Thursday, June 4, 2009

Liberal Guilt

Many liberals fail to notice how close their liberal guilt brings them to the ideology promoted by George W. Bush. The very idea that the big, bad and scary America exploits poor and pathetic countries of the 3rd world depends for its very existence on the vision of the inhabitants of other countries as sad losers who would wish but unfortunately for them cannot live the way Americans do. Here we come very close to Bush's belief that the rest of the world envies the US.

We tend to see the world in our own terms. When talking about the standard of living, we tend do measure it according to what we find good and important and forgetting that other people might have a different set of values. If we were to measure the standard of living in the amount of leisure time we have, in how much sex and fun we have, what place would the US occupy in the world? Why should we automatically assume that the kind of lifestyle where you work 14 hours a day in the hope to maybe pay out your mortgage 30 years from now is necessarily what everybody wants? Why assume that having 3 plasma screen TVs makes you happier than being able to spend a lot of time celebrating life, drinking and dancing with your friends.?

Different people have different value systems. Different cultures collectively make different choices. The liberal condescension towards the so-called underdeveloped countries only serves to make people who engage in the cultivation of this liberal guilt feel all good and noble. Instead of exploiting people of the 3rd world economically, they have found an alternative system of exploitation through liberal guilt.
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Robin Lionheart said...

So, when American corporations like Wal-Mart employ Bangladeshis for nine cents an hour to make shirts, don't call it "exploitation". Bangladesh just has a different value system!

Clarissa said...

I have not been to Bangladesh and all I know is that the people of Bangladesh have not asked me for my pity and self-congratulatory condescension.

The thrid-world country I do know is Ukraine, which is my country. I have endured way too many conversations with very nice and well-meaning Americans who tried to convince me that the US brought their factories into my country in order to exploit the Ukrainians. All of my attempts to explain why this vision is misguided ended in a complete failure. People seemed very invested emotionally into seeing Ukrainians as exploited. There must be a reason for this desire to pity us even when we really don't need it.

Anonymous said...

In theory, i agree with you on the desire to pity as a form of liberal guilt, and I am as angry as you are when we start pitifying Third World countries. But I think that liberal hypocrisy is worse than liberal guilt. More than pity, the problem with the liberals is that they never acknowledge that capitalism brings exploitation and low wages in every corner of the world. Liberals wish that everyone live under the same minimum standards of well-being while ignoring that such a thing is impossible in the economic system under which we live, based on profit.

I also struggle with your concept of value systems attached to different cultures. A statement like "Different cultures collectively make different choices" is extremely vague and fails to explain anything regarding actual exploitation (not victimization, exploitation!). You make your point by means of culture, cultural relativism to be more precise. Such an understanding of the world is a very liberal or American way of seeing things!

Clarissa said...

From what I know, the Ukrainian and the Russian people do not feel exploited by the Americans. And they are right. The Ukrainian and the Russian people also do not envy the Americans their lifestyle. And, yet again, within their value system, they are right.

We assume everybody envies us for having i-pods and laptops and we fail to notice how people might pity us for having less leisure, less sex, less fun, etc.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree, in North America it is out of proportion, too much work and not enough enjoying life... And the pity, liberal or not, is not helping people of other countries.

While I agree with you that Russians and Ukrainians do not envy the American lifestyle, the mechanisms of that are quite complicated, IMHO... Do not know enough about Ukrainians, but Russian lack of open envy towards Americans is based on widespread feeling of moral and intellectual superiority (which, one could argue, is a compensatory mechanism and an expression of actual envy towards American lifestyle which is not openly admitted). In the material sphere Russians exhibit a) clear desire to achieve American / Western consumer standards (miraculously, with less work and more play, which is very good in and by itself, but contradicts the goal of catching up) and b) fear that Americans (and the West in general) will exploit them if given enough chance.

Clarissa said...

All I want is not to be pitied just for being from Ukraine by people who have never been to Ukraine and know nothing about us and our life.