Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Deja vu 

A delightful post from the Iraq the Model crew about their first encounters with blogosphere politics:

"I only knew about the left side of the blogosphere months after we started. I thought that the right side was the whole thing, as in the beginning I thought we were just posting our thoughts 'into the darkness' and get lots of visitors without having any idea where they come from except Iraqi blogs. Later we found about the major blogs such as Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Buzz Machine, LGF, Tim Blair, Roger Simon, Right Wing News... etc and for long months I thought these were the only major bloggers! I didn't know because these were the sites linking to us and from where we got lots of visitors and when I used to go to their sites I would find a somewhat similar list. It turned out to be that the other side top bloggers rarely if ever mentioned us or other Iraqi blogs except for the very anti-American ones. I realized lately that the blogosphere was divided into two major parts with very few bridges.

"When I started looking at the 'enemy' I found out that most of them were not that horrible! They disagree with us and our friends and supporters on the right side but they feel no shame in reporting good things that can actually show their points of view as being not valid. Then I looked back at our blog index after getting many remarks like 'just look at to whom these guys link! Instapundit and Chief Wiggles!' and, 'Can you believe an Arab Muslim would link to LGF?? With their extreme anti-Arab, anti-Muslim tone!' and I was thinking, 'Why not!? What's wrong with that? They support Iraq in her struggle! And how can they be anti-Arab if they support us?!'

"It was really confusing to me in the beginning that liberals would not support the change in Iraq (remember we were isolated so we didn't know much about that) even though they were against Bush, as it's over now and any humanist should (in my mind) support democracy and peace in Iraq. Besides, I've always considered myself a liberal! On the other side, I had a bad impression that many of the people on the right were fanatics and racist! How much did we learn in this year!"
I quote it because it reminded me of my own culture shock when I first encountered the Western political world, way in the pre-blogosphere era, some 16 years ago.

Living for the first fifteen years of my life behind the Iron Curtain, I - and many others, even those older and wiser - had a somewhat skewed view of the world. For us, the world was divided into the communist part and the capitalist part, the East and the West. The communist world was dreadful, and 90 per cent of us imprisoned inside desired nothing more than to see the Evil Empire crumble and fall. Then there was the legendary West, the world of democracy, freedom and capitalism, inhabited by happy people who enjoyed their liberty and prosperity and were as hostile to communism as indeed we were. The Party told us the West was the Enemy. But we knew that was not the case; since we wanted to be like the West, The West couldn't be our enemy, it was only the enemy of our communist overlords, and therefore our friend. The world seemed so simple then.

I was sixteen and a half years old when I arrived in Australia in November 1988. I had so many other things to do with my time (like learn the language, for starters) that the political reality did not hit me straight away. It dawned on me slowly over time: my old Polish world-view was a sham. Or at least half of it was. The part about the overwhelming majority of my fellow residents of the Evil Empire wanting freedom and democracy was still right. The part about the West being full of... well, Westerners, wasn't.

You can imagine my shock and disappointment upon discovering that only a minority of the inhabitants of the Free World were truly committed to the ideas of liberal democracy, capitalism and anti-communism. Another minority was in various shades and degrees opposed to, or critical of, one or more of these concepts, and the group in the middle was largely indifferent and disinterested - not quite alienated from their own society, but too busy or too bored to fight against its enemies.

My innocence was truly lost.

Why are so few truly appreciative of the bounty of freedom and prosperity they're sharing in? I thought to myself. Why are so many hostile to their own society and so open to the visions of the enemies of democracy and liberty? Why do so many think that the West is worse or at least no better than the "prison of the nations" that most of my fellow prisoners wanted to escape from? Sure, the West wasn't perfect - what is? - but it was a hell of a lot better than any alternatives. Idiots like Noam Chomsky who spouted their theories of moral equivalence - "sure, the Soviet Union is bad... but the United States is no better" - could only do so because they never actually had to live in societies they were comparing America to. But all this nuttiness was sadly not restricted to extremists like Chomsky; many other, softer and gentler people would equally, if not as violently, argue about the faults of their own society from a position of blissful ignorance about life in other parts of the world.

I'm sixteen years older now, and a bit wiser about the ways of the world, the politics and society. Things don't shock me anymore, but they still disappoint me. So I'm not surprised that the guys from Iraq the Model thought for a long time that the blogosphere was an exclusive domain of people of good will, and that no one in the free and democratic West could possibly support Saddam the Tyrant, or at least wish upon the long-suffering Iraqi people that they continue to suffer under bloodthirsty, mad despotism.

I'm not surprised - I've been there, too. I can tell you that you'll never be able to get rid of that bitter taste in your mouth, but it will only make you fight even harder for what's right, and appreciate your good brothers-in-arms even more.

So thank you to all you good people - whom I would call, if I were still an innocent child, the Westerners - for extending your hand of friendship to me over the years. And thank you for doing the same now to the Fadhil brothers at Iraq the Model and countless others in Iraq. There might not be "the West" we all imagined was there, but there certainly are the free people of the West. You restore our faith.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?