succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, February 06, 2003

So I was watching the West Wing last night, and I started pondering this question/argument, which I haven't thought out very completely, so I probably won't present it terribly eloquently here, but I'll try anyway: One of the plot points was about tribal violence, bordering on civil war, in a tiny African country virtually no one had heard of. The president stated that he had been "vaguely briefed" on the situation, and someone pointed out that if it were a tiny European country, his briefing probably would have been less vague. Which is a valid point, and I've long been bothered about the fact that "we" (white/american/european-descendents) are less concerned with global issues that involve "them" (anyone who doesn't fit the above description). But I started wondering today, at the risk of sounding like I'm defending this fact (which I'm not trying to do) if there were, perhaps, more to this than the fact that we feel more sympathetic towards people we can identify with. I wonder if we're more concerned when violence erupts in a european country because we feel more like we have a partnership with them (which I suppose is just another way of saying we identify with them). I'm not trying to say that one human life is somehow more worthwhile than another, and I wish that we could help in all the places where we are needed...and I don't necessarily believe that these are valid reasons...but I wonder if we are more likely to aid european countries because they are, and have been, our allies in other battles. We somehow feel like if "bad things" happened over here, they'd help us out, so we should do the same for them. The cynic in me says it's because they are our allies in business, but I'm trying to move past that for a moment. But then I think of the violence in Northern Ireland and the fact that America doesn't seem too concerned about it, so I wonder if perhaps sharing history/culture/being able to identify with the victims isn't all there is to it...
reading back over this I realize that I have not presented a very coherent argument, and I'm sure there are a zillion holes that could be poked in it, but that's been bouncing around in my head today, so I thought I'd try to start sorting it out.


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