Consent Without Consent

I recently read an essay by Noam Chomsky titled “Consent Without Consent” where he explains how one of the ways the US has justified its involvement in other countries (to put it mildly) is through the term of the same name as the title. The concept of “consent without consent”, as coined by Franklin Henry Giddings, is that “if in later years [the colonized] see and admit that the disputed relation was for the highest of interest, it may be reasonably held that authority has been imposed with the consent of the governed.” The example Giddings uses is the liberation of the Phillippines. By liberation, he means “‘slaughtering the natives in an English fashion’ so that ‘misguided creatures’ who resist us will at least ‘respect our arms’ and later come to recognize that we wish them ‘liberty’ and ‘happiness,’ at least those who survive the ‘wholesale killing’ they are forcing us to undertake.”

It’s easy to see how this excuse can be applied to many of the actions taken by those in power. Often the elite think they know what is best for the rest, and they act with the best of intentions, thinking that the initial suffering of the few will eventually be for the good of the many. I don’t know under what conditions a thought like this is justified and when it is not. But it’s definitely worth thinking about.

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