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Western posturing & global white privilege

Chandran Nair -
Chandran Nair - "Instead of being captive to an idealised vision of the West, the rest of the world is waking up to Western narratives, fallacies and weaknesses"

| South China Morning Post

HONG KONG - The West’s disingenuous position on Israel and its coordinated attacks on China have blown the cover of the liberal narratives it uses to hide a postcolonial, imperialist agenda.

Its hypocrisy has been further exposed by its hoarding of coronavirus vaccines and the systemic racism that prompted the Black Lives Matter protests and fuelled attacks on people of Asian descent.

A tipping point has been reached, even if it has hardly been discussed within societies and by political leaders.

Across the non-Western world, there is growing awareness and rejection of the hypocrisy, insincerity and insecurity embedded in the Western world with regard to its relations with the global majority.

Western narratives and propaganda took hold across the world over the last 200 years as a result of colonisation and imperialism.

Mind capture was a necessary tool of oppression to subjugate people. And despite decolonisation, mental colonisation became the new frontier and remains a key strategy of postcolonial imperialism.

Citizens of former colonies remained receptive to Western ideas, having been indoctrinated for so long, and this influence is still actively cultivated via Western soft power as well as through Western education and its global media.

Today, much of the Western world retains the mentality that their nations and ‘white people’ are superior, with the singular goal of retaining global economic dominance.

This, even though the rest of the world is acutely aware of the dangers of extreme forms of ‘White People First’ as manifested in Donald Trump and his tumultuous presidency.

Yet we still see efforts to actively preserve white privilege, which goes well beyond egregious acts of racism against people of colour.

What has changed though is that, for the first time in hundreds of years, there is no longer a shared view – as misplaced as it might have been or carefully manufactured – of the wisdom of the West and its right to lead.

This change is a seismic global shift.

Several contemporary examples have blown the cover of liberal narratives used to hide deep animosity towards others rooted in the fear of being treated as equals and sharing power without entrenched privileges.

The first is the way in which Western governments and media typically respond to the plight of people fighting Western-led oppression. The plight of the Palestinians says it all.

This is not the place to go into the details of a complex conflict, but simply to say that the West has found it almost impossible to call out Israel about what decent people across the world recognise as large-scale oppression through an apartheid system.

Why? It believes it has to stand together as a white Judeo-Christian tribe against people seeking liberation, and continue the denial, because giving in is to acknowledge a shared history of centuries of oppression and occupation, which is the true genesis of violent resistance.

The people of the oppressed nations of the world mostly got their freedom by fighting for it – India, Vietnam, Mozambique, Cuba, the list is long.

Those who could not were completely marginalised, such as the First Nation peoples of Australia and Native Americans.

The second reason is to demonstrate to the world it is united and has military might, thereby sending a strong signal that it is solely in charge of global affairs, which is critical to thereby reinforcing and maintaining its economic hegemony.

Countries which remember their history recognise that the fence-sitting by Western powers about the Israeli position towards Palestinians and the unconditional support given by the United States is the same thing they experienced during their struggle.

Atoning for crimes committed by Western civilisation on Jews, culminating in the horrors of the Holocaust, is critically important.

But it should not be confused with giving the modern state of Israel a free pass to oppress millions for decades.

The people of Israel, like the Palestinians, deserve better and it is only the West – led by the Americans – who can stop this cycle. But they refuse.

The world, however, is not fooled by disingenuous arguments which say that support for the Palestinians is support for ‘terrorists’ and a call for the destruction of Israel and its right to exist as a Jewish state.

These were the same arguments used to uphold indefensible positions of colonial powers – including genocide – when they were confronted by their oppressed subjects, be it in America, Algeria or Angola.

The reality today is that most of the world would not tolerate a scenario in which Israel is not also safeguarded in a deal that frees Palestinians from decades of oppression.

These arguments are in fact rooted in racism: a belief that the rest of the world is backward, does not possess values, can be talked down to and will buy such superficial and untenable reasoning.

