Plans to deliver democracy to various parts of the world have often crashed and burned. Photo: iStock
Plans to deliver democracy to various parts of the world have often crashed and burned. Photo: iStock

There’s much talk about China’s growing economic imperialism, its human-rights violations and about multinational corporations’ exploitation of humans and nature large-scale. But what about the West?

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In the Age of Colonialism the West invaded countries abroad to bring “good things” by religion, to “civilize” the world while exploiting the hell out of other countries, their natural resources and people.

It’s all different now. Western countries have evolved, learned from history … Really? Have they? Aren’t the same underlying patterns still at work? Doesn’t the West still feel superior over the world?

Take psychology/psychotherapy as an analysis tool: “Feeling superior” originates from an overcompensated “inferiority complex” (coined by Alfred Adler, an Austrian physicist who participated in Sigmund Freud’s “Wednesday Society“), meaning overcompensating one’s own shortcomings (inferiority) to feel superior over others, which Adler called a “superiority complex.”

Isn’t colonialism based on the collective conviction to be superior over others, in Christianity deriving from culturally ingrained inferiority complex (“original sin”) overcompensated to superiority complex?

Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and others have experienced Western interventionism and “nation-building” offensives. In the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989) the USSR driven by a superiority complex was defeated in its effort to bring communism to Afghanistan. Since 2002 Western allies have Westernized Afghanistan and the region with humble outcomes – “History repeats itselfthe first as tragedy, then as farce.” (Karl Marx)

Western leaders have a history of shaping the world according to their ideals to save the world, to break with age-old traditions on-site and urge all to follow Western traditions instead.

Today, the West still feels superior over the “rest of the world” (a common phrase therefore) pushing the world to comply, this time not by religion but by democratization and science, appearing as “new religions.”

While Western technology is well adopted worldwide, why are democracy and human rights hard to establish?

I strongly advocate human rights. However, undeniably many consider human rights as a secularized substrate of Christianity different from, for example, sharia law. But many argue: Almost all countries committed themselves to respect the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), beyond culture.

Sure, but in many countries human rights are respected in name only, rejected as a “Western product” dangerous to traditions on-site.

Although applying to everyone universally, many perceive human rights as a “Western invention” based on the Age of Enlightenment, which Western thinkers – in response to the horrors of World War II – propagated first. And that’s its weakness.

Resistance against human rights in the world originates from their being perceived as a new form of colonialism of Western powers spreading democracy worldwide while using human rights as a fig leaf for reckless exploitation of the world, similar to the Chinese model, which operates without democracy and human rights.

As well, even in Western countries human rights aren’t well established (integration struggles, non-ethical behavior of multinational corporations). Remember the many domestic workers tortured by Asian bosses mostly educated at high-ranked Western universities, as are the world’s many Western-educated brutal dictators. Western education falls short when imposed. Apparently human rights as a relatively new concept are outweighed by deeply rooted age-old cultures, where human rights aren’t culturally internalized.

Who pays the price for Western interventions? The history of Western “nation-building” and interventionism – coinciding with Western economic/strategic interests – fuels critics like Paolo Sensini (“If you don’t come to Democracy, Democracy will come to you”), William Blum (“Be nice to America. Or we’ll bring democracy to your country!”) even video games (“Embrace democracy or you will be eradicated!” – Fallout 3, Liberty Prime).

But does “spreading democracy and human rights abroad” even achieve the desired results? “Change takes time,” say advocates of installing Western values worldwide. True, it only takes generations.

American sociologist Robert K Merton’s Law of Unintended Consequences refers to unintended consequences of interventions. It might be hard not to meddle in the face of cruel traditions. But remember: They are “cruel” from a Western perspective.

The West’s self-image of “the shining city on the hill” (see Puritan John Winthrop and American exceptionalism) or “the envy of the world” is revealing, appearing as overcompensation driven by knowing better, urging the world to model itself on the West to accept Western standards and creating Western copies worldwide – propagated by Hollywood and the media. India’s widespread obsession with skin-whitening or Asia’s frenzy for beauty surgeries to look Western speaks volumes.

The West spearheads a global cultural standardization process via the World Wide Web as new colonialism. A standardized world mainly benefits capitalist global trade. Western leaders often steamroller the majority population on-site not being asked, if democracy is desired. Therefore Western interventionism appears as foreign countries’ endeavors to exploit natural/human resources.

This two-faced global Westernization process appears self-contradictory: While Western cultural imperialists – no longer spreading Christianity, as the Bible is widely considered “outdated” in the West – urge the world to adopt Western lifestyles, democracy, human rights etc. Western multinational corporations exploit people and nature recklessly worldwide and deliver arms to cruel regimes violating human rights.

Democracy installed top-down creates only superficial results and mounting resistance, when ignoring the majority population on-site with its traditions unready for change. Take the French Revolution (1789-1799) – none other than the French themselves toppled their regime, or in the American Revolution (1775-1783) the Americans themselves threw off British rule.

Revolutions have lasting change only by “the power within” – coming from inside out, if the majority population wants change. That’s the revolutionary factor. Without that, foreign powers bringing change are perceived as imperialists looking to secure their own interests, ignoring the on-site majority populations’ reluctance against interventionism. Imagine the French people’s reluctance against making revolution if it had been perceived as foreign powers’ interference in internal affairs.

Post-World War II Germany and Japan welcomed change over their majority populations. Psychologically speaking everything, even democracy imposed, provokes resistance in those affected if they are unwilling to change – from tribes to Internet-filtering regimes preserving authority by withholding freedom of information from their people. Western cultural-economic-military meddling worldwide triggers and fuels anti-Western sentiment, even “global terrorism.”

The revolution’s driving force is “the power within,” the majority population on-site ready for change. Only then is the time, the groundwork laid by the people themselves embracing change, which therefore lasts.

Dr. Dr. phil. Immanuel Fruhmann is an Austrian philosopher and educationist specialized in philosophy of science and language, cultural and social philosophy, as well as adult education, with years of experience in analysis of geopolitics and giving philosophical and educational insights to the public. He is psychotherapist in training and works as coach and consultant as well as writer.
Fruhmann is a Knight of the Order of St George, a European Order of the Imperial House of Habsburg-Lorraine, as well as vice president of the Austrian Education Alliance, associated member of the Kinderbüro (political lobby for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child), and the Austrian Economic League.

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