?https://www.traditionrolex.com/44 https://www.traditionrolex.com/44 https://www.traditionrolex.com/44 Post-imperialism - LEONIDAS DONSKIS


October 12, 2011

By Leonidas Donskis

What exactly is meant by post-imperialism here? One could call it a strange state of affairs between politics and international relations, when former empires deny their colonial history but maintain their great influence in their former satellite states, which, under the guise of political correctness and good taste, are called friendly nations and traditional allies. Besides, post-imperialism cannot be imagined without a paternalistic and protective attitude to smaller or economically and politically weaker countries.

The current European Union vision, as seen from the perspective of the exclusive club of France, Germany, and, perhaps, Great Britain, which also includes countries holding less power and influence (noted for not having de facto a decisive vote at critical moments), is a typical expression of post-imperialism, or post-imperialist, syndrome.
There is, however, another possible future for Europe – a Europe where smaller states and nations would have the last word, when speaking about cultures or the details of community life hundreds of years in the making. That would be a Europe where Danes, the Flemish, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Icelanders would play no smaller role than the French, Germans, or British.

When the former president of France, Jacques Chirac, accidentally said that the countries of Eastern Europe had missed their chance to keep quiet, he undoubtedly stripped bare a carefully disguised post-imperialist syndrome. It resulted in leaving a huge gulf between the two Europes, irrespective of what titles they are given.

Post-imperialist syndrome can also exist in countries that have long ago lost the positions they once held in the international arena but still maintain a thinly disguised paternalistic, moralistic, and arrogant attitude to their former colonies or weaker neighbors. The British and French are too obvious to mention here – it suffices to remember the commonly expressed feelings of Swedish politicians toward Finland or the Baltic States.

Interestingly, the imperial sentiments of Swedes, which up until now have not descended into a strange amalgam of Swedish socialism and monarchism, enshroud the veil of Sweden as a “moral superpower” – they often assign themselves the reputation of being the most just and advanced country in the world, allowing Swedes to easily moralize all the other “backward” countries.

I shall never forget how, during a seminar in Stockholm, the outwardly respectable moderator, a former diplomat, started talking about the Baltic States as if they were countries whose mentalities and customs were difficult for Swedes to understand because everything was completely different there. The argument was that similar forums would aid in increasing their awareness.

In other words, the territory of the Baltic States is ubi leones. After this masterpiece of post-imperialist syndrome, a Finnish film director stood up and openly mocked the Swedish moderator, calling his ideas recidivistic, from the perspective of taking a colonialist approach to one’s neighboring countries.
This was not an isolated case – in Sweden, as well as Germany, the Baltic States are talked of more often than the United States in the sense that to understand them, one must, at the least, take a course on Baltic anthropology, which would reveal incomprehensible codes of behavior, feelings, and thinking new to the West.

Post-imperialism is a mask or veil of power once held but now lost, of which there are attempts to remind a significantly changed world of the division of roles in the former theater of world politics. Post-imperialist syndrome is expressed not only through nostalgia, political rituals, or the hope of maintaining one’s importance, but also through intellectual strategies that hope to deflect the origins of today’s most painful problems away from oneself and address them to new political actors. In other words, place one’s own historical mistakes on the shoulders of newcomers.

For example, a typical element in the discourse on post-imperialist syndrome is throwing the shadow of doubt onto the appearance of smaller nations on the world political map – deliberately discrediting the current world order or the logic of emancipation that helped these very same smaller nations disentangle themselves from their respective empires and create modern states.

In simple terms, this is a way of frightening the world with the monster of nationalism, at the same time exclaiming remorse that the former world order has fallen apart, where the logic of identity were completely different, and where there was no alleged antagonism between nations. The dramas of the 20th century are often explained by nationalism, or its dangerous intrusion into the system of international relations and world politics. The sentiments of larger nations are presented as authentic patriotism, and the reaction it creates among smaller nations is presented as being suicidal nationalism.

In fact, it is a self-deception and dangerous delusion. Not nationalistic reactions, however nasty they happen to be, but rather the post-imperialist syndrome of former empires and totalitarian states is a threat to the existing global social and moral order, as those post-imperialistic entities tend to change the system of international relations in accordance with their needs. This happened more than once in the 20th century, and we should not be misguided and incurably naive again.


Leonidas Donskis, Ph.D.,  is a Lithuanian Member  of the European Parliament.

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