Sunday, September 12, 2004

Three Years Later --- Part III

The rest of the planet hates us with a passion! There’s a worldwide movement afoot to kill very American on the planet because we haven’t catered to other people’s feelings. Americans don’t understand the rest of the world, and therefore, they hate us for it. Repent! The end is neigh!

Gibberish, and depending on where you hear stuff like that, its often hysterical gibberish, too.

People who fling stuff like this around ought to be a) locked up for the good of society and b) forcibly sterilized with a farm implement before they breed. Anyone that tells you that a monumental problem such as the disparity in civilization here and what passes for it in Afghanistan can be brushed away, magically eliminated, if we all just made an effort to educate ourselves and be sensitive, is usually the same person that wants you to pay taxes so that Medicare will cover breast enlargements for senior citizens. These people are so caught up in their mantra that education=understanding=peace that they’ve lost their grip on reality. Education and understanding have rarely led to peace in the history of the world. If you don’t think so, just remember that Robert Oppenheimer was an educated,peaceful man who understood the principles of physics and created the most destructive weapon ever fielded. These folks also have a martyr complex, believing that it is America that should make the concessions: Americans have to educate themselves, Americans have to be culturally sensitive, and Americans should pay for it all.

I have a novel idea, one that would literally turn such a person as mentioned above into an even bigger mass of over-emotional, quivering jelly than they are now. Get ready for it, because once the cork is out of the bottle, the head of the person sitting next to you might just explode.

I believe that it isn’t Americans that should make the sacrifice of understanding another culture, but other cultures that should put their effort into understanding us.

America literally confuses and confounds the rest of the world. They do not understand our politics, markets, educational system, business style, sports, culture (what passes for it, anyway), lifestyles, attitudes or idealism. Most of this difficulty in understanding what is, for all intents and purposes, a really simple societal model, is usually a cultural shortsightedness – not ours, but theirs.

Questions about America abound – we’ve been in Afghanistan for three years and Iraq for over a year – why haven’t we begun pillaging the country and raping the women? Well, because that’s not what we’re there for. Other cultures would do those things (like Europeans and anything that crawled out of the U.N.), but we don’t. We said we were going to these countries to eliminate dangerous, murderous regimes and plant the seeds of democracy, and we are. And when we’re done, we’ll leave. The rest of the planet sees conquest as a means of helping themselves to the riches and property of others, while Americans don’t. Conquest to us is a reaction to pissing us off, like when you bomb Pearl Harbor or attack the Pentagon with an airliner. Some societies and cultures see conquest as a way of spreading your religion (since anyone with half a brain wouldn’t normally CHOOSE your religion unless he had a sword at his neck), culture or political system. Americans don’t travel the planet pointing guns at folks who won’t vote Republican, for example. Russians, Iraqis and Chinese do. The fact that we don’t confuses them.

The fact that we live in a dynamic society, where authority is regularly questioned and held to account, baffles the imagination of your average denizen of Someotherplace. You mean you actually question your political leaders without being imprisoned? You can actually dispute the Church’s interpretation of a Biblical passage? You can write nasty things about people in a newspaper, especially when they’re true, without being shot? Science has a purpose other than propping up the illegitimate state? Well, yes, yes, yes and yes. In fact, it is because we do these things, everyday and in the open, that we are such a dynamic society. Challenging authority in a culture based upon family and clan loyalties, the rule of the strong over the weak, or disputing the established order, is often like signing your own death warrant in Someotherplace. The desire for self-preservation, even in a miserable existence, is too strong for many people to buck the system. As a consequence, they can’t see how we not only get away with it, but manage to prosper.

You don’t treat your women like a slab of meat, a baby machine or cattle? You must be crazy! No, we don’t do those things, although if you listen to the women, you wouldn’t know it. I can’t remember the last time I went to the slave market to buy my next wife, and I can’t recall ever getting a dowry for the last seven of them. Here in America, women are expected to be productive, especially since most of them have proved that they can be, and we don’t see a daughter as a useless appendage that needs to be fed to the detriment of our sons, or have her feet bound because shoes for a female is considered a wasteful proposition. I can’t recall the last time I heard of a neighbor leaving his newborn daughter on a hillside to die in order to avoid feeding and clothing her. We believe that every individual has intrinsic worth, and thus, can eventually be a useful member of society.

