2003 July 03 Thursday
Fouad Ajami On Anti-Americanism And Pollsters

Reacting to the latest poll of world opinion by the Pew Research Center the always interesting Fouad Ajami casts a skeptical eye at the claims that anti-Americanism is growing in response to US actions.

"America is everywhere," Ignazio Silone once observed. An idea of it, a fantasy of it, hovers over distant lands. In the days that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, a young Palestinian gave expression to the image America holds out in places where its shadow falls: the boy passing out sweets in celebration of America's grief wondered aloud as to the impact of the bombings on his ability to get a U.S. visa. He felt no great contradiction. He had no feeling of affection or loyalty for the land he yearned to migrate to. He grew up to the familiar drums of anti-Americanism. He had implicated America in his life's circumstances. You can't reason with his worldview. You can only wish for him deliverance from his incoherence--or go there, questionnaire in hand, and return with dispatches of people at odds with American policies. You can make foreigners say the sort of things about America you wanted to say yourself.

The use of foreigners essentially as props in domestic American and wider Western cultural and political battles is becoming too dangerous. Ideological factions in Europe and the United States have created elaborate intellectual justifications for grievances felt by non-Westerners because the intellectuals want "authentic" Third Worlders to play the scripted role of the victims of capitalists, Americans, hawks, right-wingers, or whoever some faction in the West views as its enemies. The danger of playing this sort of game is that it has the effect of legitimizing and intensifying irrational grievances in non-Westerns that are going to be present anyway due to envy that naturally tends to form toward the denizens of distant and more successful lands.

Also, with regard to the quote above of "America is everywhere", psychologically speaking in the minds of billions of people this is only too true. See my post On Globalization And The Psychological Visibility Of America and also click thru on the link at the bottom of that post and read Robert Koehler's reply.

Update: On a related note see this essay by Theodore Dalrymple about how envious people tend to think they deserve to make more money than they do.

On the other hand, the poor (by whom I mean all those who are not rich) always believe that wealth greater than theirs is illicit or unjust. They subscribe to the strange superstition that, if there were any justice in the world, they would be much better off than they are. It is not that they have failed to earn the money that would make them rich: rather, they have been deprived or despoiled of it. The rich have cornered the market in money.

Globalization of the marketplace and the rise of cheap worldwide communications and transportation shows people all around the world more people who are doing better than they are and increases feelings of envy and dissatisfaction. Because technological advances have reduced the barriers of distance the sources and targets of envious feelings are more likely to belong to different races, tribes, nationalities, religions, linguistic groupings, and cultures. This phenomenon where envy is increasingly directed at people who are more unlike the people who are feeling the envy is a trend that looks set to continue.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 July 03 03:49 AM  Human Nature


Comments
Timothy O'Connor said at September 14, 2003 4:33 AM:

In January 2003 I wrote these words to a friend:

"There's nothing more maddening than the assertion that Bush has squandered the good will following 9/11. Guess what: in European it never happened. I feel so isolated knowing that this isn't how it went down at all. It was a Potemkin Village, all the way. And how can I explain the level of credulousness and the lack of historical perspective I witnessed there?"

I am a native New Yorker who lived in Ireland throughout 2001 and 2002. I've written a great deal about the phony sympathy. Until Ajami's article appeared it seemed that the historical record would be permanently twisted.

Yesterday I recorded some of my recollections of the first week folowing 9/11 which Blog-Irish.com was good enough to post for me on 13 September.

A colleague and I have also documented these attitudes as they appeared in the Irish media and in the letters to Irish editors at that time. I refer to the reference site "Ireland's Case Against America".

Yours, Timothy O'Connor, New York, New York


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