It's strange to take classes and be this old, and to feel more acutely the patronizing of teacher to student, and I know it's not just my age, because when I encountered that in my punkassed youth, I was just as prickly about it. There are some kids in every class who will revel in their trust-fund ignorance and won't care whether the instruction is good or not, and the others will see through the smokescreen of pretension and bullshit.
There are some classes where the discussion is to some degree genuine, and with the diversity of voices, this could be interesting, but instead the only acceptable answers are the ones that regurgitate the ideology of the professor, that parrot the narrative given. You are just as much a Westerner as I, and make the values judgments upon others that you so decry from other sources.
I know better than to bring this up, especially as a peon in the employ of said institution without clout or multiple degrees, I scrawl my thoughts on the pages of my notebook and commiserate with my classmate over coffee, but when the question is asked if the writer of the textbook is imposing his "Western Attitude" on the Arab world, I find myself raising my hand.
This obliviousness and self-loathing and longing for the bygone days is not a Western thing, I say, it's a human thing. We all like to look back to when things were supposedly good, the golden years when we were in power and everything was as it should be, and we all revel in our victimhood and the times of being screwed over while forgetting the screwing over that we have done ourselves.
This does not go over well, because evidently I'm supposed to regurgitate rather than respond. I have zoomed out past the narrow frame and the big picture is uncomfortable. Pardon me for not buying it, but there's a lot of things I choose not to buy into, and in this case, world history and personal experience are on my side.
This plays out in the microcosm of relationships, of siblings and spouses, parents and children, friends that become enemies. The blame game of I might have done this but look what you've done to me. The inability to acknowledge one's wrongs and shortcomings both personally and within the culture as a whole is devastating to those around us. The lack of humility and clutching of grievance rend the social fabric beyond repair. It might be an ugly divorce or a tribal feud or on the larger scale, wars and genocides and reprisals.
Everyone loses in the Suffering Olympics, especially when there's hundreds of years of atrocity and animosity built up, and everyone's got blood on their hands. There's a part of our humanity that likes feeling victimized and oppressed because all too often it justifies our unjustifiable actions to others and allows us to exist in a state of moral superiority and unforgiveness. One can look at the wreckage of almost any part of the world and see this somewhere.
Every culture says We're Better Than You, claiming monopoly on values, and demonizing the other. I don't care who it is and while I work to keep the peace within my own life (which is really really hard), I don't expect this to change in the world as a whole. I don't know if we've really changed, it's just we've found different ways to do the same bad things and no academic polemics change that dynamic.
As Randal astutely points out, "Shit Is Fucked Up," and it's true. Acknowledgment of that is a harsh reality, but it seems to be what it is. I'm attempting to comprehend this and boil it down, and this is what I keep coming back to.
#1, for every non-violent social movement, there is always a violent movement that the Powers That Be are afraid of.
#2, While slavery may be abolished officially on paper, it has always existed in some way shape or form in every culture on earth. Its appearance and form differ in practice and in visibility to the society as a whole. (see: slavery, indentured servitude, sharecropping, migrant workers)
#3 When people say that they are nice people, or good people, and have to keep insisting that this is the case, this usually means that their words do not correlate with their actions. (see: most leading religious figures, politicians, those who set themselves up as moral arbiters)
#4 No economic system works perfectly because people will always be greedy and the powers that be will always find ways to skim off the top. (all animals are equal but some are more equal than others)
#5 Reprehensible things can be justified when it's your person in power. Also, it's not propaganda if you're doing the preaching or if you agree with said polemic already. (see: adherents of any major political party)
#6 Most conflicts in general involve the acquistion of money,power, and control. Any other motivation given is justification towards those ends. (see: imperalistic ventures and religious crusades, which usually have some economic impetus cloaked in spiritual language)
#7 Stronger powers will always exert influence on and attempt to control weaker powers in one way or another (insert name of empire/dynasty/kingdom here).
All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.