2002 November 03 Sunday
New Criterion On Anti-Americanism

In the November 2002 issue of The New there is a special section on anti-Americanism. While not all the essays are available online those on their website are well worth reading.

Roger Kimball argues that others respond with hatred when a great civilization loses confidence in itself in his essay entitled "Failures of Nerve".

Pinterism (if I may thus eponymize this brand of intellectualizing self-hatred) is not a new phenomenon. George Orwell noted something similar in his anatomy of the pacifism that was rampant in English intellectual circles before and during World War II. The “unadmitted motive” of pacifism, Orwell wrote, was “hatred of Western democracy and admiration of totalitarianism.” Harold Pinter is no John Walker Lindh. You won’t find him joining up with the Taliban. But you will find him in sympathy with his spiritual colleague-in-rhetoric Susan Sontag, who explained that the assualt of September 11 was “not a ‘cowardly’ attack on ‘civilization’ or ‘liberty’ or ‘humanity’ or ‘the free world’ but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions… . [W]hatever may be said of the perpetrators of [September 11’s] slaughter, they were not cowards.” Does she say, then, that they were murderous fanatics? Hardly. Sontag (like Pinter) is at once too ambivalent and too admiring for that: too ambivalent about the “world’s self-proclaimed superpower” (or “rogue state,” as Pinter put it) and too admiring of the insurrectionists. In this context, it is worth remembering Orwell’s observation about the “processes by which pacifists who have started out with an alleged horror of violence end up with a marked tendency to be fascinated by the successes and power of Nazism.”

David Pryce-Jones, co-author of Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith, explores the roots of Arab resentment in his essay entitled "Retreats into fantasy".

Merging at the emotional level as they do, Arab nationalist-socialists and Islamists generate a climate that encourages the spread of violence to everyone within reach, of all religious faiths and cultures including their own. In their origins, both ideologies purported to regain power, but in practice they have served to condemn Muslims to live outside the creativity of today’s world and so consummate loss of control over their own history. By virtue of its current political and economic pre-eminence, the United States is a symbol simultaneously of the success of people deemed to be unworthy, and of the standing failure of those held to be deserving; and so becomes the prime target of violence. To those afflicted by the haunting sense of their own limitations, the United States offers temptation and frustration in a blend which can only arouse confusion and anger. Once more, here is an incomplete analysis of reality, another failure of intellect, and it impedes all concerned from meeting on terms of equality, as though time had stood still from the day when those Egyptians had looked into Niebuhr’s surveying instrument and found that the landscape was the wrong way up.

John Derbyshire has written an excellent essay drawing on his experiences in the Far East entitled "Yearning to be liked".

One thing you find again and again when you look into anti-Americanism is the conviction that we are a fundamentally immoral nation. I wish I had a dollar for every time I have heard, when living in China, something along the following lines: “People in the West have no deep feelings. They marry and divorce just for fun.” I used to counter this, once I got used to it, by pointing out the true fact, perfectly well-known in China, that during the Mao Tse-tung despotism, when a person was branded “counter-revolutionary” and hustled off to a camp, that person’s spouse would frequently divorce him or her, sometimes from fear, sometimes on explicit orders from the local Party committee, sometimes in the well-founded conviction that the offender would never be seen again. I am not sure I could construct a logical proof that getting divorced for fun or convenience is morally superior to getting divorced because your Party Secretary tells you to, but I am pretty clear in my mind about which kind of society I would rather live in.

Americans need to understand that just because other people feel resentment toward America that doesn't mean that America has done something wrong to justify the resentment. The reasons that people hate us and resent us are due primarily to character flaws built into human nature that cause feelings of resentment, shame, and jealousy to well up so easily in those who feel less successful and less powerful. The tendency to blame others for one's lot in life is something deeply built into human nature. When societies and individuals feel like failures and feel ashamed at their lots in life there is no change in American foreign policy possible that will appease the resentments that they feel toward the most successful and most powerful. Attempts at appeasement will be interpreted as admissions of guilt that will justify an even more intense hatred.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 November 03 10:57 PM  Civilizations Clash Of


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