Posts tagged with “imperialism”

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While not going so far as to actually do anything remotely dictatorial, Chávez was far from a democratic leader. Instead of competing honestly in elections, he provided services and raised the standard of living for the people of Venezuela, ensuring their gratitude and thereby gaining an unfair advantage at the polls. Much of the funds for this insidious election tactic of ‘making things better’ were rerouted from the newly nationalised oilfields: through this wanton kleptocracy, billions of petrodollars were withheld from deserving rich white people.

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The Age: Indonesia's radical shift

The Age is pretty well-known as Melbourne's premier liberal newspaper, champion of all those who believe (whether they're honest about it or not) in "the white man's burden". (Or the white woman's, sometimes. Here in the enlightened paragon of progress that is the West, we don't discriminate!) This article, about attempts to prevent Lady Gaga from performing in Indonesia, is a perfect example of this.

What it seeks to do – and incredibly unsubtly – is create some kind of dichotomy between laidback, friendly and welcoming Indonesians (who all embrace Western influence and commercialism with open arms, of course) and the one or three % who have views which most people consider extreme. And of these radicals, it makes sure to stress that:

...the new radicals are the fully funded creatures of Saudi Arabia's own attempt to project power. They are spurred by a familiar anti-Western sentiment and the fantasy of creating an Islamic caliphate.

...never mind that Saudi Arabia is, oh, one of the United States's closest allies in the Middle East, and approximately as devoted to commercialism as one could imagine. No! We all know that Saudi Arabia is oppressive and therefore anti-Western, goddamnit!

And in counterposition to them, there is Lady Gaga, unashamedly described by Bachelard in the following way:

Lady Gaga may not see herself this way, but she is an expression of America's incredible ability to project soft power. Inviting and provocative, she promotes Western values of individual liberty and commerce using sex appeal and pop hooks. She's bisexual, beloved of the gay community and performs virtually nude.

Firstly, there is the typically liberal correlation between commerce (capitalism!) and liberty. Secondly, there is the fact that Bachelard reckons that America wants to use its power to "promote Western values of individual liberty", which I'm sure is a fine thing to tell all the civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan – and anywhere else the US has bombed the crap out of – whose individual liberty to live the United States prized very highly as it massacred them in warzones or killed them with drones. And hey, if the prison at Guantánamo Bay is not a symbol of liberty, I just don't know what is.

I disagree with trying to prevent Lady Gaga performing, but I disagree much more with the idea that the West should be imposing "its" will on anyone, not even in the name of "Western values" which – let's be honest! – are not particularly "Western" at all. What little individual liberty we enjoy in the West today took a hard-fought battle against these very same states who try to use it as an excuse to dominate other states. Furthermore, for the vast majority of us it remains so illusory! We need incomes, we need to survive; we get locked into routines and structures and obligations we resent, just like ordinary people anywhere else.

All in all, this piece is a miserable attempt to justify narratives of Western superiority, the source of our supposed authority to dominate the world. And in promoting this mantra once again, The Age could be commended for its consistency, but not for anything much else.


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