The problem of race, ethnicity, and superiority has always been topical for human society. Even today, in communities that are considered tolerant ones, there are signs of discrimination and inappropriate attitude to some categories of people. As for the past epochs, the problem was even more complex because of the prevalence of the idea of the white nation’s superiority. It preconditioned the formation of a particular sort of society in which Europeans played central roles in the colonized world and dictated their demands. At the same time, to support this concept, various philosophical theories were suggested. The notion of social Darwinism is one of them.
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In general, this theory can be correlated with the idea of natural selection. It states that human society also has the mechanisms of natural selection. In accordance with this perspective, the weak cultures were doomed to diminish and become inferior to the strong nations that grew and acquired extra powers (Razdan, n.d.). This theoretical background emerged at the end of the 19th century under the impact of extensive colonization and dominance of white people.
They needed the idea of justifying their actions and providing the right to rule. Having no scientific grounds, this concept became rather popular at that period of time and contributed to the emergence of vigorous debates about the nature of human beings, their rights to rule and obey.
The significance of the idea can also be proven by the fact that prominent people of that period of time, such as poets, thinkers, and writers, responded to the concept of social Darwinism in their works. For instance, Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden” can be considered a perfect reflection of the spirit of the epoch. It emerged as the response to the Philippine-American War as a certain form of an invitation to the USA to rule the country and bring civilization to this land. Pointing out numerous benefits of the empire; at the same time, he warns about victims that might emerge while generating these profits (Kipling, 1899). However, the majority of readers understood it as the manifest of imperialism outlining a hard white man’s burden to rule.
The poem also provides some examples of ethnocentrism peculiar to people of that period of time. First of all, Kipling calls other races “sullen peoples,” which means that there is a great difference between Europeans and “new-caught” people (Kipling, 1899). Moreover, there are many lines in which the author shows that all attempts to bring civilization to this land will be opposed by the local people who remain in the abyss of their ignorance “Why brought he us from bondage, / Our loved Egyptian night?” (Kipling, 1899) This stanza shows the superiority of white people who are on another stage of their development and want to help weak cultures to evolve and survive.
However, one should realize the fact that the resistance of these “half-devil” people was preconditioned by the fact that they had their own cultures and civilization. In many cases, they were much older than the European ones and had unique peculiarities that were not understood by the white people (Razdan, n.d.). For this reason, colonizers tried to destroy patterns unknown to them and create new ones, typical for their mentalities. It perfectly demonstrates the nature of imperialism characterized by the disregard of other cultures and attempts to promote the dominant ideology and spread it to all lands.
Kipling, R. (1899). The White Man’s Burden. Web.
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Razdan, E. (n.d.). The effects of Charles Darwin on imperial policy. Web.