Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Acceptable Targets (WOF)

Looking back, Chua's argument concerning Latin Americans was muddled and prone to several problems. She would write descriptions of the victimization of some groups only to mid-sentence suggest that an entirely different dynamic was going on with no introduction-
[T]he uneducated, disease-ridden, desperately poor but numerically vast Indian- or African-blooded majorities of Latin America experience little or no economic benefit from privatization and global markets while finding themselves suddenly filled with contradictory new materialistic and consumerist desires (Chua, 75).
This entirely new element to the situation - feelings of manipulation by the market and to some extent even psychological conditioning by it - wasn't previously even hinted at. It wasn't explored in detail like the violent themes Chua perceived in various populists. But at least it was mentioned, just this once.

This is also a great example of how Chua hedges the causes of communal poverty. She repeatedly writes of privatization and cruel treatment often without mentioning who is privatizing Latin American infrastructure or treating various ethnic groups with cruelty. She refers to the privileged actors as corrupt, but rarely accuses them of specific crimes (especially contemporaries).

In spite of all these problems, this chapter roughly seems to strike a workable, if biased, balance. The following chapter, "The Seventh Oligarch," on the other hand, begins with a paragraph describing Russian privatization, which contains the sentence:
Instead of dispersing ownership and creating functioning markets, these reforms had allowed a small group of greedy industrialists and bankers to plunder Russia, turning themselves overnight into the billionaire-owners of Russia's crown jewels while the country spiraled into chaos and lawlessness (Chua, 77).
A little bit further down the page, Chua discusses these tycoons with a colleague who is preparing a report on them:
Something about the ruthless, looting, self-dealing kleptocrats-turned-oligarchs described in his article had struck me, and I wanted to run it by him. It seemed to me, I said to Jerry, that most of the key players in the privatization and eventual economic takeover of Russia were Jewish. Was it possible?

"Oh, no" Jerry replied instantly, with a frown. "I don't think so."

"Are you sure?" I pressed him. "If you look at their names-"

"You can't tell anything from names," Jerry snapped impatiently, clearly not wanted to discuss the topic any further. [...] As it turns out, six-out-of-seven of Russia's wealthiest and (at least until recently) powerful oligarchs are Jewish [...] Yet Jerry, who was there in Russia, himself Jewish, and moreover writing an article meant to be provocative, wasn't willing to touch the Jewish question (Chua, 77-78).
It seems like gentiles across the South American continent who lock entire communities in poverty are merely corrupt, while a small group of Russian Jews are not only "oligarchs" but also "greedy," "ruthless," and "kleptocrats" for doing essentially the same thing. The sudden shift in tone is remarkable and disturbing, especially considering the veiled implication that other Jews, even those like her colleague who wrote an expose on the immoral opportunism, are somehow contributing to this.

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