This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

Imperialism as instinct

Especially during its development, American imperialism was instinctive rather than calculated and deliberate. This rendered it deniable because it meant that no public official ever stood up and argued for an American Empire. It is still denied today. We could chock this up to cognitive dissonance—to the inability of the mind to entertain two completely opposed beliefs at once. America has always self-identified as the light of the world, as a force for freedom, self-government, and human dignity, and so, how could it possibly acknowledge that its actions were directly opposed to these values, especially when that image is so flattering, and the alternative is not? This is why we see politicians coming very close to speaking the truth, but then fading into the background. Regarding the annexation of the Philippines, William Jennings Bryan observed: “We cannot repudiate the principle of self-government in the Philippines without weakening that principle here.” In other words, when we destroy our principles elsewhere, we destroy them in ourselves. But the instinct had already been given full expression by the time this speech was delivered (August 8, 1900) and it may have received applause and nods of acknowledgement, just as it certainly would today, but it altered nothing and led to no epiphanies of self-knowledge. No policy was altered, because American imperialism has never been a matter of explicit policy, but of subconscious impulse.

We all know of those people who act aggressively toward others and whose aggression is blatantly obvious to every observer, but who, in spite of this, sincerely believe themselves peacemakers, gentle and meek in every conflict. One’s instincts and one’s self-understanding can easily be at odds, and as mentioned already, American politico-Calvinism has ensured that Americans will never search very far in terms of self-understanding and reflection. Calvinistic predestination is in fact directly opposed to an objective evaluation of one’s motives and actions. To question such things is to question the will of God. Thus, Americans were consciously ‘freedom loving and humanitarian’ but objectively imperialistic and brutal toward anyone standing in the way of their expansion, freedom and democracy be damned.

The instinct is deniable, and it wins because it is deniable. The American instinct is still, at least in the popular mind, denied, but it is always in the driver’s seat.

It speaks volumes about the American mentality that they can only interpret diplomacy as a response to fear, rather than simply good statesmanship. Every good turn America receives is, in the eyes of Americans, due to fear of American power, and every bad turn is, on the other hand, an attempt at exploiting American generosity. In an individual we would interpret this kind of thinking as egocentric insecurity. In a nation, it is the same.

During the 30’s, the expansive impulse led Americans into the Mexican Empire where they separated Texas from Mexico, which was then incorporated into the union within a decade. Oregon was also added by 1846. America, not yet done with Mexico, decided to direct itself toward the Pacific, which meant canals and railroads in Central America. Mexico “caused” a war over these issues in the same way that many wars would be caused after: by refusing to simply bow to the desires of the United States. After the acquisition of Alaska from Russia for a paltry sum, the border with Mexico was again rounded off through the Gadsden Purchase. And so, through the second half of the 19th century, the American Empire was at work: Hawaii, Chile, Cuba, Colombia, China, Japan, Siam, Samoa. In 1898, Spanish possessions in the Caribbean and Pacific were attached, and the Spanish-American War resulted not the in liberation of any peoples but in the transfer of the Spanish colonial empire to the American colonial empire. The Philippines. Tutuila. Guam. Wake. Midway. Ports were bombarded and wherever necessary troops were deployed. Such are the demands of freedom and liberty for all… which is to say, all Americans.

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