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January 02, 2003

Some Light Afternoon Reading The

Some Light Afternoon Reading

The Intellectual Origins Of America-Bashing
Synopsis: America-bashing is the opiate of the intellectual.

America-bashing is anti-Americanism at its most radical and totalizing. Its goal is not to advise, but to condemn; not to fix, but to destroy. It repudiates every thought of reform in any normal sense; it sees no difference between American liberals and American conservatives; it views every American action, both present and past, as an act of deliberate oppression and systemic exploitation. It is not that America went wrong here or there; it is that it is wrong root and branch. The conviction at the heart of those who engage in it is really quite simple: that America is an unmitigated evil, an irredeemable enormity.
.........
For example, there was no longer any difficulty in accepting the astonishingly high level of prosperity achieved by the work force of the advanced capitalist countries — indeed, it was now even possible to arraign the workers of these countries alongside of the capitalists for whom they labored — or, rather, more precisely, with whom they collaborated in order to exploit both the material resources and the cheap labor of the Third World. In the new configuration, both the workers and the capitalists of the advanced countries became the oppressor class, while it was the general population of the less advanced countries that became the oppressed — including, curiously enough, even the rulers of these countries, who often, to the untutored eye, seemed remarkably like oppressors themselves.


The Emotional Origins Of America-Bashing
Latin quote I'll be attempting to remember: Oderint dum metuant

Human beings will not be denied their consolations; and one of the consolations of being poor has always been faith in the fact that while the rich may be more comfortable, they are morally degraded.

She was poor but she was honest,
And unsullied was ’er name,
Till the local squire came courtin’—
Now the poor girl’s lost in shame.

It’s the same the ’ole world over,
It’s the poor what gets the blame.
It’s the rich what gets the pleasure,
Ain’t it all a bloomin’ shame?

And in fact the poor have a point. Traditionally—I mean, before the invention of the welfare state—the rich didmisbehave more than the poor, because the relative cost to them of doing so was much less. There is a touching episode in My Secret Life, the classic Victorian porno-autobiography (I mention this for the benefit of those who have not read the book, or whose memory of it has been dimmed by time) in which Walter, the pseudonymous first-person narrator, attempts to seduce a young working-class girl by offering her ever-larger sums of money. The girl steadfastly refuses: “It wouldn’t be right, Sir”—at any rate up to the point where the sum offered is so tempting, she concedes him one of the minor kinds of relief. Taking his leave, Walter marvels at the power of instilled morality over mere avarice. Large parts of the world, of course, have no welfare state, and poorer inhabitants of those regions have an attitude to moral laxity, most especially in the sexual sphere, that we would call Victorian. In their minds, the United States is, not to put too fine a point on it, Walter. The wretched of the earth know that they are wretched, while we are not. This is a painful thing for them to know. Their consolation is that they are morally superior to us.

Links via Arts & Letters Daily

Posted by Bigwig at January 2, 2003 04:37 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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