How Empires Behave---Badly

In the last days of his life Chief Sitting Bull wore the clothes of a poor white person in America. The traditional buckskin garments of his tribe, and all the other Native American tribes has been outlawed. No buckskin trousers. No feathered head dresses. The triumphant white government wasn't satisfied with genocide and removal to arid wastelands. All the visible signs of the Indian culture were meant to be obliterated.

Similarly, in 1747, on a large plain outside of Inverness in Scotland called Culloden, the British army put down the much smaller and insufficiently armed Scottish Clans. British cannons obliterated the final Scottish bid for freedom from under the British boots.

Then the tartans, the woolen plaids that the different clans wove for themselves and wore into battle were outlawed. English became the official language.

(In America and Scotland tribes and clans preserved their garments in secret.)

Empires invade occupy and destroy every bit of indigenous culture as part of their total dominance zero sum game. No such thing as a benevolent empire.

Why in the world am I mulling this info now, you might ask? I'm not certain. The specter of the collapsing British and American empires is evident and I seem to want to remember what it is that is coming undone before our eyes.

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Get the popcorn! Pleasantry

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"When will our conscience's grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?" Eleanor Roosevelt

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." Socrates (469-399 BC)

ggersh's picture

@Raggedy Ann @Raggedy Ann

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Buy a Bible don't read it and you'll be a Catholic
Buy a Bible read only what suits you and you'll be an Evangelical
Buy a Bible read it fully, analyze it, reason it and you will be
an Atheist

cake? Really
@ggersh ? You know that’s a bit extravagant for the lowly masses. Wink

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"When will our conscience's grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?" Eleanor Roosevelt

"The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." Socrates (469-399 BC)

wendy davis's picture

@Raggedy Ann

pinging Marie? ; )

“Let them eat cake” is the most famous quote attributed to Marie-Antoinette, the queen of France during the French Revolution. As the story goes, it was the queen’s response upon being told that her starving peasant subjects had no bread."

The reference was to 'brioche', that often braided eggy luxury bread...

And then the Bread Wives marched to the castle, banging their pots with their spoons...and spear-headed the revolution.

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TheOtherMaven's picture

@wendy davis

by at least a generation. Some trace it back to Marie-Therese, wife of Louis XIV. (A variant, "If they don't have rice, why don't they eat meat?" has been reported from 3rd century China.)

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There is no justice. There can be no peace.

Empires invade occupy and destroy every bit of indigenous culture as part of their total dominance zero sum game. No such thing as a benevolent empire.

... but they rarely manage to destroy (or often even try to) every bit of indigenous culture - ever witnessed a New Zealand All Blacks haka? The imperial culture is often influenced by the colonized/conquered one(s), sometimes enriching them, sometimes not. Potatoes? Tomatoes? Ska? Curry? Kebab? Pakistani grooming gangs? Domestic jihadi's? Hanging above the desk where I'm typing this - in Japan - is a 'dream catcher' left by the previous tenant (Canadian of Scottish descent). Go figure.

I don't know that empires accomplish things, but things do see to often get accomplished under imperial them that would be unlikely to happen otherwise - Tran-Siberian Railroad, say?

And the Russian Empire, as well as the Ottoman were very diverse ethnically and religiously although one group was clearly dominant.

There are examples of empires downsizing and to some extent re-inventing themselves, too, Russia being one example and a lesser-known one being Denmark which lost the richest half of its territory to Germany in 1863, but managed to survive, re-invent itself and prosper.

Those dead white guy founding fathers (at least the Jefferson/ Thomas Paine/ Ben Franklin strand) were definitely on to something in doing all they could to ensure that America did not become an empire.

Too bad we became one anyway - the sooner people realize it's doomed to crash and start working toward something better the less wrenching and destructive the inevitable change will be.

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TheOtherMaven's picture

as soon as the Stewart cause was no longer a threat (sometime after 1750-ish). Suddenly everyone wanted to wear tartan - not just Highlanders, but Lowlanders who had previously scorned it, and even the English themselves.

Tartan plaid is still a cyclical fad across the Anglo world.

(By the way, the idea of specific tartan setts assigned to specific clans was a product of this "tartan revival". There is no clear evidence for it earlier.)

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There is no justice. There can be no peace.