Tobacco Road Fogey
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Totten on liberals and conservativesMichael J. Totten has a very incisive piece about some of the differences he's noticed between liberals and conservatives:
Why are liberal intellectuals less interested in the history of foreign countries than conservatives are? I have never heard anyone ask this question, and I wonder if others even notice the problem. Maybe they do, but until recently I hadn't noticed, and I assure you the left hasn't noticed. I'm not talking about who is right and who is wrong about history. I'm talking here about who is even interested in the first place.An interesting viewpoint -- more fully expounded in the full piece, of course -- but it is somewhat specific to the present time. After all, during the time frame of the late 1930's to the late 1960's, it was the liberals in this country, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and other internationalist Democrats up through the New Frontiersmen of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, that favored and pushed for a greater role for the United States in world affairs. Ideas such as the Good Neighbor Policy, Lend-Lease, the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and, last but not least, the United Nations were all products of the liberal intellectuals of the 1930's and '40's.
A simpler explanation for the apparent lack of interest in the history of foreign countries, in my view, is that such lack of interest is the legacy of post-World War II anticolonialist thinking. First, most of the world outside Europe and the Americas, with the exception of Russia, China, and Japan, were parts of one or another of the European empires prior to World War II. The pre-war histories of those nations, therefore, are distorted by their colonial occupation -- up to three hundred years in some cases -- and, therefore, not of interest to many intellectuals because of the great influence of the colonial power. The history of those colonies became absorbed into the history of the colonial power.
Second, the geopolitical machinations of the Cold War kept many of those newly constituted nations from developing without influence from either the non-Communist or Communist bloc. Once again, the influence of an outside power was more important in many respects than indigenous movements in the development of these nations and, therefore, the histories of these nations are absorbed into the history of the East-West conflict.
In short, there isn't much interest in the history of foreign countries among many intellectuals, liberal or conservative, because there really isn't much history there that hasn't already been explained and categorized in terms of either European colonialism or the Cold War. I can't say I agree with that attitude, because it seems to me to be patronizing and chauvinistic, but it seems to explain the lack of interest -- it's already been done, so why do it again. I hope and believe interest will pick up in the future, as more of these countries are able to chart an independent path to their own futures and we in the West become more interested in the historical underpinnings for the courses these nations take.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Awww, Jeff! You had me hoping for one of those existential moments, and then you had to go and ruin it for me.
When I grew up, conservatives were the snobs: They ran the companies. They were white. They were privileged. They were educated. They were members of the exclusive society. Country club culture.Speaking as one of "the people" or "the masses", statements like "rights to health insurance for Americans and quality education" make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. That statement conjures up a vision of yet another government agency staffed by the same mindless sadists who populate my local Motor Vehicles office. Or perhaps the not-so-helpful help-line employees manning the phones at the IRS. You know, the ones who say "if we give you the wrong advice, you're still responsible for the taxes."
If you want to fight for the rights of the people, either here or in Iraq, start by reducing the scope of government in all of our lives. Quit thinking of us as children who need guidance and start looking at us as sovereign in our own right. Remember that those tax dollars are mine first, since I'm the one who earned them, and that the government has justify to me why they need them, rather than me justifying why I should keep them.