Wednesday 14 May 2008

Act of God? Blame the West

You'd think the Burmese cyclone would be one event that really couldn't be blamed on 'the West'. After all, this was an act of God/nature, made worse by the (in)action of a home-grown military junta, and in whose aftermath western nations have been queuing up to offer humanitarian aid.

But you'd be wrong. Over the past few days, the usual suspects have been going through ever more mind-boggling intellectual contortions, eager to find a way of attributing some responsibility for the disaster to western democracies. So labyrinthine are their arguments that it's difficult to work out if the likes of Simon Tisdall and Simon Jenkins are criticising western governments for not intervening more directly, or for wanting to intervene in the first place. 

There was a particularly gruesome example of this kind of hand-wringing, overlaid with sanctimonious religious guilt-tripping, on yesterday's 'Thought for the Day', in which Rev John Bell played the familiar anti-colonialist card in order to help us to 'understand' the Burmese government's reluctance to accept aid from the West. In Bell's twisted version of events, it wasn't so much the brutality of the regime that was to blame for the plight of the Burmese people, as the sanctions imposed on it by the West. And it was our 'cultural ignorance' that was the barrier to the country accepting western aid, not the cruelty or self-interest of the generals.

As always, commentators who adopt this invertedly-racist (because it denies agency to anyone but white westerners) line of thinking let themselves off the hook of actually proposing any solution to the problem. So - Simon, Simon, John - if you were the British or the US government, what would you do?

Thank goodness that some can see through these rhetorical posturings. Read Norm on Simon Tisdall's twisted logic here, and David Aaronovitch's characteristically forthright call for intervention here.

Seems I wasn't the only one to find that 'Thought for the Day' repellent. Here's Norm on a 'rank piece of apologetics.'

1 comment:

Daniel Stark said...

It wouldn't be a disaster without some how connecting it to the West. Illusionary blame is what's propping that junta up right now.

As for intervention...
If we intervene we'll get criticized, if we don't we'll get criticized (at least that's how it goes with the United States, I don't know how the U.K. folks deal with international response to these situations).