Anyone can be a success in America? You don’t need weapons and vast amounts of money to bribe the right people in order to get connected? Nope, not at all. Yes, in some ways, it’s best to be connected, but that’s not usually based on bribery, and we don’t take what we want by force. In my lifetime, I’ve never had an AK-47 jammed under my nose by the government. I’ve never been stopped on the street and hauled in for questioning without reason. Here, if you decide to put your nose to the grindstone, you can be anything you want to be, provided you have the talent, rather than the connections, for it. Imagine that --that your life is not being played out as some pre-ordained ordeal of caste, or that your success depends not on who you know, but what you do. Doesn’t that blow your mind? To an American, no. We don’t even think about things like that, we just do them. On the rest of this diseased rock, that concept is utterly alien. It ranks right up there with the female visitors from Venus that come here asking "Kiss? What is Kiss?" in every 1950‘s sci-fi flick ever made. Just consider this: Bill Clinton got elected twice and Arnold Swartzenegger was elected governor of California, Blacks become doctors, lawyers and corporate executives every day, despite being members of a formerly-enslaved race. Women routinely succeed in business and politics, and even become astronauts. The deaf become scientists, the crippled become academics, and the lazy even get paid for being lazy. Anyone can find success in America, it all depends on where you set your sights.

People of various races, religions and politics can live in the same city, maybe even ride the same bus, without killing each other? Most certainly can, and usually do. Technically, Americans don’t see race, religion, sex or place of origin. The government and the advocates of the Nanny state do, but real Americans don’t. We live by a simple creed – All men are created Equal. It is the foundation of our institutions, the cornerstone of our attitudes and the bedrock of our daily lives. We don’t continue to feud over the watering rights to an oasis in the desert, or automatically think of outsiders as barbarians. Religion is not the basis of our politics or our society -- it’s a personal matter. And while we may not always agree with each other on various subjects, we don’t resort to car bombs, torture and forced migrations to get our point across or impose our view. We debate, we engage in give-and-take, and then we go on with life.

These concepts literally scare the hell out of other people because they don’t understand them. Fear of the unknown, of the other, is a basis of their societies. Chinese folks fear a reversion to internal chaos and thus, for thousands of years, have practiced a Confucian system wherein all people have a place in society and automatically owe their allegiance to the top dog, in order to maintain the peace. Arabs cannot abide the questioning of authority because in their eyes, the authority came from God, and how can one dare to question or challenge God or his trusted servants? In sub-Saharan Africa, the ties of family, clan and tribe very often represent the slim difference between life and death, and so the society revolves around keeping those ties strong and not rocking the boat. Japanese folks often subvert their own well being for the good of the company they work for or as a show of national support.

Consequently, that’s why they are stagnant, backwards, bumbling and ultimately, violent societies. Any change in the status quo brings about the potential for disaster and is to be resisted violently. The fate of the tribe/clan/nation/people of God, is too great to allow exploration, to encourage the individual, to set free the mind and the being. Western ways, technology, thinking, and methods ultimately come with these societal poisons inherent in them. The poisons of television, radio, movies, newspapers, automobiles, wire hangers, steam engines, steel girders, trains, tongue depressors, inoculations, cancer research, factories, chemicals, explosives, medicine, printing presses, nylon, genetically-engineered crops, hormone-enhanced beef, airliners, computers, the internet, free markets, democracy. All, at some level, buck tradition, they mess with the natural order of things. They challenge the mighty and maybe even cause Man to believe that he can discern the will of God, and those are the things that scare people the most. If these things cannot be controlled, then they must be eliminated, because no society could survive them, in the view of a citizen of Someotherplace. The fact that ours does astounds people, some of them to the point of believing that we must have made a pact with the Devil in order to survive.

This is why we confuse the world so much – we routinely destroy established orders and remake them to suit our purposes. We manipulate Nature to ensure we’re fed, clothed and housed. We give people the time to do something other than hunt gazelles and gather grubs, and thus, they’re free to do things like think. Thinking is not a luxury the rest of the world can afford, but in this day and age, with people acting compulsively and out of ignorance, and killing while they do it, maybe the rest of the world should make time to think. And possibly, learn.

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