Love US, hate US


HOW would you view a per­son who slaps you on one cheek and kisses on the other, reg­u­larly? A few may of­fer both cheeks for slap­ping. But most would be an­gry, even if the kisses ex­ceed slaps. Psy­chol­o­gists say this is a nat­u­ral, not thank­less, re­ac­tion.

Evo­lu­tion has hard­wired our brains to pri­ori­tise harm­ful stim­uli, as this en­sured sur­vival while we lived ex­posed in jun­gles. Many na­tions face such a dilemma with the US - the big­gest source of aid, cap­i­tal, visas etc. But, like a mad ele­phant hurtling through vil­lages, this bum­bling mam­moth of­ten dev­as­tates oth­ers as it blindly pur­sues its in­ter­ests.

Con­trast the US, the global hege­mon which prac­tises and preaches democ­racy, with China its chal­lenger which does nei­ther. One ex­pects a despot to show more cru­elty glob­ally in try­ing to win.

Yet, de­spite its dodgy global eco­nomic poli­cies, its global pol­i­tics is gen­teel com­pared with US atroc­i­ties like at­tack­ing coun­tries and aid­ing despots crush dis­sent. China negates the logic that big pow­ers must do all this to rise. In­stead of aid­ing despots to sur­vive, it charms suc­ces­sors.

Why does the US dis­play such a split psy­che, and blink­ered be­hav­iour? Split­brain oc­curs when the two hemi­spheres get sev­ered and act on their own urges, as if two per­sons oc­cupy one body. There is not one, but two dif­fer­ent Amer­i­cas today, drift­ing apart, not talk­ing mu­tu­ally and phys­i­cally di­vided like sev­ered hemi­spheres.

The 'good' lib­eral US largely cov­ers its two coasts and the Mid­west, votes Demo­crat and pro­duces most of its wealth, cre­ativ­ity and hu­man­ity. The 'bad' con­ser­va­tive US, much of it agrar­ian, cov­ers its re­main­ing vast­ness. It pro­duces less of its wealth but most of the sup­port for its ele­phant-like acts. It votes Repub­li­can, whose party symbol is aptly an ele­phant! Both are del­i­cately poised elec­torally. Who pre­vails will de­cide Amer­ica's and the world's fate.

The con­trast is vivid in this elec­tion cy­cle, with the foul-mouthed Trump re­flect­ing the crude­ness, racism and greed of right-wing USA but Democrats show­ing some sense.

In fact, the fair-minded Bernie's strong show­ing may sig­nal the even­tual rise of a third US more pro­gres­sive than half­way Democrats, since the divi­sion here is not phys­i­cal but tem­po­ral.

His sup­port­ers are mainly young­sters. While Trump courts votes by blam­ing US prob­lems on mi­grants, Mus­lims and China, Bernie cor­rectly links them main- ly to the un­fair US eco­nomic sys­tem.

Should out­siders not feel ire at US slaps, given its kisses? Be­yond the evo­lu­tion­ary sub­jec­tive bias to­wards neg­a­tive stim­uli, even the cold ob­jec­tive cal­cu­lus is damn­ing.

Stiglitz, the iconic US writer, cal­cu­lates that it re­cov­ers twice as much through un­fair aid, trade and in­vest­ment poli­cies, and cap­i­tal and brain in-flight than it gives poorer states.

The dam­age from its global pol­i­tics wors­ens things. So if the US won­ders why so many dis­like it glob­ally de­spite its many goods, it is be­cause so many states re­ceive 'bad' USA's slaps more than 'good' USA's kisses, eg Latin Amer­ica and Mus­lim states.

Those re­ceiv­ing far more kisses than slaps have more pos­i­tive views, eg, Europe and In­dia. But not all an­tiAmer­i­can­ism is jus­ti­fi­able, eg, ter­ror­ism or con­spir­acy the­o­ries about US com­plic- ity in 9/11 and the at­tacks on Malala. Pak­ista­nis also won­der why it keeps ask­ing them to do more on ter­ror­ism de­spite their sac­ri­fices. But evo­lu­tion has hard­wired Amer­i­can brains to pri­ori­tise neg­a­tive stim­uli too. Like US poli­cies, many Pak­istani poli­cies are bad too. But ob­vi­ously when mam­moths go berserk they cause more dam­age.

So, peo­ple have the right to ex­press ire at bad US ac­tions. But does this ex­tend to un­re­pen­tant dual-cit­i­zens? Many feel that for any­one liv­ing, study­ing or even hol­i­day­ing in the US, crit­i­cis­ing it is hypocrisy. This is like say­ing that any­one as­so­ci­ated so with Pak­istan must not crit­i­cise it. Bad rulers would surely rel­ish such rules.

The anti-colo­nial­ist Jin­nah stud­ied in the UK and even planned on set­tling there be­fore re­turn­ing to lead the free­dom drive. Peo­ple have the right to go abroad and still crit­i­cise the host state's bad poli- cies so long as they do not im­ple­ment them. Crit­i­cis­ing bad poli­cies is no hypocrisy but a demo­cratic right. And I use this right with rel­ish against both my gov­ern­ments for both de­serve crit­i­cism: one a global bully, one a re­gional wannabe.

Ob­vi­ously, both have many pluses too. As for the 'killer' ques­tion about whom I back when both of­ten clash, the an­swer is easy: nei­ther, but the truth. And the truth usu­ally is with nei­ther fully. So when my prime min­is­ter ( Sharif) met my pres­i­dent ( Obama) re­cently, teary-eyed though I was due to the twin pa­tri­o­tism in­volved, I could still see the fol­lies of both. This leaves the ti­tle ques­tion still pend­ing. That an­swer is easy too: love ' good' USA, con­front 'bad' USA peace­fully and hope for the fast growth of their 'beau­ti­ful' tod­dler sib­ling em­bod­ied by Bernie.

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