With the holidays over, I finally have time to return to my true passion, Youtube documentaries. As always, if you’ve got some to suggest or add, get in touch via email (email@example.com), via Facebook or simply post a comment.
Over the past weeks, two big stories have dominated the news: the ongoing explosion of indigenous activism across Canada and now our nation’s involvement with France’s war in Mali. In both, we’re confronted with themes of imperialism, colonialism and resistance stretching back at least a century. In their own way, each is a testament to the ongoing legacy of centuries of conquest and terror, which (no matter what we might like to think), we’re still struggling to overcome. They show, despite all the wonders of post-modern life in the first world, how little has really changed.
Sure, we enjoy standards of living beyond the dreams of most people around the world or across history. We have education, science, technology and philosophy beyond anything the world’s ever seen. We’re “citizens”, with “rights” and a “democratic government”, formalized in a way which is unparalleled. Our countries even send their soldiers far afield poorer and more “primitive” regions to try and help them “modernize” as well. Does this sound like the behaviour of an “empire”?
Well, yes. It sounds exactly like life in 19th century Britain or first-century Rome, both of which were absolutely breathtaking and unprecedented for their time. The idea that they were “civilized” and “enlightened”, in contrast with violent, tyrannical and ignorant “barbarians” was central to their self-image, just as it is to ours. History, of course, shows this to be something of a self-serving delusion – both Britain and Rome raised the standards of “barbarity” in ways their victims could never have imagined. In today’s terms, these victims, were the “indigenous peoples” of their times, and just like today, they often fought back.
Imperialism is a disease, and it lives on long after empires, themselves, die. The British Empire mirrored Rome in many ways, as has every European state and empire since it’s fall. What’s so fascinating is the transition made by regions like Britain, from “barbarian” to “civilized”. As Rome collapsed, some of it’s worst traditions endured, though some took a thousand years to really re-emerge. Often, this happened via the very military (or religious…) leaders and mobilizations which managed to finally rout the Legionnaires. Eventually, after “imposing order” within their own borders, these states managed to conquer nearly all of the rest of the planet. This centuries-long bloodbath still has frightening repercussions, from the Vietnam war to the Rwandan genocide, and it’s still going on today, though power has once-again shifted to another set of ex-colonies.
Tonight’s movies depict two of ancient Europe’s best known anti-imperialists; Boudica, the British warrior queen and Armenius of Germania (“Herman the German”). They lived during an era when the Roman Empire was just beginning to spread out across the “primitive” and “tribal” lands of Europe, and both managed to significantly slow this expansion. Their stories show not only the passion for freedom which existed on the Roman frontier, but also give an interesting glimpse at how they managed to resist the largest and most organized fighting force the world (of their time) had ever seen.
I picked tonight’s features for two reasons. First, because they show a very important part of history that’s often left out in the rush to idolize Rome. “History” itself is a battleground in this war, and we should never forget those who gave their lives for freedom, no matter how ancient. Second, I wanted to make a point about the system in question. No matter how much it relies on fantasies of racial superiority, the actual genetics are irrelevant. Today’s “barbairans” could just as easily be tomorrow’s conquerors, and if so, they’ll believe that they, too, are “special”. We need to fight empires, but we also need to fight imperialism itself. No matter how much it may try to hide behind an enlightened and benevolent mask, empire is a racist, mass-murdering cancer on this planet, and it needs to be excised.
Battlefield Britain – Bouddica’s Revolt
The Battle Against Rome (Two Parts)
In conclusion, I’d like to call attention to two very poor nations who’ve put in an incredible effort to resist this nonsense since long before the days of Boudica and Armenius, and at this point proven a mighty pain in the ass to Rome, Britain, and now the United States, along with a extensive and impressive list of others. Afghanistan and Palestine – never give up.