What the Romans Have Done for Us

Reggie: All right... all right... but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order... what have the Romans done for us?
Peoples' Front of Judea Member: Brought peace?
Reggie: Oh, peace—SHUT UP!

Many tyrants and invaders will claim they make life better for their conquered subjects. Depending on the system of government they set up, the success of their Propaganda Machine and the unpopularity of the previous regime, this might actually be true. The most devoted revolutionaries and dedicated independence enthusiasts will usually argue against restoring the old regime entirely. The more lucid and sober of this group of zealots will even concede that in some ways life was even worse before the tyrant took power.

Most frequently, this perspective or discussion is presented early in the first act when the setting is being defined and the stage set, either as the illusion that most of the people being oppressed are under (later revealed to be a false impression after a lot of Kick the Dog) or sometimes as a genuine explanation as to why the locals have put up with the Evil Empire prior to the events of the plot in the first place. This is an extremely common justification for the feudal or despotic nature of civilizations in works set After the End. It also shows up in some Historical Fiction and fantasy to explain and justify The Kingdom.

In non-fiction, this kind of discussion is usually intended as a form of Alternate Character Interpretation for groups usually thought of as inferior or villainous.

If this is lampshaded later in the work, the setting is probably attempting White and Grey Morality. If it's outright ignored by everyone in the setting, it probably overlaps with Strawman Has a Point.

Compare No Delays for the Wicked, Benevolent Alien Invasion, and The Extremist Was Right.


Examples

Anime and Manga
  • In a conversation between Lelouch and Kallen in Code Geass, Lelouch admits that Area 11's economy is much stronger than Japan's was before Britannia invaded (But on the other side of the equation, Britannia's oppression of the native population caused the crime rate to skyrocket).

Film
  • Monty Pythons Life Of Brian is the Trope Namer, to the point where you have to wonder why they want to rebel from Rome in the first place.
    • Of course Rule of Funny and Artistic License – History firmly apply as the sequence credits the Romans with introducing many things to Judea that had already been in place before they took over (such as wine, which is already mentioned in the first book of the Bible) thanks to local rulers such as the Hasmoneans and Herod the Great or to previous invaders like the Persians and Greeks.
  • Undercover Brother has a bit probably inspired by Monty Pythons Life Of Brian, although replace Jews and the Roman Empire with African-Americans and the Republican Party.

Literature
  • On the Discworld, many Ankh-Morpork elites dislike Vetinari, because he opened the city to dwarf and troll immigrants and is generally unorthodox. Still, they admit that the city safer and more prosperous than it has been in a long time, and Vetinari's predecessors were much worse. It's why he has Vetinari Job Security.
  • George Mac Donald Fraser's Flashman uses this trope to explain The British Empire. While Fraser, via his anti-heroic protagonist, doesn't back out from the racism, looting, plunder involved in the imperialist conquest, he does note that the British Empire did bring modernization to several different parts of the world, promoted free trade and transport and that it was the British Navy which nearly singlehandedly ended the slave trade.
  • In the second Infinity Blade novel, after the Worker of Secrets plants an imposter God King on the throne to eliminate the real one's ties to his allies and access to his resources while letting his empire fall to ruin through complete lack of leadership, Siris and Isa bitterly admit that, while the God King was a cruel, megalomaniacal tyrant, his rule was still much better than the current anarchy. It even turns out that the cruelty was just a ploy to rile up the population enough to send the Sacrifice needed to power the titular Infinity Blade every generation, and he decides that after Siris and Isa (begrudgingly) help him reclaim his throne, his people are due for a few millennia's worth of Golden Age.
  • In Technic History, the Terran Empire is an autocratic, millitaristic regime built as a desperate response to chaos. It also brings peace, civilization, more-or-less just rule, trade, freedom of movement and protection in a universe where such things had dissappeared.
  • Eragon has Galbatorix, who is universally identifies as an evil emperor and practically self-identifies as evil, but has also ushered in a golden age of humanity and displaced a rather miserable and stagnant age that preceded it with something that's better even for most of the non-humans in the setting.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin often invokes this via "What The Targaryens Have Done For Us". It's generally admitted even after the ousting of the Targaryen regime that the Valyrian monarchs centralized most of Westeros into a single realm, had kept the Faith of the Seven on a leash and also developed trade via the creation of a new city like King's Landing, while earlier rulers also abolished corrupt laws like Droit du Seigneur and introduced laws common across the realm.

