Empire and Oppression Discussion Questions



Following today’s discussion of the ways in which we might witness a formal and informal empire in our modern world, I am interested to hear your thoughts on (any one of) the following questions:

  • What is an aspect of the Formal or Informal Empire that interests you? How does it “determine key outcomes in the dominated society”? Why does this attract your attention?
  • Who typically derives economic benefits, access to important resources, control of strategic military territory and other forms of power? In other words, what might we put in the _____ in the above diagram?
  • And finally, is it possible to benefit from the oppression of others and not be responsible for that oppression? If so, how?

Please respond to one of these questions in the comments below. If you are arriving at the post after many of initial posts and comments, feel free to reply, extend, challenge or continue dialogue with your peers by replying to their comment.


  1. – I find it interesting how so many different factors affect and influence our world, whether that is directly or indirectly. Who would have thought that “Frozen” and “Youtube” could have such a huge impact on our society. Looking into indirect (informal) and direct (formal) causes really opened my eyes. I was shocked at how much corruption and deception there is! Looking into formal and informal empires really made me look at our normal everyday life differently.

    – Racist or not, it is a fact that straight Caucasian Men who are educated, Christian (or are associated with Christianity), middle/high class, who are 30-50 years old and who work in a white collared job, benefit from the oppression of others.

    – I don’t think one can blame them for being born a Caucasian male, but if they were aware of the oppression, and didn’t use their “privileges” and power to CHANGE anything and to not strive for the demolition of oppression, then they can be found guilty. It is one thing to be handed power, but it is what we DO with it that matters.

  2. I don’t think that you can blame a person for being born a Caucasian Male (the people who typically benefit from the system that they govern), but i do think that if they are aware that they are benefiting from the oppression of others, and don’t use the power that they have to CHANGE anything (or strive to get rid of oppression), then they can be found guilty. It is one thing to be handed power, but it is what you DO with it that matters!

  3. -The idea of an informal empire really interests me. The fact that a group can influence other groups without any physical control, sometimes with something as simple as a movie is really eye opening.

    -Whoever is influencing others the most, both in number of people and amount of influence. The fact that that person still tends to be a Caucasian straight male after all the progress we’ve made (with things like gender equality, religion acceptance and LGBTQ rights) is a little sad but hopefully that will change in the future.

    -The benefiting people had mostly no control over the influencing factors, so much like we cannot say they earned their place by merit we also can’t say they are bad. I think that they are innocent as long as they don’t treat the opressed people as lesser than them. For example, a man who thinks he is better than women just because he is blessed with a life without that oppression and they aren’t is guilty, but a man who uses his supposed increased power to treat women fairly or even help them would be innocent. In short, beneficial people are innocent as long as they realize that much like they had no control over their influencing factors, neither did anybody else.

  4. I believe that the people who typically benefit the most from economy, military strategies and resources are the Caucasian males who are high up in the social ladder, an English speaker, have completed some kind of post-secondary education or degree and are associated with Christianity. They will be, as we discussed in class, the “best off” towards success.

    Even though us, the top 1%, are basically creating an empire, we can still be “innocent” to the 99% who were less fortunate. We need to be aware that they live in difficulty and be actively (or at least trying) to help. In addition, since we received higher education, it is our job to look after the rest of the world as leaders.

  5. I find it interesting how many of the people who truly influence this world are often not the ones we suspect. For example, the American political system, as Mr. Jackson said, has no limit to the amount of political donations that can be given. As a result of this there is an endless supply of money streaming into the Republican side of things. They support oil, big money is made in oil, the people who make the money want to keep making the money and so they donate to the people who can support that. I find that interesting how much of that is kept secret, or at least off the mainstream media.

    I would say the power is with the money. Here in Canada, and to a lesser amount the states, we try and not let money influence our political system, however I know that especially in the middle east the political system is quite corrupt and so with enough money you can get what you want.

    I believe that we are born innocent whether we are born as a straight white guy or as a underprivileged middle eastern woman. However, what we do with our “power” is important, if I accepted that it wasn’t my fault and blamed it on others then yes I could be held accountable.

