Sometimes I feel like a more general version of Fallout 3’s narrator, endlessly drawling “Stuff. Stuff never changes.”
Case in point: this article, which addresses what seems to be a fundamental aspect of Western foreign interference – the justification of meddling in foreign countries by the touted aim of protecting women and raising them from subjugation. With direct efficiency it reveals how this rhetoric has been in use since there was a need to justify European imperialism abroad, and the value of the emotive appeal appears to be such that it is still being used to justify our modern Afghan adventuring. What’s thoroughly depressing about all this is that, even though 2 centuries have gone by, that rhetoric remains as completely hypocritical as ever.
Still, it would be wrong to succumb to a vision of a present dominated by the past. Things do change – not much and not quickly, but they do. Established norms may be so deeply entrenched in the way we think that today’s counterinsurgents deploy strategies invented over a century ago by French imperialists, but that does not make them incontestable. 600 years ago usury was a sin, only practised in London by a foreign minority (Lombard Street was named for these Italian pioneer-bankers). Now it’s the basis of the city’s (and by proxy, Britain’s) whole economy. It takes a lot to break mankind’s train of thought, but it’s possible, and given the type of norms we’re currently saddled with, worth any effort to do.