Jewish World Review Dec. 3, 2001 / 18 Kislev, 5762

Thomas Sowell

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To stop being hated, we need not to succeed when others fail -- WHY do they hate us so? And what can we do to understand their point of view? These seem to be the big questions for a large segment of the intelligentsia, whether in the media or academia, as well as various politicians and activists.

Many of the very people who ask such questions are themselves hostile to the values and traditions of American society, so their apparent puzzlement that others are likewise hostile is itself odd. But, far from expressing genuine puzzlement, such questions simply provide another occasion for the anointed to blame American society.

Not all are as blatant as Bill Clinton in portraying the terrorist attacks as some kind of payback for slavery or the killing of Indians in centuries past. Some are more sneaky, like Senator Joseph Biden, in saying that we may appear to others as a "high-tech bully" in our military response to being attacked on September 11th.

The apparently innocent plea that we try to understand the viewpoint of our foreign critics and foes is not just a plea for knowledge, such as the "know your enemy" slogan of World War II. Today's call is to grant some kind of legitimacy or "understanding" to their hatred. More bluntly, it is a call to blame ourselves for other people's resentments.

Should the West blame itself for anti-Western incidents in India? According to the March 12th issue of an Indian publication called The Hindu, a Christian priest "was paraded naked and humiliated on the streets of Dumka and a nun in Bihar forced to drink human refuse."

Had this priest or this nun harmed anyone in India? Or was this the culmination of innumerable anti-Western hooligan acts in various parts of India by people whose resentments have been whipped up by politicians and activists? If we want to understand -- in the real sense of the word, not its psychobabble version -- them we need to face the brutal facts about envy, resentment and sadistic cruelty.

With all of India's problems of grinding poverty and internal violence of group against group, why would a few Christian missionaries attract such attention, much less such venom? For the same reason that shops selling Valentine's Day cards in India have been attacked and vandalized. Because the spread of Westernization in any form is a reminder of India's inferior position in the world and a blow to Indian egos.

Do we want to stop being hated? Then we need to stop succeeding when others are failing. But, before we go to that extreme, we need to stop saying that their hatred proves that we must be guilty of something.

All human beings are guilty of being imperfect. But those who are quick to blame America or Western civilization are seldom willing to compare our imperfections with those of others. Instead, they condemn America or the West for failing to come up to their arbitrary standard, while showering others who fall even further below those standards with "understanding" in the psychobabble sense.

Some of the intelligentsia go beyond these double standards to claim that the success of the more prosperous is a result of their having somehow robbed or exploited the "dispossessed." Isolated examples of virtually anything can be found, including robbery and exploitation. But to argue that this explains vast disparities in income and wealth, whether among nations or within nations, requires a determination to defy both facts and logic.

Most prosperous countries have most of their economic transactions with other prosperous countries. Four-fifths of American investments in foreign countries are in high-income countries in Europe and Asia, and no more than one percent in poverty-stricken countries, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa.

If we really want to understand, then we can start by understanding that wealth is created, not simply transferred -- and that some know how to create more than others. But we also need to understand the poisonous role of envy and resentment, at home and abroad.

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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© 2001, Creators Syndicate