  6. I find informal empire quite an interesting topic to think about. It’s funny to think that there are so many ways that empire exist in our fairly direct daily lives. I am specifically interested in how Hollywood and social media can make such an impact in our world. It brings people together and opens up minds in ways that can be just as effective as formal empires. Though a movie or trending topic on Twitter may seem like something quite small-scale, as opposed to Unicef or the Olympics, they still make a big impact, even more so for our rapidly moving generation.

  7. I find the informal empire really interesting, It’s really cool to see that there are so many ways that social media, films, and music can impact the way we perceive ourselves, others, and the world around us. Even just a simple Instagram post can still make an impact on people and change a certain way the view certain things.

    The people who typically derive economic benefits and other forms of power are the people who are blessed enough to be born Caucasian, a male, and are able to inherit a large sum of money. However, I think the word that would fill that blank would be money because nowadays the amount of money will influence the amount of power you have as well as how much people pay attention/listen to you.

    I believe that it is not any Caucasian male’s fault that they were born a male and someone else was born a female. These things are impossible to predict and are impossible to change (unless you undergo surgery). However, if they are aware that they were born with a “head start” and do nothing to stop the oppression or oppress others who are born with less influencing factors, then they can be found guilty.

  8. I think that on a certain level, we are responsible for that oppression, but there is little we can do to control the given advantages that we are born with. However, I think that what we can do is stand up for those who are oppressed. We are privileged people who did nothing to deserve our privilege and should use our power to speak for those who are oppressed. I read a wonderful, true story illustrating this point. An African American lady was at the check-out of a grocery store with her sister who was visiting her in her hometown of many years. Her sister, who despite being black looks Caucasian, checks out her groceries first, pays with a check, and moves on. Next, the lady begins her transaction, and as she goes to pay with a check just like her sister before, the clerk pulls out a book to see if she is on the list of people who should not be allowed to pay by check for it may bounce. Of course this lady who has been shopping at this store for years is highly offended, the clerk says it is just procedure for everyone. The clerk makes a big show of it. At this point, the lady could have stood up for herself, but would it have really made a difference? Would that not just prove to the clerk that she is a person to “watch out for”? This is when her sister who has white privilege despite her descant, stands up for her saying that the clerk treated her unfairly. She recognized the problem and stood up for it, her voice made more of an impact because she was outside of the oppression but still recognized it. She used the privilege that she had to stand up for the oppressed. I think that is what we should do with our privilege, recognize that we have it and that lots of things in life will come easier to us than others, but stand up when we see people oppressed and do our best to take our privileges with a grain of salt.

  9. Informal empires are something I really find fascinating. Our everyday lives are effecting people everywhere. I think more often than not people aren’t aware of the effect they have everyday.

    I think the people who get the most benefit are basically who we described earlier today in class. Straight Caucasian Males who had a good education and are wealthy

    I think the only way you live live guilt free is using your “Leg up” for good (or at least neutral) causes. As long as you aren’t doing damage, I don’t resent the fact that you’ve been born with certain benefits that others don’t receive.

    (Sorry if this makes no sense I’m super tired emotionally and mentally cause INS)

  10. In response to the third question, I believe that not being responsible for benefiting from oppression is possible. I think that if you are born with any amount privilege, you can’t really be held accountable for any factors that contributed to it. It’s not something you can control or have any influence in, but it is important to recognize that others may not have the same opportunities or privileges that you do.

  11. The third question brings up an interesting topic. I believe that people can benefit from oppression and be innocent. It’s all about how we treat those in a position below us, and if we’re contributing to the oppression. Obviously, if you are someone that believes that the oppression of others is the right thing, you should be held responsible. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that If you just think that oppression is wrong and then don’t do anything to help others less fortunate, you are innocent. I believe that you should help others less privileged as part of your daily life, if you encounter people who are in that position. If you see a homeless man on the street on the way home, Chuck in a loonie. If someone comes to your door asking for donations to charity, donate something, no matter how small. We don’t necessarily have to turn into social activists, but instead help others whenever you get the chance.

  12. 1. I think it’s interesting how, without even realizing it, so many powerful groups influence who you are as a person and how your lifestyle is what it is. Talking about Formal and Informal Empires really opened my eyes to how much need for power and money there really is in this world. It really makes me question my identity, and how much of my identity was really “my choice.” It’s a crazy thing to think that without certain Empires in today’s world, you wouldn’t be who you are today, and neither would any of the people you knew!

