*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

'First World problems': false consciousness

I lost patience with someone the other day.  She was moaning about the Muslim kids' attitudes in her school.  She's sensitive because her husband's in the Canadian military, and he's been 'helping' in Afghanistan.  Students asked:
Why does America hate Muslims?
Why is it ok for Americans  to invade other countries but it's not ok for anyone to fight Americans?
Canada is racist. Why didn't it bring in any Syrian refugees?
Instead of considering these kids might have family who have been killed because of America fucking the place up, and its bitch, Canada, joining in, she's concerned about her own feelings. 
In all my years of teaching and working with students from a variety of backgrounds, I have NEVER heard or witnessed such disgust for the West. It made me horrified, really. And I still don't know what the best response is to any of those questions.
Fuck your cossetted feelings.  Try empathy.  White, born in Canada, unilingual Anglophone...  I had to school her:
I happen to think we should all be disgusted with 'the West': we are hypocrites.  I don't need to be Muslim to see that Arab deaths are counted very cheaply in Washington, and that 'Western' governments not only don't protest, but enable.  You are younger than me so do not know that the Liberal Party of Canada sent no troops to Vietnam, or anywhere in SE Asia, and accepted American draft refugees.  Incidentally, Joe Clark's Conservatives accepted tens of thousands of civilian refugees from Vietnam.  Quite a different legacy than ours in the Middle East.  There were other choices to make.  The questions show students who are intellectually engaged with current events, even if their ideas are raw and unnuanced.  If I were a hot-blooded youth and anyone I knew had been harmed?  I can't imagine feeling less angry than I am now.  I would acknowledge their anger, and try to direct it to something effective, legal and non-violent.  The anger needs a positive outlet: better that than another option, for their own good.
The most shocking thing was that she entertained my ideas.  I didn't bother to tell her that her husband has blood on his hand, even if not at first hand.  Don't think she'll ever be that open minded.


  1. Whether fair or not, each generation bears some of the burden of guilt for the sins of the fathers. The angry mob doesn't stop attacking an individual they identify (mistakenly or not) as a member of the group of their oppressors if that person screams "Hey! Your problems have fuck-all to do with me!"


    1. This Be The Verse
      By Philip Larkin
      They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
      They may not mean to, but they do.
      They fill you with the faults they had
      And add some extra, just for you.

      But they were fucked up in their turn
      By fools in old-style hats and coats,
      Who half the time were soppy-stern
      And half at one another’s throats.

      Man hands on misery to man.
      It deepens like a coastal shelf.
      Get out as early as you can,
      And don’t have any kids yourself.