- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Oneworld Publications; Annotated edition edition (July 5, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1851683658
- ISBN-13: 978-1851683659
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.3 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,169,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Why They Don't Hate Us: Lifting the Veil on the Axis of Evil Annotated edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
If media chatter about the "Axis of Evil" seems ubiquitous to the point of losing its meaning, LeVine offers up an alternative "Axis of Empathy" to counteract what he sees as the U.S.'s dangerous "Axis of Arrogance and Ignorance." The author uses his own experiences traveling in the Middle East and North Africa to show readers not only that "they" don't hate "us," but that our concepts of "us" and "them" are invalid and skewed. This sprawling book is divided into three parts, and touches on many diverse subjects that fall under its larger themes of globalization and Middle Eastern attitudes toward the West. LeVine, a professor of Middle Eastern history and a musician who has recorded with musicians as diverse as Mick Jagger and Hassan Hakmoun, clearly has an interest in music and its potential for bridge-building. He includes a chapter on "Rock and Resistance in the Middle East and North Africa" and advocates for what he calls "culture jamming," or bringing people together to "build an alternative to imperialism, occupation, intolerance, and violence." LeVine writes in an engaging, if occasionally wandering, style, and the most effective parts of the book are those in which he recounts his personal experiences. Although aimed at an academic audience, this book will be valuable to anyone wishing to hear a different perspective on the complicated relationship between the U.S. and the Islamic world.
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A bold and iconoclastic work based on extensive personal experience ... essential for understanding ... the Middle East today. -- Joel Beinin, Professor of Middle East History, Stanford University
A clarion call for building genuinely alternative cross-cultural bridges in the age of the 'war on terror'. -- Chris Toensing, Editor, Middle East Report
Everybody talks about globalization and terrorism but few do it with such analytical clarity and moral outrage. An awesome book. -- Rodolfo D. Torres, author of Savage State: Welfare, Capitalism, and Inequality
Mark LeVine is a wandering minstrel who also happens to be a brilliant Middle Eastern scholar. -- Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz and Dead Cities
Perceptive, cosmopolitan, and dazzlingly well-informed. -- Thomas Frank
"His analysis of the war in Iraq is a must read." --International Journal of Middle East Studies
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I think this idea has a certain appeal since cultural jamming is the practice of satirizing the power structure. It can be a force for understanding between the Middle East and the West, but primarily it is a force against established power, whether eastern or western. It is a natural product of the young, who do not yet have much power, but who will indeed have power in the future. So I am in sympathy with LeVine's enthusiasm; however as young people become older and take on the responsibilities of their societies and weld the power, will they not become the satirized?
One of the points Levine makes early in this ambitious book is that the narrow-minded, fundamentalist culture of e.g., Kansas, is similar to the narrow-minded, fundamentalist culture of the jihadis. In a broad sense the fundamentalist Christians of America and the fundamentalist Muslims of the Middle East are just opposite sides of the same intolerant, ignorant coin. They both believe that they have the one real God on their side, and regard people who believe differently as going to straight to hell.
Consequently, LeVine's conclusion that "they" don't hate "us" because there really is no monolithic "they" or "us" is technically correct. Generalizations that pigeonhole people are always wrong except as handy ways to talk. The so-called "culture" of the West with its McFoods, its NASCAR races, its mindless TV, its "football," its Hollywood movies and its gross commercialization is really just the commercial culture of America. The real culture of America is much more complex and includes a plethora of subcultures from blue blooded New Englanders living on inherited wealth to Spanish-speaking illegal aliens who work in our fields and kitchens. It includes Harvard graduates and burger-flippers; blue states and red; people who believe in democracy and the separation of church and state, and evangelicals who are waiting anxiously for the Rapture. It includes the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and Al Capone, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, atheists and true believers, Nobel Prize winners and Paris Hilton. It includes millions of Muslims as well as Christians of every stripe, Buddhists and Hindus, Midwesterners, Southerners, Californians and people who have never left North Dakota.
American culture, as crass as it often is, is not the villain. The use of military power exclusively for perceived American interests, and the economic exploitation of less developed nations is what is causing a lot of pain in the world today, and is what justifiably could cause others to hate us. Invading Iraq and causing the death of tens of thousands of Iraqis and the suffering of millions more, is what fosters hatred. Artificially supporting our rich and massive agribusinesses so that Third World farmers can't compete also engenders hatred.
