We don't know because we don't care.
Mr Guy writes | about 10 years ago
After the unleashing of comments from around the world after the recent unvieling of the overtly political section of slashdot, I'm again struck by the fact that there are a few basic disconnects between US culture and much of the rest of the world. No amount of canjoling, diplomacy, or arguing is going to fix US relations until we address the problems at their source.
Cause -- Europeans rarely understand the size of the United States. This is beyond a simple game of numbers; it goes to basic mental images of what a country is. Even the arguement over the metric system stems from this basic problem: km are too small to conveniently measure the US. In day to day usage, we don't even bother with MILES. Try it, ask a reasonable sample of people from the US how far they are from the capital. Chances are you will get a measurement in time, not distance. Basic American mentality is how long it takes to get somewhere by the most convenient method, not a concrete distance. Americans often commute distances that would take them into entirely different countries in Europe.
Result -- Americans think of the world as close. It's an easy jump from events happening here, to events happening around the world. It's easy to convince us we need to get involved because we're used to be a larger scale. Conversely, Europeans are more focused on national importance. They see strides around the world as bold and aggressive. Americans view it as practically next door.
Cause -- Lies your teachers told you. Very, very, VERY few countries have freedom of press on the scale that the United States does. This isn't a rant on the media, it's a rant on school textbooks. The fact of the matter is most foreigners believe they understand US history better than someone from the United States does, and it's likely that they A) know more and B) were taught propoganda and bullshit. Exhibit A:History Lessons: ow Textbooks from Around the World Portray U.S. History. That's not an affiliate link so feel free to click it. The basic problem discussed in that book is that while the US may do poor job of educating students on it's own history, the rest of the world can do a much worse job. Basically, very often school children are raised to the hate the United States. From Japan teaching their students they were forced into WWII to Canada claiming the US invaded them (BEFORE they were even a country), other countries get away with pro-government crap the US would never get away with. The main complaint the authors had with the US textbooks is that they strive SO hard for provable accuracy that they end up being entirely uninteresting.
Result -- The US hears from the world around it how terrible we are, how we are arrogant, how we whatever, not because of a hard look at our actions, but because of views taught to the young that are either outrageous, directly political, or flat out stupid. There's an excellent account of the North Korean soldier holding back the American aggressors by splicing HIS OWN VEINS into a radio to repair a wire in some North Korean textbooks. No amount of logical debate can counter that.
Cause -- Blame the United States. I had in my sig for a statement to the tune of "Most world poverty is caused by local government corruption" and from what I see and read from around the world, it holds true. The real problem the US faces in the world arena is that it is fair safer for corrupt leaders to tell their people the US is the one to hate than it is to solve their own problems.
Result -- Read an English language newspaper from Saudi Arabia sometime. It would be laughable if it wasn't so scary. You see, it's the US's fault the arab world is in unrest, not the thousands of fighting between Muslims and Jews that goes back to before the Roman empire. It's the US's fault people go hungry, not the gold plated buildings built by the royal family. It's the US arrogance that makes people angry, not the schools teaching that Jews eat babies. It's us imposing our will on other people that causes problems, not the genocide in too many places to count. The US is rich and stupid, so it's okay for the Nigerians to scam them. Americans are all wealthy, so you can steal from their luggage in the airports. People are starving in African because the US is greedy, not because of Warlords stealing food stockpiles. People die of treatable diseases because the US won't share, not because people were stealing the medicine and selling them back to Europeans at a discount. It's all our fault, cause remember, the textbooks told you all about how aggressive, greedy, and cruel the Americans are.
Cause -- I'll close with this one for now. The biggest problem I've noticed about American and Foreign views of the world is deeper than the others. It's a basic view of human nature. There is no way to reconcile any world view without addressing the core belief: Are humans good or bad?
Result -- The Judeo-Christiand and Islamic belief that people are inherintly bad results in the view that you must seek out and confront evil where possible. You are obligated to take a bad world and try and make it better. People can be wrong in their beliefs. The key word is tolerance. The typical European view (and even liberal American) is that people are essentially good and occasionally do bad things. This is the belief that you can correct behavior and people will return to their good selves given the chance. The key word is acceptance. Two world views can not be more opposite. If you believe in good people, then you believe people don't have a right to force even abhorant behavior to stop. If you believe in bad people, you can not stand by and watch people suffer, because it corrupts the good you are trying to do.
I think it's that basic reconciliation that even leads to the main conflict over the war in Iraq. For those who believe people are good and should be accepted, there can be no justification short of direct and immediate threat, and even then it may not be good enough. For those who believe people are bad, we OWED them. We should have gone into Iraq to atone for the mistakes we made their before. We owed the Khurds for leaving them out to die before. We owed them for helping Saddam get into power. He was never going to reform or back down. He HAD weapons at some point; we sat on our hands while he used them on his own people. He promised, not threatened, to use them on us if he got them again. He was not safe and he never would be. The world is a better place for him being out of power.