The Attempted Justification of Domination by One Culture over Another Based on Eventual Benefit

There has been a debate, throughout human history as to whether the means to an end, no matter how oppressive or even horrific, can be justified by an eventual benefit of some sort.  One can hear this debate in the question of whether torture should be condoned under any condition, if it “produces results” and one can hear this debate in the apologies made for Adolf Hitler that he modernized Germany and put a despondent and unemployed people back to work, as if that can justify the holocaust which he perpetrated on the world.  The imperial powers have historically tried to justify their actions of colonizing and exploiting populations of people by the “development”, “cultural benefits” and “modern technology” that they bring to those countries.  Philosophers and sages have argued against the idea that “the end justifies the means” yet those in power consistently try to make their case that in their case, the end does justify the means.

Sri Aurobindo explains their rationale as follows:  “Still it may be said that, if the old principle of the association was wrong, yet the association itself leads eventually to a good result.  If Ireland has lost for the most part its old national speech and Wales has ceased to have a living literature, yet as a large compensation the Celtic spirit is now reviving and putting its stamp on the English tongue spoken by millions throughout the world, and the inclusion of the Celtic countries in the British Empire may lead to the development of an Anglo-Celtic life and culture better for the world than the separate development of the two elements.  India by the partial possession of the English language has been able to link herself to the life of the modern world and to reshape her literature, life and culture on a larger basis and, now that she is reviving her own spirit and ideals in a new mould, is producing an effect on the thought of the West; a perpetual union of the two countries and a constant mutual interaction of their culture by this close association would be more advantageous to them and to the world than their cultural isolation from each other in a separate existence.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 31, The Conditions of a Free World-Union, pp. 274-275

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