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Orientalism

Reader comment on item: [Middle East Studies:] Wasted Money

Submitted by Fred Baehr (United States), Apr 19, 2011 at 03:14

Said and Chomsky are popular because they criticize the policies of the US. Foreign students love it because it kicks the big dumb guy in the slats. American student s love it because students love insurrection and always have. To be thorough, as well as fair, reading should include other voices from noted scholars like Lewis and Ibn Warrak , as well as criticism of Said's thesis itself. But professors are just as likely as anyone to become partisan, biased, blinded by their own bright lights.

From what I have seen, today's bright college students are overwhelmingly progressive. They have been taught cultural relativism from day one in public schools. Most think they don't believe in one objective reality. I question this possibility. They have been told there is no one single reality, and they believe it, but they have also been told that philosophy is a joke and history is bunk, and they believe that, so they have read very little of either, and so are mostly unprepared (intellectually) to defend a claim so fundamental and complex as that there is no one reality. They are intellectual posers. They are also young which lends their minds to certainties. Don't forget, it was the students who burned the books in Germany, it was the youth of Florence that stoked the bonfires of the vanities, it was the young elites that drove Mao's cultural revolution and the Khmer Rouge killing squads. Kids out to make the world a better place, every one of them.

I think it is likely these Title VI programs have helped turn out thousands of young activists who believe the United States is the big problem in the world, and its power should be reduced. Since I think our power has been much more creative than destructive in the world, I tend to think a reduction in our power worldwide will enable the forces of regression and destruction to destroy some more perfectly good stuff and subjugate yet more people (all in the name of that better world you've been hearing about). There are all kinds of ways to look at things, all kinds of methods by which to analyse situations. Said's theories don't need to be banned, they need to be disproved, and the same goes for all the other theories that apply. Our problem is that conflicting ideas have been condemned as racist by the post-moderns and anti-orientalists, and so are not taught.

I think this is due to the fact that progressives generally must have a particularly strong testimony of their own moral and intellectual superiority because progressive theory is the product of the work of superior minds and is sometimes difficult to understand. It goes like this: the theory is right, failure to understand it is what leads people to reject it, and indicates intellectual inferiority, while disagreement indicates moral inferiority. So, having found the best of all possible worlds (to dream about) progressives see no need to bother teaching conflicting theories. The same thing has happened to every enlightened idealist who ever breathed.

So maybe the Title VI programs should be revamped rather than scrapped. It is possible that what is now a failed program might be turned into a real success. Stranger things have happened. We need diplomats who can speak several languages, know a whole lot of the history of this one reality, and wish to be positive agents of this country. First we will have to teach the children who could become these diplomats that ours is a good as well as great country, and it is not a shame to serve it.

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