“Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.”
“The White Man’s Burden” (as a term) has long been considered to be something negative, imperialism built around the idea that other people or nations are incapable of yet taking their place in the civilized world. The White Man has the obligation to step up and provide them with what they need.
(Incidentally, I have long desired to hold a White Man’s Burden Movie Marathon. We’d start with Dances With Wolves, then move on to Fern Gully (DWW w/ fairies!), Pocahontas (FG w/ Disney!), Last Samurai (DWW in Japan!), Dune (Dances With Wolves in Space!), Avatar (Dune in SPACE!). There’s even a knew movie coming out, Epic, with a trailer promising that it will be Fern Gully with Talking Slugs! But in a critical change, it shall be the White Woman’s Burden.)
Back on topic: the idea that the White Man has a burden to aid the rest of the world has fallen out of favor . . . except that it hasn’t. We like to say that the White Man’s Burden was part of our past, and we have advanced beyond enforcing our ways on others. Except when it comes to family size. And using condoms to prevent aids. And democracy. And capitalism. And freedom of expression. And absolute tolerance. And sexual amorality. And our environmentalism. And global economy. And yeah.
We’re pretty much charging forward with Gung-ho intellectual colonization. They may be wonderful people, but they are simply not smart enough to run their own country. We need to step in and teach them all good things. Those third world countries have finally gotten self-determination, except they shouldn’t be allowed to exercise it when we think we know better. And hey, who’s to stop us from impeding the flow of antimalarial drugs to a country that’s unwilling to distribute condoms? It’s our money, right? We might as well lump everything together and provide bed nets, antimalarial medications, and condoms. (One of these things is not like the other things, one of these things just doesn’t belong.)
It’s a simple truth the colonization and imperialism are still alive and well in the world. We have simply attempted to disguise it behind a intellectual disparity, rather than a more cultural one. No one’s culture is bad, but they just don’t know as much as we in the West do. Thus we are still obliged to run their countries until, well, we think of another reason to run their countries.