The current position of the West reminds the rest that, what can be simply called white settler colonial behaviour, is in fact hard-wired into the Western psyche. This has been exposed to the world, which for decades gave the West the benefit of the doubt.

The use of demonising metaphors to delegitimise the legitimate struggle of oppressed people is as old as the hills.

White colonial powers used this against the people of Haiti, Rhodesia, South Africa, India, Vietnam and wherever liberation movements took up arms.

After all, both Nelson Mandela and Gandhi were attacked in the same way by Western powers in the early days of their struggles.

African Americans know this only too well, being demonised every time they take to the streets after yet another murder of a black person.

The second example is the coordinated attack by the West on China in recent years, which has only helped expose its hypocrisy and insecurity.

It would appear that the very serious charge of genocide in Xinjiang can be levelled against China by the West, but not even a charge of war crimes in Gaza, Iraq, or Libya can be considered against Western powers.

Here too the world is not so easily fooled, yet Western governments and leaders continue to believe that by seeking to claim a higher moral ground using these tactics – purely to demonise an enemy – they can retain economic dominance and retain white privilege.

It has reached a stage in the West, from Mediterranean Spain to Nordic Norway and right across the US, that China cannot be credited with doing anything right and is a real threat to the world.

However, this relentless xenophobia has boomeranged because the global majority, who belong to nations which were subject to the brutalities of Western imperialism, recognise these sorts of lies and the similar tactics used to keep them shackled and misinformed.

They may have concerns about China’s rising influence in their regions, but they do not share the same fears as the West, which have more to do with their inability to share power than legitimate concerns for others.

Given this, the big question on people’s minds is whether the orthodox view that the world needs the West to protect it from China is simply self-serving and constructed to serve Western economic interests and dominance.

Yes, there is the need for a global rules-based system; but not to protect nations from China. The world needs a new global system, and it should not be one that is dominated by the West given its history of exploitation and dominance.

As a multitude of double standards come to the fore and as anti-China sentiments are stoked, people across the world have woken up to the duplicitous nature of the economic and foreign policies of Western governments.

This widespread anti-China sentiment even in the business arena has further exposed Western hypocrisy and fear of competition: Google good but Huawei heinous, Instagram incredible but TikTok a threat.

How the Western media has also magically coalesced around an anti-China bandwagon has not gone unnoticed either.

People around the world now recognise the fear in the West of competing with a rising non-Caucasian power for the first time in centuries.

These fears are legitimate, but the lies and xenophobia are unacceptable, especially if they make the world a more dangerous place.

Finally, there are two other contemporary issues that have helped expose Western hypocrisy and raised awareness in many across the world.

The first is the global awareness of the entrenched racism in the US and other Western countries. This started with the events of systemic racism that brought Black Lives Matter to every living room in the world.

It sensitised people around the world to how white societies have a large-scale and persistent inability to accept people of other races/cultures and how these attitudes manifest in all walks of life, from sports to business to education.

This provided a startling insight into how deeply racist Western societies are, especially the US. But it did not stop there and now the anti-China sentiment that was stoked by Western politicians and the media has resulted in people of Chinese/Asian descent being attacked across the West, from the US and Canada to Europe and Australia.

The second is the issue of vaccine distribution and the birth of a ‘vaccine apartheid’, which highlighted to billions that despite lofty commitments towards multilateral and global cooperation, these were empty words.

Not only have Western countries accumulated massive stockpiles of the vaccine (of four to five times their population sizes, or in the case of Canada, six times) they were even reluctant to revoke patents and share technology.

Simultaneously, Western media repeatedly scorned China’s and Russia’s vaccines, with French President Emmanuel Macron and other commentators declaring how the West must oppose China’s ‘vaccine diplomacy’. But to be clear: diplomacy is much preferable to no vaccine given Western stockpiling.

These recent events have helped reveal how white and Western privilege is maintained and reproduced at a global level. This is by no means novel – Western societies have long relied upon global inequities to maintain economic dominance.

The difference is that now, instead of being captive to an idealised vision of the West, the rest of the world is waking up to what Western narratives, fallacies and weaknesses really are – part of a system of oppression to keep the Western hegemon alive and in sole control.

