Amy Chua on Tribal World

Foreign Affairs put out an issue in July/Aug 2018 that featured an article on each division of our divided world: Realist, Liberal, Tribal, Marxist, Tech and Warming Worlds. Chua lists the values of the cosmopolitan part of the U.S. found in the coastal cities as secularism, multiculturalism, toleration of sexual minorities, pro-immigrant, and pro-progressive policies.
For the non-elites, Trump has appeal; the way he talks, the way he dresses (big red ties?), the way he gorges on fast food, says things deemed politically incorrect (I’ve often wondered why we liberals get bashed for calling people red-necks and lamenting their girth), the way he lies and exaggerates and demonstrates supreme ignorance, his lack of reading, his anti-feminist outbursts and behavior.
She says the two camps see each other as immoral, evil and un-American. So let me see, if someone thinks the president (as long as it is Trump) should be able to skirt the law and subvert the Constitution, that’s not un-American? If someone approves of tearing babies from their mothers’ arms and putting toddlers in cages, that’s not immoral? And wanting to nuke Iran is their best foreign policy idea, that’s not evil? Boy, am I confused then.
More confusion on my part since the Trump supporters resent their loss of income and opportunity, esp in education and yet they attack the very people and ideas that would address those issues instead of happily shoveling the GNP to the rich and sucking out the middle class to run the government – or what’s left of it.
Oh, and that government? That’s what is supposed to be protecting us from the Corona Virus.
Yet Chua reminds us that the elites (while I don’t consider myself elite, I do subscribe to those above listed values) must ‘fess up to our membership in a highly exclusionary and judgmental tribe. I don’t know about that. I do know lots of liberals who have little understanding of evangelicals or really poor people or the problems of African-Americans (Bernie is one of them), but their answer is to convert them aka educate them vs the evangelical conversion to a faith quite alien in spirit to the so-called elitist values.
A solution she offers is one often heard: universal service for young people, throwing all sorts together so they can learn to tolerate and maybe even appreciate each other. In my own case, I cannot say I totally embrace the African-American culture, but I can see why their vote didn’t go to Sanders. My wife and I both participated in the 70s in a great program called Anytown here in Arizona (it’s in CA, too and perhaps elsewhere now) where kids of many backgrounds were very consciously thrown together (in cabins and work groups – I can still recall us sorting the kids out:”I’ll give you my Jew for your Mormon.” The only thing they had in common was their age and recommendations from school counselors as spark plugs in their school and community.
But she’s right about ….. what? – educated, sophisticated, liberal, elite? whatever term…. as Zadie Smith quotes a friend as they all lamented Brexit: “The problem with us liberals is that we have to always be right.”

In the next issue of FA, Francis Fukuyama, whose Origins of Political Order and another volume on its decay I enjoyed and learned from, goes on and on about identity politics, assenting to its necessity in a world where groups are singled out for oppressive treatment  but complaining that dealing with those groups taps too much energy from political effort. I don’t see it. That may have happened during McGovern’s time when the Democratic Party ran rough-shod over old-time pols who’d served the party in order to swell its ranks with erstwhile neglected groups, but what is going on now seems to be invigorating the party, especially in contrast with the GOP which wants to take us back to 1952.

A Trump supporter wrote an article he may want to rewrite or just withdraw. At one spot he says the collapse of the Soviet threat lessened the need for security. He might want to check in with the Ukrainians and the Balts on that. Further on he assets that globalization bringing cheap consumer goods in and good jobs out to cheaper labor ruined manufacturing here. Is that what did it? Hmm.

The article on Mexico really challenged me. The author insists that Mexico’s lack of accountability, it authoritarian approach, its cronyism, all result from incentives provided by the government and not from the culture. My knowledge of Latin-American history and of Mexico is no match for the author’s (Denise Dresser), but it goes against so much I’ve learned, the acceptance and acquiescence regarding status and power, starting in the family. I will just have to keep watching. Misha Glenny, in the Fall of Yugoslavia, presented a strong case for economic issues rather than “two thousand year old battle cries” being at the root of the Balkans’ problems and bloodshed. Maybe Dresser is right about Mexico. I hope so.

And finally (there are several other articles that look good but I’ve got to return these), an article on the Financial Crisis and what we did not learn from it makes me glad I’m currently reading three books on economics. However, some lacunae disturb me. One is on the first page where the author, Adam Tooze, states that housing prices plunged and people fell behind on their mortgages “from California to Ireland,” but no underlying dynamic or reason or cause was given. I’ve always thought it was just that these financiers woke up one day and realized the stuff they were holding was junk. There are several other places in the article where I would like the dynamics fleshed out, like if the Europeans had a fire sale of U.S. assets, who would they sell to? And if European banks “dumped their dollar holdings,” where would they dump them? Tooze refers to “the remnants of a transatlantic relationship dating back to the end of WW II,” and that struck a note for me b/c I have read The Wise Men, which treats of exactly the forces and personalities that went into the formation of those relationships.

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