On American Geo-Ethno-Centricity

I’m not sure that Geo-Ethno-Centricity is a real word but I like the way it sounds, so I’m going to use it as the title of this essay.

It’s been very perplexing to consider why the United States has fallen into so many stupid conflicts over recent years. Perhaps it’s the leaders it has picked , mostly the Republican ones. The United States suffers from a perception that this is the greatest country in the world, and because we claim our ideals are of a higher, more noble nature (freedoms that stress individual rights over the rights of the state), the culture it has created, is in some way “greater” and better than those of other countries.

We act as if we have nothing to learn from other civilizations. We assume that our society is so great that other countries should be more like us, and expect others to deal with us on our terms. Have we become so ethnocentric that we really believe all we have been told about our values? Is there really nothing we have to learn from other countries, other philosophies, other geopolitical realities?

If we look at the school systems of other countries, Japan for example, places a higher value on education than we do. They understand the basic need to educate the younger generations to compete. Japanese businessmen speak English and other European languages largely because they realize that to successfully compete requires an understanding of who they are in competition with, and what their historical realities are.

Americans have failed to place an importance on studying history, language, culture or values of other societies. We have forgotten to realize that if we are to engage on an even playing field that we must know who we are dealing with and why they take the positions they do on certain issues. This is all part of playing the game and structuring it to play fairly.

The reason why we have so much difficulty in dealing with the Arab world is because we do not take the time to understand Arab culture, philosophy, history or psychology. They know us, and have spent time and attention focusing on our values, and psychology. They also know our weaknesses. That is partly how the Arab extremists were successful on 9/11. We never paid adequate attention to them, or understand their capabilities or passion to attack us. We lived in a world of our own, expecting our nobler values to stand on their own and fit the world we thought should exist.

This was not a failure of our leaders alone. This was a failure of the American people to expand our interests towards other parts of the world. Very few Americans bother to know the realities of Asian, European or African history, or their languages. We don’t pay attention to it because we feel that everything should be done on our terms and have demanded that others know about us, and English, while failing to make the effort to know them. This has made us vulnerable. Now how intelligent does that sound?