Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said

The essay “Culture and Imperialism” is penned by Edward Said. He shows his hatred against imperialism but before going into details we must know what imperialism is. The writer himself defines imperialism in the following way. “Imperialism means the practice, the theory and the attitude of a dominating metropolitan centre that rules a distant territory.” The writer believes that it is an evil idea that is prevailing in the world. In this regard, he has highlighted the callous, selfish and royal thinking of the European countries. He is of the opinion that these countries are busy in a race to enslave the Asian and African countries. To enslave them, they go to every extent. They are ready to do anything for the fulfilment of this task. Even, they do not avoid exploiting the down trodden and miserable people of these countries. The writer has given special reference to the so-called development programs that these countries run in the Asian and African countries. He condemns the policies of Britain, France and America. In the 19th and 20th centuries, these countries set up colonies. They adopted double-standard in setting up these colonies. Apparently, these countries were raising the slogans of peace, civilization and rectification but inwardly these things were limited only to the people of their countries. They didn’t have anything to do with the people of the Asian and African countries.

Telling this, the writer exposes the main reason of this double standard. He says that most of the Western countries consider themselves superior to Asian and African countries on the basis of race, politics and ideology. He tells that the Britain think that they have been created to rule the world. The same is the case with the Americans. With such thinking, they try to impose their ideology, their culture and literature on these countries. By imposing all these, their purpose is to maintain their political influence.

Then, the writer appreciates Joseph Conrad for his novel “Heart of Darkness” and Chinua for “Things Fall Apart”, Jane Austen for “Mansfield Park” and many other writers for their efforts to expose imperialistic attitudes and the double standard and hypocritical behaviour of these so-called democracies. The writer praises these writers for making the readers aware of the facts that the people didn’t know.

In the end, the writer calls this imperialism an illusion. The writer believes that all the Western countries are using this illusion of democracy to deceive the Third World countries to get their benefits. Although most of the countries had already won freedom by the 20th century, most of the developed countries have still maintained their influence in some or the other way. The colonies made by these developed countries have come to an end but imperialism still exists in the underdeveloped countries.

The writer suggests that cultural and social balance must exist in the world so that all kinds of culture may flourish freely. This is the way with which the people will be able to work for the welfare of the whole of humanity. If this cultural and social balance does not exist, all kinds of cultures will not be able to prosper. it would cause disbalance in society.

(Penned by: Naeem Ullah Butt)