Irrationality and Anti-Americanism
One problem with Malaysians, as I overheard a biology lecturer telling his students, is that we are far too easily swayed by emotions, without rationally considering the issue at hand. Witness, for example, how we have reacted to cutbacks in government subsidies — an issue I dealt with in The People Are As Much to Blame As the Government one and a half years ago. Or look at the utter inability of opposition supporters to understand why boycotting elections will kill them, something I tackled in Boycotting Elections is A Road to Failure. Or the deification of Mahathir. Or international trade. Or evolution. The list really could go on and on forever. One issue, however, that really irks me in addition to these peeves, is the rabid anti-Americanism so prevalent in Malaysia and much of the rest of the world.
I have expressed my utter distaste for the policies of the present administration before. I think that George W. Bush has been one of the worst US Presidents, and is easily the worst in recent memory, perhaps rivalling Richard Nixon.
And even then, Nixon's personal perfidy at least did not seriously jeopardise America or the world. He manipulated the election, a serious offense, and later attempted to cover it up. But instead of starting wars, he ended them, and his policies did not do any lasting damage to the US (though some might argue that he significantly eroded American trust in their federal institutions).
What, on the other hand, has Bush done? He has infringed on the liberties of Americans, run an inefficient and ineffective domestic policy programme, and worst of all, squandered all the goodwill the world had towards America and Americans in the wake of 9/11.
It wasn't so long ago that the people of the world were proud to proclaim that "we are all Americans". Today, many of us wouldn't be caught dead being associated with America. It's very safe to say that Bush has done great damage to America's international standing that may take generations to repair.
But this is simply no excuse for the world to hate Americans. It's one thing to launch into a tirade against American policies. It's another to assume that all Americans share their government's views or motives.
One thing I've found is that a lot of people have a fundamental mistrust of the American government's motives. Fair enough. The trouble is, they go on to assume that the American people share their government's alleged intention to spill "blood for oil".
These perceptions are simply totally unjustified. I've debated politics with many Americans from both sides of the political spectrum, and found that a very tiny fringe minority take a xenophobic or American supremacist view of foreign policy.
Rather, most Americans are like most people anywhere in the world — concerned about their country, and concerned about the world. The problem with Americans is not a lack of good intentions on their part. More often than not, the problem is their lack of information about the effects of their actions, and how they will be viewed by the world.
People often get caught up in an anti-American frenzy to the point that they mistrust Americans. It's fine to mistrust the American government, but the American people's motives are far more difficult to call into question. Many of them, for example, honestly believed they were doing Iraqis and the world a favour by invading Iraq. They were misled by their government, but at heart, they had the right intentions.
Unfortunately, people don't like to think. If we stopped to actually muse rationally about the situation, we'd see that Americans are not the bloodthirsty monsters you might think they are from reading some of the propaganda put out by activists in the third world. (As an aside, this seems to be one of the few times that the term "third world" can be used properly.)
It's important to distinguish between a government and a people. The two are not always the same. If you ever doubt this, just make a note of the fact that surveys indicate most Americans wish Bush's Presidency was over now. That says it all, I think.