Tuesday, 30 December 2014

3 Reasons Why America is Hated Around the World

Picture: Jennifer Parr via Wiki Commons.
The fervor with which some people hate America can seem unusual, contentious, or even belligerent. Indeed, many patriotic Americans dismiss the hatred as fueled by jealousy for their wealth and lifestyle. This would be nice to believe because it lays the blame solely at the doors of critics. However, there are more plausible explanations that deserve discussion.

1. One possibility is the intrusiveness of American culture, which has spread around the world, bringing Hollywood movies and Western music to disparate lands. Many will resent this cultural infusion because of the Western values that come with it. They'll see it as eroding the traditional values that are native to their own lands. While this reason for hating America is understandable, it is also unavoidable. Cultural diffusion is not something America can be blamed for. Throughout history there have been similar displacements. For example, when Greek culture dominated Rome two thousand years ago; or when Persian culture dominated the Arab world a millennium ago.

2. Another possibility is the arrogant patriotism that is seen to typify Americans. Patriotism is a personality trait that imbues people with a sense of national pride and superiority. Thus, if many Americans believe their country is better than all others, they will be seen as arrogant and prejudiced. For many, patriotism is merely a love of one's country, though this can often translate into a dislike of other countries. When an American appears to dislike other countries, the natural response is to dislike America in return.

Patriotism may be related to the need to feel pride in certain aspects of one's adopted identity. Evolutionary and cultural psychologists have investigated our desire to extract pride from life, suggesting that thousands of years ago our self-importance was guaranteed by the size of the communities we lived in. Living in a small tribe assured our usefulness as a hunter, baker, potter, etc. In today's global culture we have to compete with the entirety of the human world, and we continually find ourselves to be inadequate when compared with famous people on the television. The rise of patriotism may be a way to extract a feeling of self-importance and pride from our ever-growing community of competitors.

Patriotism is an unnecessary part of American culture, though it is also an indelible product of a protracted history of nationalistic thinking. Should Americans be blamed for being brought up in a country where you pledge allegiance to the flag from the earliest of ages? We are all products of our upbringing. While patriotism is not an excuse to dislike individual Americans, it is a reason to dislike the culture they were brought up in. Nevertheless, such dislike should not cause people to burn American flags or engage in terrorist attacks. So why do these things happen?

3. Perhaps the most understandable reason for anti-American hatred is US foreign policy. Apart from recent wars, the last half century has seen the CIA interfere and intervene in the internal politics of numerous countries. In many cases (such as Iran), they engineered coups that replaced democratic governments with brutal, US-friendly dictators. Some of these dictators went on to decimate entire populations. Undeniably, this leaves a sour taste in the mouths of all who know about it. Indeed, politicians such as Ron Paul describe retaliation against the US as blow-back, and the September 11th attacks may fit this description.

While nothing justifies terrorism, blow-back cannot be ignored as the root cause of recent aggression against America. Many politicians have sought to dismiss this explanation because thinking of terrorists as irrational and "evil" is a more efficient way to ensure public support for the vengeful wars they engage in. If Americans recognized that their country must accept some degree of blame, impressions could be changed over time, and violent hatred for America could be eradicated once and for all. However, given recent attitudes towards cases of CIA torture, Americans don't seem in any mood to apologize.

The consensus seems to be that apologizing makes America look `weak'. Yet, anyone who made it through primary school knows that apologizing when you've done something wrong is the mark of a strong, brave, and upstanding person. If this doesn't apply to nation states then perhaps that's more to do with our politicians than the people they govern.

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