepping stones to the trade of the Orient as well as possessions in the Caribbean. To keep the Philippines, Americans had to wage a bloody and costly war against Filipino independence forces. It began in February 1899 when the Philipine Republic declared war against the United States. By its end in July 1902 casualties numbered more than 4,200 U.S. soldiers, 20,000 Filipino soldiers, and 200,000 Filipino civilians dead. This new imperialism was deeply influenced by popular theories of race which held that the different peoples of the world were not only culturally but also biologically distinct. In a misapplication of Darwinian theory, these racialists believed that each nation (and people) were involved in an unending competition in which only the "fittest" would survive. This conveniently permitted successful imperial powers to point to their conquests as proof of their own "fitness" and to rationalize their empires as altruistic efforts to bring the benefits of their "superior" civilization to their "little brown brothers," as President McKinley referred to the Filipinos".

The Poor Man’s Burden

(After Kipling)

Pile on the Poor Man’s Burden—

Drive out the beastly breed;

Go bind his sons in exile

To serve your pride and greed;

To wait in heavy harness,

Upon your rich and grand;

The common working peoples,

The serfs of every land.

Pile on the Poor Man’s Burden—

His patience will abide;

He’ll veil the threat of terror

And check the show of pride.

By pious cant and humbug

You’ll show his pathway plain,

To work for another’s profit

And suffer on in pain.

Pile on the Poor Man’s Burden—

Your savage wars increase,

Give him his full of Famine,

Nor bid his sickness cease.

And when your goal is nearest

Your glory’s dearly bought,

For the Poor Man in his fury,

May bring your pride to naught.

Pile on the Poor Man’s Burden—

Your Monopolistic rings

Shall crush the serf and sweeper

Like iron rule of kings.

Your joys he shall not enter,

Nor pleasant roads shall tread;

He’ll make them with his living,

And mar them with his dead.

Pile on the Poor Man’s Burden—

The day of reckoning’s near—

He will call aloud on Freedom,

And Freedom’s God shall hear.

He will try you in the balance;

He will deal out justice true:

For the Poor Man with his burden

Weighs more with God than you.

Lift off the Poor Man’s Burden—

My Country, grand and great—

The Orient has no treasures

To buy a Christian state,

Our souls brook not oppression;

Our needs—if read aright—

Call not for wide possession.

But Freedom’s sacred light.

Source: George McNeill, “The Poor Man’s Burden,” American Federationist (March 1899).

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned late last fall, “It would be a great pity if this growing support for open policies in the developing world is weakened” because of the crash. Singh understands that the risk of a backlash against individual freedom is far more dangerous than the direct damage to poor countries caused by a global recession, falling commodity prices, or shrinking capital flows. We’re already seeing this dangerous trend in Latin America. In Bolivia, President Evo Morales has openly crowed about the failure of Fuld’s Lehman Brothers and other Wall Street giants: The capitalist “models in place are not a good solution for humanity . . . because [they are] based on injustice and inequality.” Socialism, he said, will be the solution—in Bolivia, the state “regulates the national economy, and not the free market.” The leaders of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Venezuela, and even tiny Dominica to varying degrees align with these anticapitalist pretensions, all seemingly vindicated by the Crash of 2008. And it’s not confined to Latin America: Vladimir Putin blamed the U.S. financial system for his own populist mismanagement of Russia’s even more catastrophic crisis. A spreading fire of statism would find plenty of kindling already stacked in the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Africa, and Asia. And there are many Western “development” experts who would eagerly fan the flames with their woolly, paternalistic thinking.
William Easterly

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