Do you ever think of how many words are in the English dictionary? What about the words that have multiple meanings? The word “this” can refer to a person, a thing, a specific detail, or an idea. What about the connotation of a word that changed over time? From Positive to Negative or Negative to Positive. Just like how Sesame Street presents the word of the day, today’s word is “Empire”.
My first thought of Empire was a dark kingdom with a heavy fist of oppression. This word “empire” has a negative connotation string to it since the late 19th century since imperialism became a pejorative. This meaning cultivated into a word children knows it is bad. I do not even prefer to use this word if I want to describe a great influential power. A word that it is not the first choice to describe a power of a nation or industry. Empire cultivates thoughts of fear, intimidation, and power. Empire can create a lot of controversy such as the United States being an empire.
Surprising, right? When you think about the various nations considered to be an empire, it’s Russia, China, and North Korea. You never think about the United States. However, by definition, the United States is a political unit with multiples states underneath its belt with one leader. Obviously, it does not make sense if you are a diehard patriot but the word empire does not function as dominating dictatorial power instead, it functions as any monopolizing power. Evident in Hardt’s book, the negative connotation of empire being an aggressive power is challenged. Instead of imagining a global power, you can imagine a commercial power such as fashion or hip-hop or companies like Disney.
Still, don’t believe me that empire is not a bad word? Look at McDonald’s. The face of the fast food industry, where every inch of the world knows what a burger looks like. The phrase “Happy Meal” described a little red cardboard paper lunchbox. The golden arches do not refer to a grand golden piece of architecture instead, it refers to the iconic big yellow M. This simple franchise is nothing big. It simply serves burgers and fries (and smoothies and coffees if you want to be technical). The history of McDonald’s is respectable but the influence is something you cannot imagine. By 2015, there are at least 22,00 restaurants in the world with at least 14,000 of them in the United States. There are restaurants in Japan, Australia, Philippines, Canada, Britain, France, South Africa, even in India! India is a country where most of the population does not believe in eating meat. To have a burger restaurant in that country is a grandiose feat. That’s stretching the bar a bit, but McDonald’s has a restaurant in at least every country, changing the diet of at least 1% of the population, and becoming a global household name. This is an empire. McDonald’s has global power, influence many people and other competitors, and functioned under one person, the CEO. This is may not be the ideal image of an empire, but it is an empire.
When you think of the word “empire”, are you thinking of McDonald’s with Russia and China?