Chandran Nair is a Malaysian businessman and founder of The Global Institute for Tomorrow, an independent think-tank based in Hong Kong. His forthcoming book Dismantling Global White Privilege: Equity for a Post-Western World will be published in December


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Corney Korokan Alone

Brilliant article.

"The pervasive structural systems of exclusions in every fact of life with a faulty and hollow sense of entitlement, that are deliberately designed through government policies with self-fish interests to confer economic, political and social advantage on one group at the expense of another is a well documented and lived reality in the US and Western countries".

"In the case of systemic racism, this advantage is conferred through policies, laws and practices that permeate social institutions and maintain black people in a position of permanent disadvantage".

"People have begun to see the structural racism that is a hallmark of housing policies, educational policies, prison industry, police and justice sector, home insurance & mortgage interest rates, international trade and many other areas of life."

Now the media and society’s focus have turned from the effects of systemic racism to the less controllable cases of individual racism - a convenient distraction.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The increasing ant-China rhetoric currently being engaged in by western powers, notably the United States and Australia, is discomforting because of what it might lead to in the future.

At the very least it is trending towards a new cold war, at its worst it could result in a real war. In this sense it is a very dangerous political game.

In the stark light of realpolitik, no nation, super or otherwise, can claim to be blemish free when it comes to its record on a whole range of social and economic issues.

Superpowers, like China and the United States both have appalling humanitarian records in their march to power.

China may be an autocratic country but many of the so-called democratic nations in the west are no less inclined to be repressive when it comes to its citizens, particularly those of minority groups.

The United States, for instance, describes itself as a democracy but in reality it is a ‘corporatocracy’ - a nation controlled by corporations.

Corporations don’t care who they trample to get what they want, just like autocracies don’t care.

While China practises repression through its legal systems the west practises repression through its economic systems.

It is difficult to see that there are any great differences between how the Chinese and the west treat their minorities. Being part of a minority in either place is not a pleasant prospect.

What seems to be behind the current rhetoric is power, particularly imperial power. The west is afraid of losing its dominance and the Chinese are intent upon asserting theirs.

Pride drives the Chinese and greed drives the United States. The Chinese want to “regain” what they see as their “rightful” place in the world order and the United States wants to maintain its position on top of the heap. It is a scrap between two savage dogs.

Taking sides, as Australia appears to be doing, will only lead to being bitten. Australian, in fact, already appears to have been nipped a few times.

The end game, of course, comes down to money. With power comes wealth.

Imperial power is well recognised by those who have been subject to it, whether through traditional colonialism or through neo-colonialism.

For those countries it probably doesn’t matter a great deal who is subjecting them to such imperialism. At best they can only play one form against the other.

Papua New Guinea is such a nation. It doesn’t really matter who they sell their soul to. Not selling their soul doesn’t appear to be an option.

Those to whom it matters are the powerful nations vying for their souls. Not to mention all the exploitable wealth they have tied up in their soil.

To the average citizen in any of these countries, be it China, The United States, Australia or Papua New Guinea, it seems sensible to quickly try and wind back the rhetoric before it gets out of hand.

The rhetoric has already led to a massive build up in military spending in both the USA and China, as well as in Australia. It is money that could be better spent.

Australia and the USA are both involved in rebuilding the military base on Manus. Australia is selling it to Papua New Guinea as a creator of jobs, as it is wont to do with most of its more dubious projects.

The reality is that it is pulling Papua New Guinea into its pro-United States orbit and making it a prime target in the process.

Papua New Guinea politicians, as they did with the detention centre on Manus, are falling for the same old kickback laced trick.

As the ordinary people of the world watch this macabre dance between the superpowers it is hoping that sanity will eventually prevail.

That’s a vain hope given past history.

Chris Overland

Mr Nair has written a savage critique of the West, by which I assume he means the United States, Europe and other countries where white Caucasians are predominant.

Many of his criticisms are valid: the West has a great deal to answer for given its history of imperial exploitation over the last 500 years or so.