    2. Like we said in class today, there are a lot of different categories that determine whether you are “privileged” or not. Although we are all privileged and should count ourselves lucky, some are more privileged than others. For example, if you are an educated, wealthy, Caucasian, Protestant Christian, straight, cis-gendered, English-speaking, 30-60 year old meat-eating male, you are pretty damn privileged. Sadly, people who are in a lot of minorities do not feel as safe and secure and people who are included in most of the above categories do.

    3. It’s definitely possible. It depends how you use this “power.” Of course, you wouldn’t have chosen to be a white straight man, but if that so happens to be the case, how you behave in society as a white straight man is what matters. This privilege exists because minorities exist, and minorities get oppressed because of how people use their privilege. If you are part of the reason people in minorities get pressed and abused, and are actively making their lives harder, you are by all means guilty for that oppression. You were luckily given this privilege and choose to make people who aren’t so fortunate even more singled out and isolated – guilty. However, since you were so fortunate to be given this privilege, you can use this power for good. The truth is, if you are a, educated, wealthy, straight Caucasian male, people will listen to you, that’s just how the world works. You have that voice, so use it for good! Use it to make a positive change, to stop behaviours like the first example. Acknowledge that you are lucky to be given so much, embrace it, but don’t encourage the oppression. Use this power you have to make a difference for people living in minorities, it’s definitely going to be easier for you to make a difference. So if you are actively trying to make this world a better place by happening to use your privilege, you are not at all responsible for the oppression. In fact, it’s people like you that keep people living in minorities’ lives from being absolutely terrible. Good on you.

    In short, none of us can choose how we were born into this world, but we can choose what we do with the abilities we are given. As the great Dumbledore once said: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

  13. I hate to say this, because in all honesty different demographics are evolving as we speak, but I do think that the Caucasian, straight, English-speaking male who has access to good education and is generally in the top 1% of the economic ladder (cough cough Trump). Branching off of what we discussed in class, however, I would have to say that they do not deserve to be judged on the life they are born into (family inheritance, race, etc.), but rather what they choose to do with it. If said man decides to start a charity to help developing countries, great. But if said man throws around racist/sexist/ableist/classist/everything in-between remarks, that’s who we should be worrying about.

  14. After the last socials class I have begun to look at successful or influential people with a different perspective than I did before, keeping in mind the beneficiaries and categories we talked about in class (ex. Gender, race, class, etc). We had decided that the people who would have an easier time determining key political, social, economic and cultural outcomes would be typically be a Caucasian, male, that speaks English, and has a post-secondary education, while being in the upper class. I knew before that if you had all these it is easier than the others who don’t to become successful. And I don’t think that I if you are born with all or a few of these that you need to feel guilty about having them while others don’t. It seems to be just the way it works. Which is sad, your success rate shouldn’t be based on the colour of your skin or the gender you were born. It shouldn’t matter. Yet somehow it does, and that’s a problem. But if you were born with those I don’t think you should feel guilty, as long as you treat everyone like equals and don’t discriminate.

  15. Who typically derives economic benefits, access to important resources, control of strategic military territory and other forms of power? In other words, what might we put in the _____ in the above diagram?
    In class we discussed that there are many identities to each person. The few identities that make a big difference are gender, economic class, race, education, and sexual orientation. The type of people that I believe derive most economic benefits is caucasian, rich, straight, well educated man between the age of 30-50. They are the 1 percent of people that control more than 90 percent of resource.

    And finally, is it possible to benefit from the oppression of others and not be responsible for that oppression? If so, how?
    Yes. I believe it’s possible. We can’t blame the 1 percent of people for what they have. Most of their identities are genetic determined. Other identities come from their hard work. The world is not fair. I guess all I can say is that some people get more than the others.

  16. In response to the third question, I believe that even if you do not actively contribute to the oppression, you can still benefit from it.

    One example of this is the unjust representation of race in prisons.
    Let’s start by saying there’s a 35-year old white male who actively supports the Black Lives Matter campaign and Blackout without overshadowing black voices. They would still benefit from the oppression of black people bcause they are less likely to go to prison than a someone who wqs exactly like him in all aspects except his skin colour simply because of their race. Because of this, the white person grows up knowing the police will protect them while the black person grows up learning that the police systen isn’t there for them and they need to throw their hands up when the police approach.

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