A Level Gaze

"What effect must it have on a nation if it learns no foreign languages? Probably much the same as that which a total withdrawal from society has upon an individual."
--G.C. Lichtenberg



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Friday, August 23, 2002
 
I'd suggest an additional twist to the second of Armed Liberal's interpretations of our position vis a vis the Middle East and the developing world in general laid out in his(?) excellent series on terrorism. He writes:

The second possibility is that there is a rising tide of dissent, often led by the educated classes throughout the world; in the Arab world, the only survivable outlet is in protest against Israel and America, which fits neatly into the philosophical underpinnings of that educated dissent, which is the rejection of modernity and the Western concept of ‘progress’. But while the incoming wave is most visible where there are reefs…and so the fact that this viewpoint finds official support in the Arab world, for a variety of reasons...the wave is moving in along a very broad front.

I'd speculate that at least some of the "rejection of modernity" is not so much the wholesale repudiation of advanced modes of production, transport, communication, and so forth, but a rejection of how it has played out under US and western hegemony. There being no other example of modernity, many in the developing world certainly do identify technological progress with the exploitive practices of powerful, advanced nations. Among these groups, the only untainted frameworks around which they can build resistance are the necessarily less-advanced religious and cultural manifestations that predate the arrival of their oppressors (and are therefore 'authentic').

However, there is no reason that such resistance must be tied to backward institutions; doing so is at the moment the path of least resistance, the easiest way to mobilize the masses. Over time, the building blocks of modernity will inevitibly disperse from their current concentration in the developed world and be deployed by poorer nations to their own advantage, and be freed of the unnecessary association with de facto and/or economic colonialism.

China provides an instructive example: although it depends on other nations for technological advances, it is in the process of putting together a self-sustaining modern infrastructure. Its strong geopolitical situation puts it in a position of relative independence from developed nations. As it continues to progress down the path of development, it will gradually help destroy the notion that modernity and oppression are inevitably linked.

Currently, World Bank and I.M.F policies force many countries to give up or sell their technological infrastructures and foster continued dependence upon rich nations. The increasing resistance to these institutions (and, by extension, the US) indicates that the developing world is getting wise to these tactics, and won't put up with them for much longer.