Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2002 / Rosh Chodesh Shevat, 5762

Thomas Sowell

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Infallible haters? -- ANYBODY can be mistaken -- except haters, apparently. Whenever others express their hatred of Americans, in words or deeds, the hand-wringers among us want us to ask: "Why do they hate us?" Apparently we should automatically go in quest of those "root causes" so dear to the ideology of the left, instead of realizing that many people in less fortunate countries find hating Americans easier than facing the truth about themselves.

Long before September 11th, the Taliban demonstrated again and again their intolerance and hatred of all who differed from them, clamping a reign of terror on the Afghan people and demolishing ancient Buddhist statues, despite worldwide pleas to spare those artistic treasures. What had the Buddhists or their statues ever done to them?

What did the Jews ever do to Hitler?

The fashionable idiocy that haters must have justifications is one of those ideas that George Orwell said only an intellectual could believe -- because no one else could be such a fool. Unfortunately, we have a large supply of both amateur and professional intellectuals. They are busy on college campuses across the country, sounding off with their blame-America-first message. They are also an undercurrent in the mass media, where they must insinuate what they can say unopposed in academia.

For centuries, some of the most productive people in many societies have also been the most hated. After the Moriscoes had been expelled en masse from Spain in the 16th century, a Spanish cleric asked: "Who will make our shoes now?" That was a question that should have been asked before expelling them.

After Indians and Pakistanis were expelled from Uganda in the 1970s, the Ugandan economy collapsed. People from the Indian subcontinent had created whole industries in East Africa and had been so predominant in the commercial life of the region for so long that the rupee was at one time the prevailing currency there. Yet they were hated by the very people who benefited from their economic activity.

It has been the same story with the Chinese minority in various countries in Southeast Asia. The mob violence against the Chinese in Indonesia in 1998 was part of a long history of such outbreaks against them in that region, going back for centuries. Like so many groups, the overseas Chinese were accused of "taking over" whole industries, when in fact they created those industries.

Hatred and mob violence against more productive minorities has been the rule, rather than the exception, for centuries -- whether against the Jews in Eastern Europe, the Ibos in Nigeria, the Armenians in Turkey, the Germans in Russia, the Lebanese in West Africa, the Chettiars in Burma, the Japanese in Canada or the Asian shopkeepers in our own black ghettoes today.

Whatever the economic benefits that these various groups contributed in these countries, their achievements were a devastating blow to the egos of others. This was what has been so galling and has provoked such rage. Seldom are the idle rich as hated as those who started out poor and worked their way up to modest prosperity, because that achievement is a slap across the face of others who have stagnated.

Why then is it so surprising that the most productive country in the world is so hated among those who lag far behind? Whatever the shortcomings of Americans -- real and imagined -- shortcomings are common to all peoples. That can hardly be the basis for singling out Americans as objects of a special wrath and venom.

What is new in history is the internal hostility to American society by some of its own citizens who have benefited from its productivity and its generosity. No one has been more favored and indulged than those in academia and the media -- and no one has acted more like spoiled brats.

Their ego problem is quite different. These are people convinced of their own superior wisdom and virtue, who are constantly trying to impose that wisdom and virtue on others, whether by media spin, government regulation, classroom propaganda, or moral intimidation.

Their exalted vision of themselves is frustrated by the fact that the vast majority of other Americans reject -- or, worse yet, ignore -- their presumptions of moral leadership. To some of us, that is called freedom. But, to the self-anointed, it is enough to produce hostility to the values and traditions of American society.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late.


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© 2002, Creators Syndicate