I just came across and re-read an article from the New York Review of Books (Jan. 2002) that I had stashed in a book. The article is called “Occidentalism,” which is defined as the hatred of Western Civilization in general and/or the United States in particular. It was a timely article, having come fast on the heels of a most sincere demonstration of someone’s hatred of the U.S. at least, probably the West too.
Al Qaeda was neither the first, nor the most vehement, nor the most destructive of the Occidentalist haters. Hitler’s Germany was high on the list; Imperial Japan; Mao’s China; the USSR; and, of course, the centuries of Islamists before Al Qaeda made the scene. Why should they all hate us so? The writers of the article, Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit, suggested that there were four targets common to all of the haters:
1. The City
2. The Bourgeois
3. Reason; and
These four things set off the Occidentalists because “each of them contains a set of attributes, such as arrogance, feebleness, greed, depravity and decadence” that the haters find “typically Western or American.” As the three-time-loser answered the sentencing judge who asked him if he had anything to say in his defense: your honor, whom amongst us is perfect?
It’s easy to see why the haters listed above were angry and frustrated by America and the West. For the Nazis, we were famous reminders of popular ideas that they were in the process of, let’s say, trying to de-emphasize. For some, our out-performance of their own cultures represented an intolerable insult. For others, it was our lack of a suitable respect for their perceived superiority, or even of their alleged divinity.
The article briefly alludes to a mindset in our own midst that mimics the hatred that some outsiders display towards us. Right Wing Christians were a small, relatively ineffective group in 2002, but already they got an honorable mention. By now, of course, they have grown in importance by leaps and bounds, bounds! they hardly know any bounds these days! The seeds of “wind” planted by that master of mischief, Ronald Reagan, have grown into a bumper crop of “whirlwind” in the fullness of time. The cart of Hayseed Fundamentalism now comes before the Horse of Republican politics, and much of the rest of politics too.
Look at their attitudes towards those four things that the Occidentalists hate:
1. The City:
Our native haters tell us that they prefer the “Real America,” which they find out in the stix somewhere, where the “Real Americans” live, having old fashioned “Family Values,” and following the Christian Religion “that America was founded on.” Oh, save us! they say, from all of that diversity, all of those liberated women, all of those decadent, depraved homosexuals and fornicators. As though their God forsaken regions could prosper without us! (And forget their entertainment options without us.)
2. The Bourgeois:
The currently hated manifestations of the bourgeois are the public sector workers of America (state, city and Federal), and anybody still lucky enough to be in an effective union. These groups are seen to be taking unfair advantage at the expense of the rest of the country. I’d include most European workers in the group that the American haters hate, because of the higher wages, the great benefits, and the huge vacations.
Science is the poster-child for this hatred of reason, but any kind of intellectual pursuit is similarly under fire. Knowing anything makes one suspect to this crowd; knowing nothing is the goal. (Except about football, that is.) Hatred and naked contempt for science is totally out of control in America. The evolution thing, the Global Warming thing, limitations on the practice of medicine by doctors, the curtailing of promising research, the retreat from exploration. All of these categories overlap to some degree, the City includes the “east-coast elites” at the proper universities, and all of the mostly coastal propeller-headed populations of people who could fight their way out of a metaphoric (intellectual) paper bag.
Yeah! Let’s hear it for people who profit daily from the great advances of science, yet reject those discoveries that do not align with their “gut feelings,” or what their pundit-asshole style-leaders tell them, or those discoveries that disagree with their revealed literature.
Female liberation, “Women’s Lib,” is the boogie man here. Women, God bless their warm little hearts, etc, have made great advances in the past hundred years, and now those victories are mostly in jeopardy. The current attack on women’s happiness is furious and concerted, and it has been pretty successful so far. Weird legislation mandating physically intrusive procedures for merely philosophical reasons; intentional embarrassment of women for no purpose; spiteful legislation making it harder to do everything that the actual law says a woman has the right to do; it’s a zoo out there. I watch all of this happening and I wonder: who will fight for women? Right now it appears that the Religious fanatics and way too many pathetic, insecure males in authority are making too much headway and meeting way too little effective opposition. Somehow, lots of guys feel threatened by any woman who is not calm and submissive and focused mainly on breeding (like some bad Chow on “The Dog Whisperer.”)
So don’t ask me why I choose not to live there anymore. I lack the talent, the inclination, or the energy to save America from itself, and even more profoundly I lack the tolerance for utter bullshit that it seems to requires.