Why Do They Hate Us So Much?

As globalization expands, further integrating disparate societies, and as war in the territories once known as Syria and Iraq pushes refugees deep into Europe, the evolution of cultural identities is catalyzed such that new concepts of “German-ness” and of what it means to be “European” evolve. This evolution comes at the expense of what once was, which may sometimes be accompanied by a sense of loss.

A global nationalist backlash seems to be the result, in part, of an attempt to regain cultural equilibrium; a nation’s and a people’s sense of Self. In Bavaria you may now find greater interest in wearing lederhosen during Oktoberfest as a means of asserting their German identity in the face of a dilution of what that identity was a few decades ago with new cultures, languages, and religions that have come to compose today’s Germany.

Germany has recently seen the rise of Alternative for Germany, a far-right populist party that has its analogs in France’s National Front, Greece’s Golden Dawn, Britain’s Brexit movement, Hungary’s Jobbik, the Danish People’s Party, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party, and the list goes on. Extremism tends to rise when a sense of fear of imminent or recent loss permeates large segments of society. These global Culture Wars are no doubt are a contributory factor to the election of America’s anti-establishment, populist President who was elected on a platform of “Making America Great Again,” which may also be interpreted as “Taking Back Our America from Those Who Took It.”

The present is filled with uncertainty. The pace of technological development and knowledge generation is accelerating such that more information is created every two years than had been created in all time by humans from the dawn of civilization up until the present. Traditional concepts of space and time are being disrupted as exemplified by the rapid spread of global epidemics as seen a few years ago when the Ebola epidemic jumped across oceans and continents within days from the jungles of West Africa to our own backyards, becoming a real a direct threat to suburban Texans near an international airport.

Traditional concepts of power are being disrupted as seen in the Arab Spring and the rapid toppling of various North African and Eastern Mediterranean. Traditional concepts of the media are being disrupted by the rise of “citizen journalism” and the subsequent rise of “fake news.” Whereas 19th century Americans had a century to adapt to the railroad and the telegraph, and our great-grandparents and grandparents had decades to adapt to the car, radio, airplane, and television, we are finding ourselves adapting to new concepts that are as revolutionary as these prior changes but it seems that we must do so at a rate measured in months, weeks, and days instead of centuries, decades, and years.

For those of us reading the news everyday, it seems that the primary question before us is how to defeat the terrorists that pop up like so many weeds after a summer rain. It behoove us instead to ask ourselves why do all these terrorists hate Western culture so much? We pump Lady Gaga into the heart of Baghdad and little girls want to dance and wear jeans and bikinis just like they see on TV. Our cultural imperialism, intentional or not, is displacing cultural norms and values around the world through the seductive appeal of our sugar-laden, processed, pop consumer culture.

The whole world is looking to fight back against the insidious encroachment of change and it is ironic that that is the one word- change- that electrifies electorates everywhere.  We are a world looking at once for ourselves and looking for a scapegoat towards whom we can direct our bewildered frustration at the transformation of our collective identities, which is often perceived as the loss of the same.

Before we beat the drums of war, be it in Korea, Venezuela, or Iran, we ought to pause to consider why it is that these others so detest America and the West and instead deliberate over how we might redress their grievances, engage in dialogue, and de-escalate mutually detrimental tensions. We should pick up our passports instead of our guns and embark on a trip to understand others’ perspectives instead of readying for war with those who rattle their sabers in response to their perceived attacks levied against their way of life by our ubiquitous cultural exports.