Imperialism

#211 in the Moʻolelo series

At the Hawai’i State Capitol hangs a large  medallion emblazoned with the Hawai‘i state seal. On the top of the disk it says “State of Hawaii.” At the bottom it says “Ua Mau ke Ea o ka Aina i ka Pono.” This phrase, first stated by Kauikeaouli, King Kamehameha III in 1843 is usually translated as “the life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness,” but in the Hawaiian language dictionary, the word “ea” means life or sovereignty. When Kamehameha III first uttered these words, the sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom had just been restored after being ceded to Britain. The slogan was adopted as the motto of the Kingdom and after the overthrow of 1893 and the statehood vote of 1959, continued as the state motto. But this motto is a slogan affirming the continued sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom from the era of Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III. Kauikeaouli was a prophetic name that meant “placed on a dark cloud.” The name was prophetic because there was a dark cloud over his reign – the cloud of Western imperialism. Kauikeaouli responded with a strategy of Westernizing the Kingdom, Thus, the theme of his reign was Westernization as a means to preserve sovereignty.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes that imperialism is often used as a synonym for colonialism. My own view is that the slight difference is that while colonialism is concerned with the ideology behind making colonies, imperialism, it seems, is concerned with the overall project of building an empire. It was said, for example, that the sun never set on the British Empire, as Britain controlled 25% of the Earth’s land surface and so it was always day somewhere in this imperial territory:

At least since the Crusades and the conquest of the Americas, political theorists have struggled with the difficulty of reconciling ideas about justice and natural law with the practice of European sovereignty over non-Western peoples. In the nineteenth century, the tension between liberal thought and colonial practice became particularly acute, as dominion of Europe over the rest of the world reached its zenith. Ironically, in the same period when most political philosophers began to defend the principles of universalism and equality, the same individuals still defended the legitimacy of colonialism and imperialism. One way of reconciling those apparently opposed principles was the argument known as the “civilizing mission,” which suggested that a temporary period of political dependence or tutelage was necessary in order for “uncivilized” societies to advance to the point where they were capable of sustaining liberal institutions and self-government.

plato.stanford.edu

When the British runner Roger Bannister, the first man to break four minutes in the mile spoke to Australian John Landy, the second man to do so, he brought up the New Zealander Edmund Hilary, who had recently scaled Mount Everest. “Great empire effort,” said Bannister, trying to form a bond with the Aussie Landy. That two men, rivals on opposite sides of the Earth could form such a bond shows the power of imperialism as a ideology.

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