Cultural Colonialism

Cultural Colonialism

A Problem For The New Age

What is cultural colonialism or cultural imperialism? It's the equivalent of regular colonialism in the realm of ideas. Just as colonial rulers strip the material assets of the conquered country for their own benefit, cultural colonialists exploit the spirituality, art, music and other cultural expressions of the culture they target. Cultural colonialism is often the final stage in the process of ethnocide, the murder of one culture by another.

One example would be the immense popularity in Victorian Britain of sentimentalized images of the Scottish Highlander. While the King Edward IV was dressing up in an overblown pseudo-Highland costume and indulging in Jacobite fantasies, real Scottish Highlanders were being systematically driven off their own lands to make way for sheep. Today, the fake Victorian images of Highland culture are still extremely popular and widespread, while real Gaelic culture struggles to survive another generation.


Similarly, in the modern USA, millions of people hang highly romanticized images of American Indians on their walls, listen to Indian-influenced New Age music, and attend expensive seminars by so-called “Native American Shamans” so they can learn to be “shamans” themselves. Meanwhile, real American Indians live in conditions of desperate poverty, without the resources or the sovereignty needed to give their traditional culture the tools for survival.


I'm not saying that listening to New Age music with Indian flutes in it is somehow wrong. I'm not saying that being interested in American Indian forms of spirituality is wrong. I'm not an American Indian, so it's not my business to say. But I will say this: if you love the cultures of the American Indian peoples, you owe it to them not to treat these cultures as assets to be mined. You owe it to them to care at least as much about indigenous rights as you do about how that beautiful music makes you feel. And you owe it to them to act on that knowledge to the best of your understanding and ability.