America’s Ignorance of the Outside World is Destroying its Politics
I was reading up on recent news stories about Egypt as part of a forthcoming article on Abdel Nasser’s land reform, when I came across some articles about food prices and inflation. As the biggest importer of wheat in the world, the War in Ukraine has had a severe impact on their economy, to the point where they’re rapidly cutting off food subsidies, increasing their dependence on the International Monetary Fund in exchange for loans, cutting off all exports, and even forcing farmers to contribute 60% of their crop to the government under the threat of prison time.
At the same time, I’ve been reading letters to the editor in the Denver Post blaming President Joe Biden for inflation and high gas prices. In Egypt, Al-Monitor blames inflation and high fuel prices on the War in Ukraine, an international recession, and severe heat waves striking the United States and India. Notably, the United States has gas prices up to half that of countries in Asia and Europe. Venezuela has the cheapest prices, and the Biden administration is apparently flirting with the idea of easing sanctions and unwinding Trump-era restrictions on trade with the country.
Just a few days ago, my favorite political commentator Beau of the Fifth Column responded to a letter calling him a sheep for believing in the “socialist plot” of climate change. The writer challenges him to name one other river going through a severe drought like the Colorado, whose reservoirs are reaching historic lows and approaching “dead pool” levels. Well, the Rhine river in Germany is currently running so low that cargo ships are only being loaded half to a quarter full.
My goal is not to carry water for Joe Biden. Rather, my point is he is not a god. The world exists outside of the United States, and funny enough, what happens in other countries affects us. Our world is going through a number of extreme global crises, and compared to suffering in the rest of the world, we really don’t deserve to be the center of attention here. Regardless of who happened to win the last presidential election in America, we’d still be going through these crises.
This reminds me of the ancient Chinese philosophical concept of the “Mandate of Heaven”. Based on the principle that the emperor was supernaturally ordained or mandated by Heaven to rule, they had to maintain virtue and a good relationship with Heaven, or else be cast out. This was a sort of post-hoc justification for regime change. If there happened to be a drought or famine that lead to a peasant revolt that ended in the emperor being overthrown, it was all seen as legitimate, since the famine was a Heavenly sign that the emperor had lost favor.
With numerous members of Donald Trump’s cabinet explicitly claiming that his presidency was ordained by God, an American Mandate of Heaven may not just be a metaphor for some people. For those sunk too deep into the muck of American Mythology, this relatively mild recession hitting the United States must be some sort of punishment for their rightful and virtuous ruler being deposed by a scheming deep state. Some people have no idea what’s going on in the rest of the world, so they imagine the American case is special and must be the fault of the ruling party.
Why would people think this? To be frank, our media doesn’t really give a shit about the rest of the world. The last time I recall reading a story in the Denver Post about India, the second most populous country in the world, was in 2020. World coverage usually has to do with countries the United States has an immediate geopolitical interest in, like Ukraine, China, and North Korea. We don’t hear anything about Afghanistan, although the severe economic insecurity and near-famine conditions they face is a direct result of US policy. There’s barely any coverage from Western sources on the war in Yemen, which the UN says is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, despite our continual support for Saudi Arabia, air strikes, and special forces involvement in the region.
As citizens of the global hegemon, we have a responsibility to at least know what’s going on outside of our borders. Ultimately, our nation’s foreign and domestic policy do much to dictate who lives and who dies all over the globe. Yet, our media and our culture remains oddly detached, as if nothing matters outside our borders.
These chickens are coming home to roost, as the public clings to superstition in a complex world they have not been given the tools to understand. We are lucky to have been insulated for so long from the economic and political catastrophes befalling countries like Sri Lanka. I suspect this will not last. What do we expect the people to do when Heaven comes crumbling down?