06 December 2007

The white American liberals' perception problem

As I wrote my post on Venezuelan politics yesterday, and briefly discussed the American liberals' support for the policies of Hugo Chavez, I had several thoughts on the state of white American liberalism, and how out of touch it feels to the nonwhites like me - the very ones they are claiming to stand for.

According to the white American liberal orthodoxy, Venezuela is a commendable example of a nation breaking free of Western European cultures' influences, by charting its own course of spreading the prosperity to the weak, and defying the imperial fascist tendencies of the W regime. Chavez came to power, by running on a populist platform, and by defeating a pro-Western candidate, former Miss Universe Irene Saez, who had met with President Bill Clinton during his visit to Venezuela. While it is true that there is a lot of oil wealth in Venezuela, and it has not been distributed fairly in the past, even Chavez hasn't been able to make much of an improvement, despite his flashy grand social programs. Fixing Venezuela's problems requires long-term visionary plans by several successive regimes, and the power-hungry personality of Chavez is now working against that.

But nobody on the American left dares to suggest that Chavez is power-hungry. In fact, they continue to point to his high approval ratings - but that's pretty much the only thing that's going well for him now. In particular, no white American liberal dares to point out the discrepancy between Chavez's supposed regard for human rights in Venezuela, and his friendships with Ahmadinejad and Mugabe, the world's worst human rights abusers.

The white American liberal premise seems to be that dictatorship and imperialism are evil values of the Western white man, transplanted into the Third World by centuries of colonialism. By extension, racism, sexism, and homophobia are related Western white man values to enforce control over the Third World inhabitants. I couldn't disagree more. First of all, democracy is another Western white man value (it started in Greece) - does it need to be thrown out too? Also, almost all cultures in the world have historically considered themselves superior to others, so racism is a universal value, regardless of culture. As for sexism and homophobia, they are severe problems with Confucianism and Islam, purely Asian value systems that the white man has had nothing to do with. The white American liberal may be enamored of the existence of Indian hijras and Thai kathoeys, but they do not enjoy the social acceptance that the white American liberal thinks they do.

Speaking of Confucianism, just about the only thing it has to do with the Western world would be its adherents' receptiveness to primitive fundamentalist Christianity (as evidenced by the Christians' success in Korea and failure in Japan), with the shared values of sexism and homophobia, but even that doesn't change the fact that those values are home-grown in Asia and not by the white man.

In fact, the fact remains that despite the self-loathing of white American liberals, the Western world still continues to offer the most personal freedoms and the most opportunities. And in fact, it's this aspect of the Western world that allows the white man to be critical of his own values, and seek better values from elsewhere. Non-Western cultures, being more communally minded and never believing in individual happiness, work differently, and are much less tolerant of differences. Back to Venezuela, that's why Hugo Chavez wants Halloween, a "decadent custom of the Western imperialists," banned.

Of course, for someone like me, a culture that values individuality and diversity is a MUST, and that's why I've been outspoken in my criticism of Confucianism and some other conformist non-Western cultures and values; of course, the clueless white American liberals have dared to accuse ME of self-hatred. If anyone's guilty of self-hatred, however, it's them, not me. The fact remains that if Venezuela were a white man's country in Europe, these same white American liberals would've ripped it to shreds, and it's only because it's a Latin country in the Third World that they tolerate and celebrate its "defiance." And the fact remains that Toyota and Samsung can be at least as neoliberal and antisocial as Halliburton or any other white man's company.

All this reminds me that just like conservatism, white American liberalism is orthodox and rigid - and less tolerant of dissent than it wants to admit. My goal will be to seek out the truly educated people, whose liberal backgrounds are rooted in actual understanding of the issues they claim to support and embrace, not the lemmings who blindly follow the feel-good issue of the day.