For example, no reasonable person would deny that racist sentiment is not a continuing problem within western societies, although its prevalence has certainly been greatly diminished in recent times.

The explosion of anger that spawned the Black Lives Matter movement is a rational response to persistent racism in the USA, notably within its various police forces.

Importantly, the BLM movement has drawn widespread support from white Americans who have been repulsed by the inhumanity, injustice and abuse of power that has been so graphically revealed.

This suggests that racism is not an inherent characteristic in the USA or the West generally, although rooting out its last vestiges is clearly still a work in progress.

Mr Nair states that "white societies have a large-scale and persistent inability to accept people of other races/cultures and ..... these attitudes manifest in all walks of life, from sports to business to education."

I think that this conclusion is not supported by the facts.

Many western countries have successfully absorbed literally millions of people of colour without much in the way of racial tension.

While there is still a small and sometimes vociferous minority of unrepentant racists to contend with, the huge majority of people simply accept that immigration by people of colour is a fact of life.

For example, a large majority of Australians believe that mass immigration has generally been good for the country and there is a clear bipartisan political consensus to this effect too.

As Mr Nair has rightly observed, there are good grounds to criticise the way in which the global roll out of the Covid-19 vaccination process has occurred, although there seem to be some positive steps now being taken to deal with the "vaccine poverty" problem in the developing world.

I think that it would be very hard for any politician to preference the citizens of other countries for the distribution of vaccines whilst the pandemic was rampaging through their own country.

Attending to the needs of your own country first is a rational political response to the situation, not evidence of inherent racism or indifference to the fate of others.

As to the woes of the middle east, there is plenty of blame to go around. Certainly, Israel's continuing insistence on seizing Palestinian land on the spurious basis that God gave it to the Jewish people is utterly repugnant to any right thinking person. There can be no resolution to the current conflict while such behaviour persists.

Equally, organisations like Hamas are committed to the complete destruction of Israel. While their anger and frustration is understandable, there can be no resolution to the conflict while this is the stated aim of a proto-Palestinian state.

The West, to the extent that it has any real influence over affairs in the Middle East, has tried in vain to promote a two state solution which, in practice, satisfies no-one.

The result is a political stalemate and truly wicked policy problem that has persisted over my entire lifetime and doubtless will persist for a great deal longer yet.

I think that Mr Nair has drawn many erroneous conclusions because he has overlooked or ignored a major source of much of the behaviour he deplores, which is the current version of neo-liberal capitalism.

This form of capitalism is an especially rapacious and amoral system which seeks to ruthlessly exploit people and resources to maximise profit for the owner class. It gives lip service to democratic ideals and behaviours whilst, in fact, it respects neither.

The rule of law is adhered to only in so far as it protects or promotes the interests of business and commerce. When legislators attempt to rein in the excesses of capitalism, the business world uses its wealth to buy the influence needed to frustrate or at least moderate the impact of such laws.

Business also employs vast numbers of lawyers, accountants and other professionals whose task is to enable it to circumvent any law that restrains the maximisation of profit.

Neo-liberalism does not care much about colour, ethnicity, religion, culture or even private political views of its workforce. As long as its employees are efficient and productive economic units the corporate world is effectively colour blind. It is an equal opportunity exploiter.

It is not white privilege that the West is seeking to maintain: it is seeking to maintain the privilege of capital to exploit whatever resources its likes to maximise profit and wealth for the owner class. Its political class is almost entirely captive to the great multinational corporations that control so much of the world's economy by one means or another.

To paraphrase US President Woodrow Wilson, it is fighting to make the world safe for business, not democracy.

The greatest hypocrisy of the West is its persistent refusal or inability to understand the true nature of the neo-liberalism which it has unleashed upon both itself and the rest of the world. Until that changes, the problems eluded to by Mr Nair seem destined to persist.

It is more helpful in trying to understand our modern world if you view it first through the prisms of political economy, history and culture.

These never provide a completely clear or undistorted view of course but they are a much more useful way of seeing the world than seeing it almost exclusively through the prism of post-colonial thinking.

Bernard Corden

The following book from Henry A Giroux is well worth reading:

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