Sunday, October 31, 2004

One Reaction to the 9/11 Attack

In 2001 I was an English conversation teacher in Japan. I had a high-level class with three students who had all lived in the US for a year or more. They are some of the kindest, most generous people I have had the pleasure to know over here, and all three are very intelligent and well-educated. All three, from their time in the US, have American friends they still correspond with, and truly like the American people. Even though my work now is very different, and I live in a different part of Japan, I consider all three of them good friends.

A few months after the 9/11 attack, one of them told me in class that, while the attack was terrible, in a small way she felt she had more in common with Osama bin Laden than with the US,

"Bin Laden is fighting for his beliefs, however warped they are" she said. "The US only fights for money."

I was shocked; this comment bore no relation to reality as I saw it. I didn't really know how to respond, and as I was supposed to be teaching a class, I changed the subject and the class went well after that. But I didn't forget the comment. It required thought.

At that time, the US was fighting in Afghanistan, and I'm not sure what she had read or heard that made her feel the US was only fighting for money. But then, I'm not sure it was anything specific about Afghanistan.

From the definitions of communism and socialism I posted earlier:"During the capitalist stage, the dominant bourgeoisie (capitalists who control the means of production) exploit and oppress the proletariat (industrial workers)." "[the various kinds of socialists] have in common a belief that feudal and capitalist societies are run for the benefit of a small economic elite ..." Also, although socialists seem to be much less formal about it, they tend to view economic systems as stages on the road to Utopia: fuedalism to capitalism to socialism to Utopian communism. Many around the world have accepted this view, in one form or another, even though they aren't communists. It is embodied in the popularity of John Lennon's song, Imagine.

Even before the Iraq war, the US was seen around the world as an imperialistic nation which, as a nation, had the sole goal of increasing the wealth of its capitalistic elite. Remember that Lenin's definition of imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism.

Two years later, the invasion of Iraq, and the charge that it was a blatant imperialistic maneuver to gain control of Iraq's oil supplies, fit perfectly into Lenin's definition and greatly reinforced that belief for many people around the world.

In that one reaction by my student, I think, lies the summary of why many intellectuals around the world are anti-American. Most of them are socialists who accept these definitions, and by those definitions, the US was a force for evil even before the invasion of Iraq.

When a nation's intellectuals are primarily socialists, its people will be exposed to a large amount of socialist thought through the media and through education. Think about all the cases where journalists need to consult experts about the economy, politics, etc., and realize all those experts are likely to be socialists, in ideology if not in name. So the media begins to take on a socialist viewpoint even if the reporters themselves are not socialists. The intellectuals also run the education system, and through that and the media reach deeply into every aspect of life in a nation. Many members of the society will adopt socialist views even though they may not call themselves socialists or realize that's what they have done.

This is also one reason so many non-Americans (and so many Americans with socialist views) liked President Clinton -- he edged the US towards the socialist side of the scale. Socialism is progress, as far as most of the world is concerned. As they see it, President Bush, a strong capitalist, is a big step backwards. He is going against the flow of history. Whatever he does will have to be undone in order for progress to be made.

If you look at the anti-war, anti-Bush message, you will repeatedly find the socialist mindset: No Blood for Oil, the tax cuts were only for the rich, Bush is an idiot (remember, pro-capitalist = regressive), and etc. For them, as you would expect from socialists, it's all about economics. They would never give the US the benefit of the doubt, because, by definition, as a highly-developed capitalist nation, the US is oppressive and imperialistic. They don't need to consider the specifics, thank you.

This is basically my answer to my friend's question, "Why are many foreigners anti-American?"

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