Jack and the Beanstalk as a metaphor for Western Imperialism…

Well, I’ve always known some random sh&% occurs to me during the working day, but this is a particularly weird example from my wandering mind.  Yesterday, I found myself musing about how the story of Jack and the beanstalk has many parallels with that of Western Imperial history.  Here you go!

  • Jack (a western nation) and his mother (a western population) have a reliable and sustainable resource – a cow (sustainable economy). The cow provides them with all the milk they need for a simple, secure life.
  • Living off the cow may be simple, secure and safe, but it is boring. Jack’s Mum gets greedy, and demands more than she needs.  The cow is taken to market with the aim of trading a long-term, sustainable resource model for a quick buck. (free trade capitalism).
  • At the market, Jack becomes entranced by some suave sales patter, and gets ripped off with a bunch of useless but shiny magic beans (consumerism)
  • However, despite appearing useless and being quickly cast aside (disposable culture), overnight, these magic beans produce a massive beanstalk (rapid economic growth)
  • However, this growth is unsustainable and cannot be contained within Jack’s land. It is also damaging the environment around Jack’s home. (environmental depletion resulting from consumerism and growth)
  • So Jack uses the beanstalk to explore a mysterious new world. (Western countries expanding into Africa, Asia, and Australasia – Imperialism)
  • However, Jack finds that somebody already lives in the new area, a giant (Indigenous populations)
  • The giant has a singing harp (cultural wealth) and a goose that lays golden eggs (material wealth)
  • Because Jack assumes the giant is backwards, strange and dangerous, he feels completely justified in stealing the harp and the goose. (Imperial plundering of indigenous resources and appropriation of indigenous culture.)
  • Jack then retreats back to his home with his plunder. (Retreat of empire, consolidation of resources)
  • The giant now has nothing, and so chases Jack, trying to get his rightful property back (Immigration from third world to first world.)
  • Jack, upon returning home, tells everybody about how dangerous and scary the giant is, and that he is on the way (demonization of migrants in the press)
  • Maybe the giant does intend to hurt Jack (terrorism), but if Jack would simply return the giant’s rightful property, the giant would cease to pose a threat to him.
  • The giant is killed as the beanstalk comes crashing down (Western tendency towards war during economic crashes)
  • Jack is celebrated as a hero, despite the fact he is actually nothing more than a chancer, a thief, and a murderer! (Western nations playing the hero and the victim, when all they did was steal and murder!)

2 thoughts on “Jack and the Beanstalk as a metaphor for Western Imperialism…

  1. I found myself musing on jack and the beanstalk as a metaphor today and decided to see if it was indeed created for that purpose… I was thinking English/Scottish conflict, but I happened on your analogy instead…. And I just had to say how much it resonates with me. Thank you for putting it out there. I


    1. I had the same thought (although not on all those levels) – also ‘i smell blood of Englishman’ immediately frames it as a nationalistic tale. I started thinking about it because it struck me as odd that theft is being justified to children – which me thinking about how stories and myths often promote values which encourage adaptive behaviour for the day

      Liked by 1 person

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