Tuesday, May 31, 2011
One of the painfully revealing episodes in Barack Obama's book "Dreams From My Father" describes his early experience listening to a sermon by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Among the things said in that sermon was that "white folks' greed runs a world in need." Obama was literally moved to tears by that sermon.
This sermon may have been like a revelation to Barack Obama but its explanation of economic and other differences was among the oldest — and most factually discredited — explanations of such difference among all sorts of peoples in all sorts of places. Yet it is an explanation that has long been politically seductive, in countries around the world.
What could be more emotionally satisfying than seeing others who have done better in the world as the villains responsible for your not having done as well? It is the ideal political explanation, from the standpoint of mass appeal, whether or not it makes any sense otherwise.
That has been the politically preferred explanation for economic differences between the Malay majority and the more prosperous Chinese minority in Malaysia, or between the Gentile majority and the Jewish minority in various countries in Europe between the two World Wars.
At various other times and places, it has been the preferred explanation for the economic differences between the Sinhalese and the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka, the Africans and the Lebanese in Sierra Leone, the Czechs and the Germans in Bohemia and numerous other groups in countries around the world.
The idea that the rich have gotten rich by making the poor poor has been an ideological theme that has played well in Third World countries, to explain why they lag so far behind the West.
None of this was original with Jeremiah Wright. All he added was his own colorful gutter style of expressing it, which so captivated the man who is now President of the United States.
There is obviously something there with very deep emotional appeal. Moreover, because nothing is easier to find than sins among human beings, there will never be a lack of evil deeds to make that explanation seem plausible.
Because the Western culture has been ascendant in the world in recent centuries, the image of rich white people and poor non-white people has made a deep impression, whether in theories of racial superiority — which were big among "progressives" in the early 20th century — or in theories of exploitation among "progressives" later on.
In a wider view of history, however, it becomes clear that, for centuries before the European ascendancy, Europe lagged far behind China in many achievements. Since neither of them changed much genetically between those times and the later rise of Europe, it is hard to reconcile this role reversal with racial theories.
More important, the Chinese were not to blame for Europe's problems — which would not be solved until the Europeans themselves finally got their own act together, instead of blaming others. If they had listened to people like Jeremiah Wright, Europe might still be in the Dark Ages.
It is hard to reconcile "exploitation" theories with the facts. While there have been conquered peoples made poorer by their conquerors, especially by Spanish conquerors in the Western Hemisphere, in general most poor countries were poor for reasons that existed before the conquerors arrived. Some Third World countries are poorer today than they were when they were ruled by Western countries, generations ago.
False theories are not just an intellectual problem to be discussed around a seminar table in some ivy-covered building. When millions of people believe those theories, including people in high places, with the fate of nations in their hands, that is a serious and potentially disastrous fact of life.
Despite a carefully choreographed image of affability and cool, Barack Obama's decisions and appointments as President betray an alienation from the values and the people of this country that are too disturbing to be answered by showing his birth certificate.
Too many of his appointees exhibit a similar alienation, including Attorney General Eric Holder, under whom the Dept. of Justice could more accurately be described as the Dept. of Payback.
The only thing surprising about Barack Obama's latest blow against Israel is that there are people who are surprised. As for a Palestinian homeland, that was never a big issue when the Arabs controlled that land, up to 1967.
Obama's declaration that Israel must give up the land it acquired, after neighboring countries threatened its survival in 1967, is completely consistent with both his ideology of many years and his previous actions as President of the United States.
Whether as a radical student, a community organizer or a far left politician, Barack Obama's ideology has been based on a vision of the Haves versus the Have Nots. However complex the ramifications of this ideology, and however clever the means by which Obama has camouflaged it, that is what it has amounted to.
No wonder he was moved to tears when the Reverend Jeremiah Wright summarized that ideology in a thundering phrase — "white folks' greed runs a world in need."
Israel is one of the Haves. Its neighbors remain among the Have Nots, despite their oil. No wonder that Barack Obama has bent over backward, in addition to bowing low forward, to support the side that his ideology favors.
Whether at home or abroad, Obama's ideology is an ideology of envy, resentment and payback.
Israel is not simply to have its interests sacrificed and its security undermined. It is to be brought down a peg and — to the extent politically possible — insulted. Obama has already done all these things. His latest pronouncement is just more of the same.
One of the first acts of Barack Obama as president was to send money to the Palestinians, money that can be used to buy rockets to fire into Israel, irrespective of the rationale for the money.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A photograph that should tell us a lot about Barack Obama shows him on the phone, talking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Obama was seated, leaning back in his chair, with his feet up on the desk, and the soles of his feet pointed directly at the camera. In the Middle East, showing the soles of your feet is an insult, as Obama undoubtedly knows.
This photograph was no accident. Photographers cannot roam around White House, willy-nilly, taking snapshots of the President of the United States as he talks to leaders of foreign nations.
It was a photograph with a message. No one would have known who was on the other end of the line, unless Obama wanted them to know — and wanted to demonstrate his disdain.
Prime Minister Netanyahu's visits to the White House have been unlike previous Israeli leaders' visits to the White House, and certainly unlike the pomp and circumstance accompanying other nations' leaders' visits to the White House over the years.
After one of his meetings with Netanyahu, Barack Obama simply told the prime minister that he was going upstairs to have dinner. You wouldn't say that to an ordinary neighbor visiting in your home, without inviting him to join you.
Obama knew that. Netanyahu knew that. It was a calculated insult. And the American public would have heard about it, if so much of the media didn't have such a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil and speak-no-evil attitude in its coverage of Barack Obama.
Visits to the White House by prime ministers of Britain — our oldest and staunchest ally — have likewise been downplayed and Obama's visit to the Queen of England was likewise conducted without the respect normally shown to a monarch. One of Obama's first acts upon reaching the White House was to return to the British embassy a bust of Winston Churchill, the most eminent statesman in Britain's history.
All of this is consistent with Obama's general approach to foreign policy — selling out our allies to curry favor with our adversaries. He flew to Moscow, shortly after taking office, to renege on the American commitment to put a missile shield in Eastern Europe, in hopes of getting a deal with the Russians.
Obama is politically savvy enough to know how to get his point across without blowing his cover.
The fate of the United States of America may depend on how savvy we the people are in seeing what he is doing — and how soon, before the situation becomes irretrievable.
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