Monday, May 05, 2008

"We don't do things that way"

“Our system is so different from theirs,” said David Mack, a former U.S. diplomat who has served in American embassies in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates... "We would never accept their way of doing things, and they don’t accept ours.”

What is this unacceptable way they have of doing things? If you kill their wives and children, and then offer them monetary compensation, it won't pacify them. They first want an apology.


Sunil Mukhi said...

This is an example of "orientalism", i.e. defaming your adversaries by claiming they follow some mysterious, inscrutable, illogical principles. It has been used to defend the colonial enterprise so often in the past...

It would be good to collect more examples and analyse them - possibly there are books on this issue?

One point of special concern to me is that the "orientals" eventually absorb these tactics into their own culture. For example a lot of discourse by the Indian rich about the Indian poor ascribes to the latter various mysterious, illogical traits. Ultimately this is a way of blaming them for their own poverty.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Sunil: true. On the other hand, we too have stereotypes about the west (eg, women are easy sexual targets). It's a question of who has the power. I'm sure Iraqis have negative stereotypical views of Americans (which are reinforced by the occupation), but nobody cares because the Iraqis don't (can't) do anything with those stereotypes to hurt or affect the Americans.

There is another thing at work here: in America, in particular, despite their brandishing religion in public, it seems to me that the Christian ideas of forgiveness and repentance have vanished from the public discourse. Put criminals in jail, hang them: don't even think of rehabilitating them. Demand monetary compensation, as much as you can. So the idea that an aggrieved party can want something as simple as an apology seems odd to them. Moreover, an apology is an implied admission of wrongdoing, which in America will lead to enormous claims of damages. So let's not even think of going there.