Anti-Western sentiment hip, but blind

If you have a moment, could you please take the following quiz? It’s simple enough; simply draw a line from each object in column A to either the “Hip” or “Un-Hip” found in column B (##1 is done for you). Alright, START NOW (and just for fun, time yourself):
In spite of my inability to grade all your papers separately, I feel fairly confident in my ability to predict the outcome of the results. Most of you, quite in tune with popular college sentiment, scored a 100 percent on this test by simply placing objects of cultures other than the West in the hip category, and vice versa. Now, some of you may find your heart quicken when placed in front of a million-dollar ROTC television commercial. Nevertheless, you most likely understand that the socially savvy student stays away from such topics.
Of course, this observation may easily be explained away as a normal infatuation with the exotic. There has always been a tendency to romanticize the strange and mysterious practices and artifacts of other cultures. A harmless tendency, one may argue, for students to grasp for some immediate spiritual fix hidden deep within the riddles of Eastern religions — some answer not crossed during their studies of the Western arts and sciences.
But this factor alone does not explain the intensity of the multi-culturalist perspective encountered at a liberal campus such as the University. There are greater forces at work — forces unique to our time.
It is only recently that we find so many people distancing themselves from their own culture. In a wake of revisionist historical and political theory, many act as hardened soldiers now wise to the naively patriotic rhetoric of past generations.
Culturally, the West, and especially America, is portrayed as a greedy and spoiled child. Our massive technological expertise has not led to social bliss as promised, but rather is used by mega-corporates to churn our forests and country sides into a circus of glitzy storefronts and neon lit bars. The artifacts of our culture, it is argued, are mass-produced from Styrofoam so they can be quickly placed in a landfill as soon as some new product is placed within a brightly lit display case. Amidst a sea of “Super Slurpees,” “Big Macs” and “Mega Sales” it is asked, how can we possibly take ourselves seriously?
Politically, the West continually is characterized as a criminal and a bully. The trend on campus is to coarsely disregard the accomplishments of the West and focus solely upon her crimes. Armed with the biggest gun, the West is drawn as a thief who steals under the righteous name of “democracy” and “progress.” Time after time, it is argued, we have been lied to and found not freedom in the pages of our history, but blood.
It is this bleak caricature of the West which induces so many students to become embittered and cynical towards our country and our Western heritage. Accordingly, students seek redemption by protecting the sacred methods of other cultures which are constantly in danger of being replaced by the soulless mechanistic ways of the white man.
Yet, the sound logic and clear thinking which accompanied much of the original revisionist thinking is often absent on campus and all we are left with is trendy, empty rhetoric. And like all trends, it seems to rely on popular support more so than the merits of its arguments. If, for example, a student is running short on logic during a class discussion, he simply needs to denounce any governmental program as propaganda emanating from the “military industrial complex” in order to gain popular support. Whereas the student who argues that we need to support our military and take pride in our country is often treated as if she were arguing that the world is indeed flat. The reader will have to assess whether or not this jibes with their own experiences at the University.
Now, after just reading the words “country” and “pride” in the same sentence, you might be fearing that I’ll argue that we need to resurrect some of the policies advocated by Senator Joe McCarthy and start blacklisting those “damn liberal” professors at the University who exhibit any anti-Western behavior. Neither is the case. My point is that, just as in the days of McCarthy when our country engaged in blind patriotism, today many people at the University are now engaging in blind multiculturalism. While no one is being politically and economically “blacklisted,” the multi-culturalist mood at the University is similar in character to McCarthyism as it socially pressures people to “fall in line” by adopting an automatic cynicism to our country and our Western heritage.
And in this quagmire of catch phrases that have lost connection to their origins, many people are losing their ability to understand the complex interrelations that are at the core of many hotly contested issues. On the one hand the staunch multi-culturalists complain about Western dominance, yet presuppose the universal dominance of many American and Western values and principles such as feminism, individualism, freedom of choice in matters of career and love and the concept of human rights just to name a few.
But do they ever ask where these ideas came from in the first place? All too often they forget to ask this important question and assume that these principles act upon humanity much the same way that gravity does. But they do not. These principles were not formulated in Muslim or Asian cultures, they are Western ideas born out of a long history of Western thought. The multi-culturalists often ignore this distinction and naively assume that principles such as individualism or feminism somehow exist without creation. Then they proceed to assume that all the peoples of other cultures see things the same way. But they don’t.
They don’t and they won’t unless they become more Western which, ironically, is supposedly what the multi-culturalist is fighting to prevent. As the eminent political scientist Samuel P. Huntington points out in his book “The Clash of Civilizations,” “The belief that non-Western people should adopt Western values, institutions, and culture is immoral because of what would be necessary to bring it about. … Imperialism is the necessary logical consequence of universalism.”
In short, we do not need to throw out all of the recent revisionist thinking. Yes, questions surround Columbus and yes, America supported puppet dictators during the Cold War. There’s nothing wrong with being critical of ourselves and being aware of the effects a powerful West has on other cultures. But we can take it too far. We can forget that many of our core values are in fact Western values that arose through complicated interaction with many other aspects of our entire culture. They did not pop onto the scene without creation and they will not endure without support. We may well wonder as to what effects this new brand of cynicism will bring about — a trend which denies a table has any legs while it is constantly kicking them.

Andrew Carter is a freelance reporter for The Minnesota Daily. Send comments to [email protected]