Monday, December 08, 2003


Ryan Overbey at Ryan's Lair quotes the kind of sentiment that pisses me off more and more lately. He links to this NYT article about Pakistan, and gives us the following snippet from it:

...As I have fears about an unhinged Pakistan, Pakistanis have fears about a wanton America. The parallel apprehensions have much the same vocabulary: a nuclear power, prone to irrational behavior, too eager to go to war, a penchant toward duplicity.

Sometimes, there is even the part about religious extremism. ''George Bush is a mullah; he is a fundamentalist, too,'' Abdul Hakim Baloch, a writer in Quetta, told me. ''I don't know how history will treat the Americans, but you are committing one of the greatest crimes of all time. Bush thinks he must destroy Babylon as the verses of his Scripture tell him. But you cannot conquer the world based on superstitions.''

As an American in Pakistan, I was on a lecture tour where I was the one being lectured. Some decisive juncture had been passed, and people were erupting with accusations. Whomever I saw, extremist or not, educated or not, they told me they had finally lost patience with America, which in their eyes had grown hateful toward Islam and hypocritical about democracy.

Here's the note I stuck in Ryan's comment section:

And that, unfortunately, is the worldview we're dealing with in so many Muslim interlocutors: everything is seen through a relentlessly religious filter, which inevitably leads to a projection of one's own faults onto the Other, in this case America. How else to see Bush but as a mullah and fundamentalist when that's the only vocabulary available?

And therein lies a crucial difference between largely homogeneous and largely heterogeneous cultures: the availability and ready accessibility of different perspectives. If this is accompanied by tolerance (and I challenge any level-headed non-Muslim to support the claim that America has become an intolerant, anti-Muslim state), you've got a recipe for openness and global perspective rarely seen among the intellectually inbred whose "traditional" aspects we're supposed to appreciate, even if "traditional" is a rubric that includes honor killings and clitoridectomies.

I don't mean to exculpate the US by any means, but this Abdul Hakim Baloch strikes me as unhinged. I hear Korean accusations against the US all the time while in Seoul, and in almost every case, the very same accusation could apply to South Korea's culture and politics: racism, corruption, and untrustworthiness immediately come to mind as examples-- often accompanied by an inflamed victim mentality. I imagine the only thing stopping some expats from speaking out more strongly in support of their home country while abroad is the not-unjustified fear that they'll be torn apart by unruly mobs of "traditional" people. Follow the Korean news and you'll see what I mean-- there's reason to shut up when your audience is often irrational.

If you read someone like Fr. Francis X. Clooney, it's easy to get hypnotized into believing that there are "many rationalities." No: there are many cultures, but the laws of physics restrict the ways we can get from A to B. This means there's an objective world out there, and it's OK to make judgements about what ways are "better" or "worse." Many maps; one territory. No one can claim objectivity (i.e., THE map), but this shouldn't stop people from making any truth-claims or value judgements at all. In this case, my judgement is that Baloch and his ilk have their heads up their asses. While I might be persuaded that his perspective is the result of a great deal of pain and suffering-- justice issues that cry out to be addressed-- that doesn't change the fact that his perspective is warped. I can't say that's an objective claim, but I'm pretty sure reality's on my side.

Thanks for a provocative post-- and as always, a great blog.



No comments:

Post a Comment


All comments are subject to approval before they are published, so they will not appear immediately. Comments should be civil, relevant, and substantive. Anonymous comments are not allowed and will be unceremoniously deleted. For more on my comments policy, please see this entry on my other blog.

AND A NEW RULE (per this post): comments critical of Trump's lying must include criticism of Biden's lying on a one-for-one basis! Failure to be balanced means your comment will not be published.