May 22, 2007

Antonio Rappa on Asia's Discomfort with America

This is another passage by Dr. Rappa, from his book, Globalization: An Asian Perspective on Modernity and Politics in America (published 2004). Dr. Rappa's passage is specifically about the irritation many Asians feel about America's influence and interference in their own countries and cultures; however, I suspect that the passage is relevant for virtually every other country and region around the world, even countries as close to the United States (geographically, culturally and politically) as Canada and the United Kingdom.

Americans by and large don't have the slightest clue as to what people from other countries think about America and Americans. The two extremes seem to be either "They love us; look at how many of them are trying to live in our country" or "They hate us for our freedoms," a phrase that has as much value, pardon my French, as a piece of shit. Americans put their noses into the business of just about every other country in the world, expect the other country to "reform" to fit the American model, and then get upset when the other country either rejects the "reform" out of hand or decides to follow a different model. Dr. Rappa suggests that Americans consider a world in which the shoe goes on their foot.

"Asia's discomfort with America" can be summed up in terms of what is perceived as the politics of interference by a global hegemonic power. If you don't understand what this means, imagine if any Asian country were to send its soldiers, statesmen, economists, social scientists, teachers, educationists, and diplomats into your cities and told you all what to do in public. Imagine a world in which Asians from Asia, not Asian-Americans, were making decisions about the way your country ought to work. Imagine a world in which your human rights records, your labor laws, and your social security system were continuously being analyzed and questioned by non-citizen, non-domiciled foreigners. A world where you had to depend on Asian investments in order to achieve a certain standard of living, to feed your children, to educate them, and to try and create a better world for them. If you can imagine all this and accept it as good and well-meaning advice that may go against your own cultural practices, then you might be able to understand what it feels like to be told what to do by foreigners. Perhaps some Americans wouldn't mind being told what to do as long as the system works.


But what if you thought that the system was, by and large, working and you had these Asian leaders in your face anyway? Or Asian military hardware on the tarmac at SFO, Honolulu International, Dulles, JFK, LAX, and Chicago-O'Hare? How would you feel if Asian soldiers raped young American girls like the ones that were raped by American GIs in Okinawa? How would you like it if your teenage daughters and sons were dancing in droves to Asian music you could not understand or if your sons and daughters were wearing Asian clothes (whatever that might be) and mimicking Asian mannerisms (or whatever might be the equivalent in US cultural currency)? If you can imagine this kind of world - whether you accept it or reject it - then you are beginning to understand the politics of American globalization.
-- pp. 102-3

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