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Age of Empires

May 8, 2010

The age of the empires takes on a new face. Far from the colonial armies, trading vessels, or monopolies of old, the new empires take the shape of seemingly legitimate political units, many of whom claim the coveted “nation-state” status. The modern empire is the multinational state.

Imperialism, the philosophy supporting the political structure of the Empire, is derived from the Latin imperium. Imperium is a Latin term used to describe means of legitimate control over a territory or thing. The contemporary context for imperialism can range from one’s imperium over his cat to one nation’s imperium over another, or a state’s imperium over constituent nations. The latter two forms of imperialism are often the case in present-day politics. Brief examples range from the obvious Chinese imperialism over the Uighur, Manchu, Tibetan, and Mongol nations to more obscure and overlooked French Cosmopolitan imperialism over the Bretons, Occitan, Catalan, and Alsatian nations.

The prospect of empires posing as nation-states is the single most dangerous threat to nationalism as it robs the nationalist of his or her ultimate goal. Forcible integration and ethnocide are tactics of the pretender to “nationalize” its constituents, and therefore molding a nation-state out of an imperial multitude. It is important to note that this is the farthest thing from nationalism. Nationalism, a universal philosophy, cannot allow one nation to take from another, and therefore cannot allow for the eradication of nations. The imperialist, on the other hand, seeking the legitimacy of a nation-state inherent in nationalist philosophy, has no qualms quashing national groups in order to create a new illegitimate “nation.”  The differentiating factor between imperial creations and the equally contrived social structure of a “nation” is a degree of choice.  While “free will” is a theme that cannot be determined here, the assumption that individuals select identity is not a new one.  When selection is removed from the process, by imperialists, by repressive regimes, or by ignorance, the legitimacy of identity fails.

Returning to the France example, such tactics as establishing a “national language,” a “national school system,” and enforcing other “national” regulations aimed at unity in an imperial unit, such as France, force the Occitanians, Alsatians, Catalan, and Bretons, mentioned earlier into an immoral and illegitimately contrived identity, “French.” The French empire over the past few hundred years has been stamping out true national languages, cultures, and roots, in a historiographical attempt at legitimacy.

As long as empires masquerade as legitimate political units, the nation is in danger.

Remember the Etruscan.
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