But a lot of the hatred is a legacy of colonialism. Only time will heal those wounds.
Still, there are cultural differences in the aggregate that must be understood and appreciated before the twain of the Middle East and the West can harmoniously meet. Education in the West and particularly in the US is based not on the Qu'ran, as it is in Muslim countries (nor on the Bible), but upon secular histories and the authority not of religious leaders who interpret holy books, but on scientific authority. There is separation of church and state in the West while in Muslim countries typically it is believed that political power comes properly from God and not from the people. While in the West we may be persuaded to think of the Middle East as backward and even evil, that is not part of the classroom instruction. However, a denigration of Western ideas and institutions is part and parcel of Islamic education where the focus is tightly on the teaching of the Qu'ran. We only have that sort of narrow focus in our more conservative religious schools.
These are real cultural differences. When everyone in Saudi Arabia has as much chance to secure a decent living as a Saudi prince, when Iranians can listen without fear to Western music, when Palestinians are represented by politicians that are really working for their benefit instead of playing out revenge scenarios, when the oil profits benefit the people as a whole and not just the ruling classes (or special interests in the West)--in short when everybody has a greater stake in the societies, there will be a lot less hatred, and cultural differences will be seen in a more benign light.
One final thing: LeVine wants the US to declare a truce with Muslim countries. (See page 330 and following.) But even though I agree that the US's "war on terror" is at best a misnomer and at worse a crusade, I don't think declaring a truce makes any sense at all. We are not at war with Islam or Muslims or Muslim countries. To declare a truce would falsely say that we were. Also a declaration that we have sinned in the past (colonialism, etc.) and now apologize is of limited value. We can apologize for the slaughter of Native Americans, for enslaving Africans, even for killing of the Neanderthal if we like. And I suppose Muslims could apologize for forcing innumerable peoples to embrace Islam or else. I don't like any of that sort of thing because I, in particular, enslaved nobody and killed nary a Native American. I cannot apologize for those who did.
What is needed is a declaration of intent to not exploit others or otherwise do nasty things to them. That's what LeVine ought to be calling for.
He occasionally glimpses the reality of empire. He cites the Pentagon's Defense Science Board, which contradicted Bush by saying, "they do not hate our freedom, they hate our policies." He sees that chaos is not an accidental by-product of occupying foreign countries but assists the occupiers' strategic goals - profits, oil and repression - and he recognises that occupations are brutal, corrupt and incompetent.
He cites a World Bank study that concluded, "faster growth among the poor may indeed be obtained at the expense of slower growth among the rich", that there is `no evidence ... of mutually beneficial policies' and "At least in the short run, globalization appears to increase poverty and inequality." He also notes a United Nations Development Programme Report that summed up, "Trade openness (liberalisation) increased poverty and inequality ... Those countries liberalising most rapidly fared worst."
Yet after all this evidence, LeVine claims that culture not economics drives capitalism. So he claims, "Only building bridges between cultures can provide the chance to overcome both occupation and the violence it breeds." This bridge-building, he writes, gives the leading role to intellectuals - a little self-serving, one might think. He goes on, "if we can ... compose a truly world music - we can break down (`deconstruct', as some philosophers might say) the `iron cage' of neoliberalism". This is utopian drivel.
The `global peace and justice movement' pretends that working classes' struggles to seize state power from capitalist classes are old-fashioned, chauvinist and unnecessary. Yet he had cited World Bank President James Wolfensohn's praise of Cuba in 2001: "Cuba has done a great job on education and health." Cuba has continued to progress because its policies, based on class and nation, are the opposite of the Bank's policies and also of the movement's policies.
What success has the movement ever had that justifies rejecting the successful Cuban method of class struggle and revolution? By contrast, as LeVine admits, quoting voices like Susan George - "We haven't actually won anything" and Naomi Klein - "We have in no way reversed the flow towards privatization, let alone stopped it", the movement has never succeeded anywhere.
The main conflict in the world is not Islam against the West, but neither is it neoliberalism against the `global peace and justice movement'; it is class against class, within each nation, and each nation must solve its own problems.
The `global peace and justice movement' is a diversion, a waste of time and energy. Its members need to get jobs, if they haven't already, and join their trade union. Workers, including white-collar workers, are the majority in every country, and only the working class can defeat capitalism.
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