All That Wasted Culture-Money
(fabian pascal) Iraq IS a debacle because america knows and cares little about other cultures and peoples. Americans have always failed to learn and understand other cultures due to the belief of their own indoctrination that they are the best in everything. For all the altruistic pretentions, the US public cares only about itself.
(Bilgeman) You're quite right.
I've lived and traveled abroad since childhood, since 1969, to be precise, and I've learned nothing whatsoever about ANY of the cultures I've lived, worked, and traveled in.
Thanks ever so much for reprising the "Americans as Cultural Barbarians" meme.
Among the banners of the Left is the banner of cultural diversity. They preach leaving the “parochial isolation of the culture of the West” in favor of a wider, cosmopolitan view. They say non-Western cultures should be not merely the subject of study by the average Westerner, but the subject of fair study. By this they mean to say that the sin of Western colonialism was not always ignorance of other cultures, but often the study of other cultures through a Western lens, for the purpose of better ability to subjugate them (that, in a nutshell, is the thesis of Edward Said in his masterpiece of intellectual terrorism, Orientalism).
One would think that, four decades after the Radical Revolutions of the 1960’s, the West would be well-versed in the culture of any “other”. One would be right: the imperative of cultural diversity has been so thoroughly internalized that even questioning it is anathema. How, then, can we still have the above state—and that commenter echoes the sentiment of many—that a Western country is accused of cultural ignorance?
I submit that the answer lies in the word, “banner”. As with the banner of economic equality and fairness and justice, it is sincerely believed by many individuals on the Left, yet for their high-profile activists and politicians it is a banner to be used, a ladder with which to reach a desired height. Everyone knows politics is about power; if a populist platform can appeal to enough idealists and bleeding hearts to raise a politician to power, why shouldn’t he use it? Lower on the hierarchy of power, individuals themselves may embrace the idealistic goal not out of true belief in them, but for their fringe benefits. This is attested to by numerous examples, but I will focus on cultural studies first.
If a study of the “other” is done thoroughly—and I believe it is, for it is now a command of political correctness—then the student will learn of a diversity that goes beyond skin color and music and art and food. He will learn that culture consists in differing mentalities. That this fact has great attraction for the Westerner is evidenced by the success of many films of the cultural encounter genre, such as The Last Mohican (based on the book of that name) and Windtalkers. Those concern the Native Americans, which are the closest to modern Americans both physically and emotionally, but there have been many films depicting the encounter of Westerners with Chinese, with Arabs, with Australian natives and so on. In all those films, there is at first a clash, which is then either resolved, ending in friendship or even acceptance of the Western guest to the native tribe, or is further aggravated by the stubbornness of the Western guest, ending in tragedy to either him or the natives.
So I think I make no rash statement when I say there is plenty of cultural understanding on part of the Westerners toward other cultures. How, then, can it still be said that the Iraq War was lost because of failure to learn and understand other cultures? Is fabian pascal, quoted above, mistaken?
It is my thesis that the commenter is partly mistaken. I think he is right to blame the failure in Iraq, at least partly, on a culture clash. However, I think he is wrong to say the USA occupied Iraq without any knowledge about the local culture. I opine that the American administration embarked upon that project—the cultural project of instilling democracy in one Middle Eastern country—with a wealth of cultural knowledge culled by the best anthropologists over decades. But, and this is the all-crucial point, the Bush Administration was prevented from making use of that knowledge by the very same Leftists who preach cultural diversity.
Take one particular issue: the social institution of cousin marriage, which is detrimental to the formation of loyalties beyond one’s tribe. This was well-known long before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, yet nothing was done about it throughout all the years of the US rule of Iraq. Now, the question the reader may ask is, “What exactly could have been done about it?” No doubt it’s an issue of social engineering, the results of which cannot be seen overnight. But anyone who has control of the government of a country has the ability to take the legislative and, more importantly, executive steps toward driving the change. The Bush Administration had control of Iraq, but did nothing in the way of social changes, instead believing the mere existence of elections would work magic upon centuries of social, cultural realities. The change would have taken time if started, no denying that, but in the case of Iraq it would have taken forever, for the simple reason that the US administration never started it.
And why didn’t they start it? Because of the Left’s instrumental, as opposed to sincere, stance on cultural diversity: it is but an anti-American, anti-Zionist, anti-Biblical, anti-Western club with which to hit the targets of the Left’s hate. A Leftist academic would spare you no words about the necessity of “studying non-Western culture without Western bias”, but if you dare to suggest the reciprocal stance of studying Western culture without non-Western (or more accurately anti-Western) bias, he would regard you as an imperialist dupe at best. The only way to victory, full and permanent victory, in Iraq was by taking steps which the Left would consider to be cultural imperialism. The howls we heard through all those years about “the American injustice in Iraq” would be nothing in comparison to the screams that a true employment of our cultural knowledge would raise. I say, then, in grim irony, that the Left is the cause of the US failure in Iraq: because it, or the regime of Political Correctness it has spawned, would never let the Bush Administration take the necessary steps toward turning Iraq into a modern country, the Iraqis used the elections—the empty shell of democracy, without its cultural soul—to bring tribal leaders, and worse, Islamic clerics, to power, making Iraq in some ways worse than it had been during Saddam’s time. The resultant instability was, of course, blamed on the Bush Administration, ultimately leading to the electoral defeat in the USA last month and, in all probability, to a withdrawal from Iraq which will leave it to the mercies of the Iran and Saudi Arabia, both of which are Islamic theocracies. Mission of cultural diversity accomplished, if only in the sense of emboldening yet another anti-Western culture, which is, after all, what the self-hating, treasonous Left actually wants.
