Orientalism

The most authoritative and detailed critique of the prevailing mentality or mindset in Washington – as well that of other Western political and intellectual circles in the modern and postmodern periods – is from the late Edward Said. His most famous work of literature and research, titled “Orientalism,” is perhaps the main reference point for researchers and scholars who seek to sustain an intellectual movement which puts the liberal ontological state under the microscope for the good of the world. Said laid out a set of basic “dogmas of Orientalism” which persist in Western political, social, and intellectual life even to this day. Said wrote:

“Let us recapitulate [these dogmas] here: one is the absolute and systematic difference between the West, which is rational, developed, humane, superior, and the Orient, which is aberrant, undeveloped, inferior. Another dogma is that abstractions about the Orient, particularly those based on texts representing a “classical” Oriental civilization, are always preferable to direct evidence drawn from modern Oriental realities. A third dogma is that the Orient is eternal, uniform, and incapable of defining itself; therefore, it is assumed that a highly generalized and systematic vocabulary for describing the Orient from a Western standpoint is inevitable and even scientifically “objective.” A fourth dogma is that the Orient is at bottom something either to be feared (the Yellow Peril, the Mongol hordes, the brown dominions) or to be controlled (by pacification, research and development, outright occupation whenever possible).”

Said added: “The extraordinary thing is that these notions persist without significant challenge in the academic and governmental study of the modern Near Orient.” In recent years, Wael Hallaq followed up Said’s work with a book titled “Restating Orientalism: A Critique of Modern Knowledge,” a chapter of which is titled “Putting Orientalism in Its Place.” Hallaq highlights the symbiosis between “modern power and dominant forms of knowledge,” among which is knowledge that is concocted through orientalist discourse. Hallaq also highlights that orientalist discourse in the West stems not from the realities of this part of the world. Rather, orientalist discourse stems from “representations” of this part of the world from within the Western mind. Thus, a critique of liberal and orientalist discourse amounts to a “reality check.”

In turn, the hopscotch from Russophobia to Islamophobia to Sinophobia and now back to Russophobia by the “government-media complex” in Washington stems from the distorted “representations” of the Eastern world from within the Western mind to which Hallaq alluded. It is worth noting that African-Americans were the first to experience the adverse effects of these mental “representations” in the liberal mind. CNN – which is an organization whose pettiness of thought has no bounds – essentially uses African-Americans and the issue of voting rights as a prop or tool to keep neocons such as Tony Blinken and neoliberals such as Janet Yellen in power. Nevertheless, this reality should not diminish or take away from the importance of civil rights and the voting rights which African-Americans are entitled to by law.

However, African-Americans – as well as other Americans – are entitled to choose as well. One crooked crony like James Clyburn should not have to swing an entire voting bloc towards a candidate who could not even win fourth place in Iowa and New Hampshire. Nor are African-Americans a monolithic group. Nor is any other group a monolith. Moreover, based solely on the question of whether American life and the state of the world has gotten better or not under Biden, most Americans – regardless of race or religion – would be reluctant to choose Biden for a second term in office. In essence, people intuitively know the nuances of reality, especially with the advances of globalization and technology. Yet, the American mainstream continues to go down the route of cancelling and whitewashing reality.

But there is also the issue of human nature which needs to be addressed, and one of the key features of human nature – which can be overcome only through education – is “groupthink” and “herd mentality.” Once the “contracting” frenzy started in Washington a couple of decades ago, people from all over the country flocked to a godforsaken place like Washington to see if they can get some of the crumbs. But when herds of people go towards one direction, the best thing to do would be to go the opposite direction. For example, when Washington assumes a hawkish stance vis-à-vis China, the best thing to do would be to assume an opposing stance. In the end – and as I have mentioned on a number of occasions – taste is what guides a person’s preferences, values, and lifestyle. And unfortunately, virtually all of Washington suffers from poor taste.

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