Live-Action TV
  • Horrible Histories:
    • A sketch has the wife of a crusader saying "Aside from [reels off a list of everything brought back from the Crusades] what have the Crusades done for me?"
    • Inverted in any sketch that brings up Puritan Rule in England, they never fail to mention Oliver Cromwell banned Music, Theatre, Sport and Christmas.note 
  • The Penn & Teller: Bullshit! episode "Holier Than Thou" points out that while the Chinese have generally stomped on civil rights and horrendously mistreated Tibetans, they have given Tibet electricity, running water, and secular education. They also point out that the theocracy of the Lamas that originally ran Tibet weren't all that saintly themselves. For example, eye gouging was commonly used as a punishment for crimes.
    • It must be noted that the 14th Dalai Lama himself never denied any of these facts and has outright admitted this. As shown in the Martin Scorsese film Kundun which he gave support for, as a Lama he tried to bring reforms and modernize Tibet which was a theocracy. He provided people rights and released prisoners. He also expressed sympathy for the plight of the Chinese during World War II and initially sought an alliance with Mao, which the Chinese abrogated. Since his exile, the Dalai Lama has even stepped down officially and has stated that he would be satisfied with greater autonomy for Tibet, similar to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Tabletop Games
  • Dungeons & Dragons: the Forgotten Realms setting, supplement Forgotten Realms Adventures. After Cormyr invaded Tilverton there was much grumbling by the inhabitants. However, the influx of Cormyrean merchants and trade increased their wealth, and the military garrison and the wall erected around the town reduced raiding by bandits and monsters.

Video Games
  • In Fallout: New Vegas Caesar's Legion is generally hated and feared in the Mojave Wasteland, being a merciless slave empire. However, a couple of people admit that they've done a better job at keeping their territories safe from raiders than the democratic NCR has.
    • The NCR themselves could also qualify, as most New Vegas locals are tempted by the vast material resources and industrial muscle of the post-apocalyptic superpower giving a good standard of living, but ultimately aren't too keen on the aggressive taxation and bullying politics that come with being annexed. If you're the type to prefer Liberty Over Prosperity, you may find yourself agreeing with them.
    • In Fallout 4, the Brotherhood of Steel is seen as an antagonist faction taking over by pretty much everyone else in the setting, but they do genuinely secure their parts of the region for civilian use against even the super-mutants, who roll pretty much everyone else in the game.

Western Animation
  • The Simpsons: In the David and Goliath segment of "Simpsons Bible Stories" after Bart/David kills Nelson/Goliath II he is jailed for regicide because it turns out in addition to being a tyrant he built roads and hospitals and he was a better and more loved king than Bart/David.

Other
  • Adam Hart-Davis hosted a series of documentaries titled "What The [Civilisation]s Did For Us" which focused on how some generally unpopular periods in British history (Roman occupation, Victorian times) lead to important parts of British society.
  • An old joke about Fascism states that at least it makes the trains run on time. In actual fact, they never did. Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany were highly inefficient and incompetent on bureaucracy and only got on as well as they did for as long as they did (which was not very long after all) was because they came to power in advanced nations with developed bureaucracies, and the infrastructure was relatively sound before them. The things that might be considered products of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, collectively: development of Italy's film industry (the first film festival Venice and the studios Cinecitta was built and sponsored by Mussolini himself), the first affordable mass transport vehicle (the Volkswagen), development of rocket technology (Wernher von Braun) and the first anti-smoking campaigns.
  • Apologists of Communism and the Soviet Union will often invoke this, ironically enough (because in theory, communism was La Résistance and it generally was in the West). They note that the Communists generally spread literacy and education to the lower strata of society, played a major role in spreading female employment and promoted social revolutions across the world, such as American Communists organizing black neighborhoods in the South during The Great Depression, and Fidel Castro backing Nelson Mandela and sending doctors across Africa to poor neighborhoods.
  • Related to Majored in Western Hypocrisy, occassionally apologists of colonialism and imperialism, both in ex-colonies and ex-empires will try and invoke this as a justification or post-facto rationalization as a "good thing". It's noted that the ideas that drive colonialist resistance movements, i.e., democracy/nationalism/self-determination came from contact with the West. Resistance leaders don't deny this, rather they point out that these ideas should be practised and extended to all people and they could be spread without conquest and colonialisation. When asked about "Western Civilization", Mahatma Gandhi famously stated, "I think it would be a good idea."