I have little doubt that anyone who has studied cultural diversity to a fair degree recognizes the difference of mentality in all spheres, including the political sphere. The difference between the guilt culture and the shame (or honor) culture is well-known even to laymen like me. In the course of studying the diverse cultures of the planet, have the Leftists not reached the part where it talks about certain cultures in which war and hardlining is considered strength while peace and negotiating is considered weakness? Have our Leftist academics and policymakers never considered the Muslims, everywhere, whether in the sands of Saudi Arabia or in the offices of CAIR, to have such a political mentality? I am quite sure they know of all this. Yet they go on spouting about “common dreams”—about how all people are the same, sharing the same values, striving for material welfare above all, and amenable to talk and reasoning and negotiations and gifts of concession. What is the meaning of this discrepancy?
First of all, it is that self-hate, that immature hippie mentality of “Sticking it to the Man”—by any means possible. It can be done by climbing on the high horse of equality and fairness and justice, it can be done by enlisting the oh-so enlightened anti-colonialism of cultural diversity, all while turning one’s back on those precepts in truth. It’s a world of tools and useful idiots everywhere, as that pathetic liar Ramzy Baroud found out and voiced in one of his articles on ZNet:
Regardless of its many flaws and imperfections, no other national struggle in the world has assimilated itself, or has been inadvertently assimilated, to symbolize so many things to so many different people, as has the Palestinian struggle. And yet, despite the intricate layers of sense and understanding that have sought to encapsulate the Palestinian struggle, Palestine itself lingers in the world’s consciousness merely as a symbol.
Indeed. We hear about “Palestine, Palestine! Free Palestine!” all the time, but many are the dupes who think the Left really cares about Palestine. For proof of this, just look at Darfur: there has been going on there a real genocide, a true racist massacre, next to which the “brutality of the Zionist occupier” can be seen for the libel it is, yet the Leftists are having a hard time recruiting support for that cause. Yes, there are diaries on Darfur on Daily Kos; but they are few in comparison to those on “Israel/Palestine” (so common that the Kossacks use the abbreviation “I/P”), and more importantly, much less passionate than them. Darfur has not the hippie appeal of “Sticking it to the Man”; it’s non-Westerners oppressing other non-Westerners, not a Western power occupying the “other”, so it is useless as a tool of “felling the American (or Christian, or Zionist) Goliath”. It’s all about opportunism.
But this self-hatred, this anti-Westernism—where does it come from, and what sustains it? I put forth yet another thesis: that those cultural diversity studies have formed a positive feedback loop that keeps Leftist anti-Westernism alive. This requires a brief backtracking to the 18th century.
It actually begins from the strength of the West: its capacity for introspection, for looking outside its own box, for self-criticism. Montesquieu did it with fictional letters by a Persian, and Diderot did it with an imaginary discussion with an indigenous American tribesman, but whatever the method, they knew how to use the depictions of other cultures in the service of criticizing undesirable facets of their own societies. That was the period of the Enlightenment of which the Leftists take so much pride in, while doing, knowingly or not, everything in their power to eradicate all its achievements.
Excess admiration for the “other”, portraying him as a “noble savage”, started in the 18th century with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who could be considered the Father of Hippiedom. However, it was in the 1960’s that it was allowed full vent, up to the situation of becoming entrenched and politically correct today. Show any picture of smiling Bedouin children in their tents, and you will inevitably get at least one reaction of, “Oh, they look happy! Can you say the same thing about modern Western man?” And articles in popular magazines, not to mention geographical magazines, depicting the idyllic state of non-Western, “in harmony with nature” people, complete with an unfavorable comparison to modern Western man, are too plentiful to mention. The more a Westerner learns about other cultures, the more he is bound to grow to hate his own. That is not because it is inherent in such studies; but, as I said, the culture of the “other” is rarely presented today without an anti-Western bias. The Sixties Radicals who are now in positions of power take care to make it so, and to keep it.
Cultural diversity studies abound; they are formulated in such a way as to make the Western reader fall into despair. I know the feeling only too well, that feeling of being “a tourist in one’s own land”. You read about other cultures, and then the time must come when you ask yourself, “Yes, but what is mine?” And since most chances are you were born into the reality of having been stripped of your own Traditional Culture by virtue of the All-Questioning, All-Values-Uprooting Radicalism of the Sixties Hippies, you find out you have none of it yourself. And then you are swept by every wind of fashion, wearing a Native American wigwam today, trying to sit on a bed of nails in a guru’s ashram tomorrow, and donning the robe and turban and, finally, the suicide vest of the Muslims the day after that.
The flower children of the 1960’s made their choice, for their own reasons. But we of the post-9/11 world should not bear the consequences of that choice. The Muslim enemy is skillful at its use of the 1960’s heritage against Western society, for the purpose of colonizing it, subjugating it and incorporating it into a worldwide Islamic Empire in which cultural diversity would be totally banished. The first step to take if we are to win is to regain our cultural sense, our confidence that we have something positive of our own to fight for. The academic courses on Cultural Diversity are presently a waste of money; and they will continue to be so unless Westerners go back to studying other cultures without the self-denying carefulness not to be biased.