Monday, August 3, 2009

Power (pages 12-13)

When we last read from Amy Chua, she had just dropped a rather shocking conclusion:
[M]arkets and democracy were among the causes of both the Rwandan and Yugoslavian genocides. (12)
That's a rather inflammatory statement. Similar to "Obama is a super secret Muslim Socialist plant", it clearly clashes with mainstream understanding of the facts. In other words, you have to make a case.

Chua's first instinct seem to be argumentum ad hominem, rather than alternative presentation:
Essentially, the anti-globalization movement asks for one thing: more democracy. (12)
Oh, no...?
Thus Noam Chomsky, one of the movement's high priests... (12)
Setting aside the clearly embedded insult, Chua seems to be falling prey to the typical human fallacy of "you're either with me or united against me." She speaks of the anti-globalization movement as monolithic in organization, unified behind certain leaders, like Chomsky. Ironically, a paragraph earlier she had eloquently described the complex coalition that makes up the modern American anti-globalization movement-
Joining [Thomas] Frank in his criticism of "the almighty market" is a host of strange bedfellows: American farmers and factory workers opposed to NAFTA, environmentalists, the AFL-CIO, human rights activists, Third World activists, and sundry other groups... (12)
Note how Chua associates opposition to the "market" with an improper response to the inequalities it creates but seems overwhelmingly hesitant to delver nearly as deep into opposition to democracy, although she freely admits that those responses also exist. In fact, her earlier statements that seemed like attempts to give these two alternatives equal time quickly disappear around the ten page mark, and she starts outright conflating democracy with populist communalism:
Given the ethnic dynamics of the developing world, and in particular the phenomenon of market-dominant minorities, merely "empowering the poor majorities of the world" is not enough. Empowering the Hutu majority in Rwanda did not produce desirable consequences. Nor did empowering the Serbian majority in Serbia. (13).
So much baggage so little time.

Again, we see a theme that started to show its head in the last section - Chua's treatment of the the Rwandan and Serbian genocides as equivalent and nearly interchangeable, an attitude just skirting between forgivable ignorance and obnoxious dehumanization of massive human tragedies into a prop for Chua's political ideas. Fundamentally, this comparison fails with even a simple glance. The market-dominant minority and primary target of the Rwandan genocide were the Tutsi, yes, but the market-dominant minority, according to Chua, among the Serbs was the Croat community, a group that fought with the Serbs on a scale and in a form much more similar to a war, bloody and localized and with little concern for civilian suffering or deaths. The Serbian genocide, instead, involved a primary target of the Muslim minorities in the region, above all else the Albanians, who faced a steadily advancing encroachment on their property, then their homes, then their bodies, eerily reminiscent of the genocidal prototype of Nazi Germany.

Back to this specific statement, however, there's a lot of inaccuracy crammed into those two sentences. In the case of Serbia, Serbs were somewhat politically dominant and took the course of actions they did because they feared loosing that dominance. Croats had a history of brief spells of extreme political and economic dominance, often based on external support. As Yugoslavia collapsed into a patchwork of local governments based on local nationalism, Serbians sought to maintain control over the majority of the country, and because Croatian ascendancy threatened to leave them landlocked or nearly landlocked, the Serbian-dominated government responded with extreme violence. In short, semi-democratic rule reduced Serbian dominance instead of increasing it. Self-determination by the various ethnic minorities had begun shattering the Serbs' Yugoslavia, and prompted them into action, instead of giving them a new capacity to act on a mysteriously derived ethnic hatred.

On the other hand, Rwanda at least gives off the appearance of the minority-majority dynamics Chua has described. Again, details contradict her larger statements, most strikingly how the centrists have been silenced, attacked, and killed by Hutu extremists in Rwanda and Tutsi extremists in Burundi.

Retreating to the general statement, it clearly suggests an unnamed external force which empowered the majorities and determines whether the results are "desirable". Chua's context of the statement more than suggests a very specific identity:
Similarly, at the 2002 World Social Forum in Brazil, Lori Wallach of Public Citizen rejected the label "anti-globalization," explaining that "our movement, really, is globally for democracy, equality, diversity, justice, and quality of life." Wallach has also warned that the WTO must "either bend to the will of the people worldwide or it will break." Echoing these voices are literally dozens of NGOs who call for "democratically empowering the poor majorities of the world." Given the ethnic dynamics of the developing world, and in particular the phenomenon of the market-dominant minorities, merely "empowering the poor majorities of the world" is not enough. Empowering the Hutu majority of Rwanda did not produce desirable consequences. Nor did empowering the Serbian majority in Serbia. (13)
Chua is clearly insinuating that the anti-globalization movement should share in the culpability for the two major genocides of the post-WWII era. The fact that the major external powers in these two events were radically in favor of globalization seems to have not appeared to her - the rabidly pro-globalization Clinton administration, the EC (parent of the EU), the UN, NATO, and in opposition the changing remains of the Soviet bloc essentially drove the ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and to a lesser extent throughout the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Rwanda's record of foreign intervention is even more explicitly colonial, with the concept of Tutsi and Hutu only solidifying under extreme pressure from colonial Belgium and later Belgian and French corporations which funded the genocide drew heavily from the same colonial handbook on divide-and-conquer tactics. In short, the lengthy histories of foreign involvement in both cases involves entirely different movements - in fact, ones that the anti-globalization movement uses specifically as semi-strawman counterpoints to their movements.

She's absolving the powers at be that permitted these atrocities to occur, ignoring the role of the actual perpetrators of these genocides, and demonizing those who opposed both. At the core, she's ignoring the whole of contemporary understanding of the context of these events, but basing her entire argument on what she imagines the contexts to be, all the while filtering it through her personal experiences.

And this is what has to come to represent neo-liberal political thought and Harvard University?

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