Friday, June 17, 2005

The Fashion of Politics

It is all too common for people who do not have sufficient knowledge of a given situation to nevertheless take a stand and have an opinion about it. International politics is the obvious example because while most people do not understand what is really happening anywhere, we have all got something to say.

I noticed this first as a student and as a staunch defender of Israel on campus in the 1980s. By that time it had become very fashionable to be pro-Palestinian, and therefore anti-Israel, but it seemed that aside from a small core group of Jews and Arabs that liked to yell at each other on the plaza at lunchtime, no one knew anything factual about the situation. That Jews and Arabs each had their own version of the facts is another matter entirely. Most students were just following political trends in an effort to be cool Berkeley activists as if it were still the 1960s or 1970s. Oddly, everyone seemed to be an extremist and no one ever represented a middle ground; there were never any solutions to discuss, only issues to be argued.

I went to Israel when I graduated from university and I was there for the beginning of the first intifada, which started in December 1987. Going to live somewhere will normally change your understanding of that place. I was living in an international student commune (for lack of a better word), and the intifada divided us politically. But as we were living on the fringes of it (I won’t say ‘in the middle of it’ because we were not in the West Bank or Gaza), we all had a fair idea of what was going on and we could all form our own opinions and take appropriate actions. I went on a peace march while a couple of my friends volunteered for the army.

Amongst Americans in Europe now, it is of course the height of fashion to be anti-war and anti-Bush. Many people stop there, but I am happy to be able to report that a lot of people are going beyond that. The political discussions I have on the blogs are mirrored in political discussions I have with people in Prague and elsewhere. It seems to me that more than ever before people are digging to get at the truth, and more people are contemplating ways in which we can bring about change. It is heartening to see people bucking the trends of fashion and I look forward to the day when our words become actions.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

It also seems fashionable these days to be anti-Israel. In fact, being anti-U.S./anti-Bush is generally conducive to being anti-Israel.

sinister steve said...

Im anti-new jersey. does that make me a anti-jersite?

Max said...

Anon, just to clarify - I never said anything about anyone being anti-US. Being anti-war and anti-Bush are issues separate from being pro or anti the whole country.

I think a significant number of Jews, however, do generally back Republican candidates, with support for Israel being one of the reasons.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Jews vote overwhelmingly (about 80%!) democrat. They always have, even in the last election.

Max said...

Yes, I know. I simply said that there are a significant number who do vote Republican. Max's weird parents, for example.

Anonymous said...

Besides, you might be the exception, but much of the world is anti-U.S., regardless of Bush or war.

Max said...

No. As I wrote in the original post, Americans in Europe are mostly anti-Bush and anti-war (except for the ones in the military), but that does not make us anti-US. We are Americans too.

Yes, much of the world is anti-US, which makes it harder for those of us who live outside our borders, but changes in US foreign policy could begin to alleviate that problem.

Anonymous said...

Don't mistake what I'm saying. I defintely understand that anti-U.S. and anti-Bush are two different things.

Riggs is Crazy said...

Changes in foreign policy? Such as we could stop giving billions of dollars to all the other countries as aid and just use it at home? Would that help? The rest of the world are sniveling whiners that are jealous of the US and thus anti. It's like the 2nd grader that doesn't have as many toys as the other kid. No matter if the other kid is generous with his toys, the one with less will always be jealous and spiteful.

Max said...

Okay, Anon, I got you.

Riggs, you are right to point out that the US gives billions in aid all over the world. Even foreigners recognise that, although sometimes they do forget. But no, that is not what I was thinking at all. I thought we could start changing foreign policy in a smaller way... like maybe by not invading any more countries.

And before you judge the rest of the world's people, Riggs, don't you think you should get out and meet some of them? See how they live?

Murphy said...

THERE'S NO NEED FOR RIGGS OR I TO VISIT ANYWHERE ELSE OR MEET ANYONE ELSE. WE HATE EVERYONE HERE, WHY DO YOU THINK ANOTHER COUNTRY WOULD BE ANY DIFFERENT?

Celinka Dionova said...

Yes I agree that the Isreali's and Arabs should get stylists, then perhaps the rest of the world will understand their politics.

coquette said...

Murphy, get a life man! And Celinka...hooked on phonics?

Murphy said...

Some of us DO understand their politics...we just don't give a shit about them. You're still giving me a headache. Blah-blah blah-blah-blow me!

AG said...

Dear Riggs, You said "The rest of the world are sniveling whiners that are jealous of the US and thus anti." Actually, that is what the U.S. government wants you to believe. It relieves them of the responsibility of telling you the truth. Our State Department has made some very bad mistakes in the past in dealing with the heads of other governments. We have continued to support fascist regimes in spite of the fact that heads of governments never use the money we give them to make life better for the citizens of those countries but pocket the funds instead (good case in point would be Marcos in the Philippines). We really don't treat the rest of the world fairly. We give billions of dollars to both Israel and Egypt so they won't go to war against each other. I would love to see a list of all the countries we give aid to and get no respect back. Meanwhile, there are Americans who live in sub-standard conditions. We spend billions of dollars to support a war machine in America while old people and young alike go hungry. We're doing exactly what Great Britain did before the first world war, and we will eventually end up in the same sorry shape, except that you'll be drinking Coors while they now get to drink Guiness. I love America and hate to see what the dunderheads in the State Department are doing throughout the world to make the American goverment a hated entity. People throughout the world don't hate Americans, just our screwed up government. Why else would so many continue to want to become Americans?

Riggs is Crazy said...

Excellent post AG. You are correct on many levels.

Celinka Dionova said...

Murphy...only in your wet dreams *wink*