America has a Saviour Complex

I wonder if there is any part of India where a child, studying about the history of racism in America, decides to be a voice for the voiceless in the US of A. I wonder if he thinks, ‘I want to be a reformer when I grow up and I will work towards the upliftment of oppressed black people in white-dominated America.’

I think not. And it is not because he is not compassionate. I think it is because he figures that is a matter for Americans to work out among themselves. After all, no matter how bad the condition of black people may be in America, the country has a democratically-elected Government of its own and must have its own redressal mechanisms to deal with social inequality. So the Indian kid worries about his own future.

However, it seems perfectly normal for youth in the West to worry about India and even contemplate devoting their lives to ‘social issues’ in India. Be it the so-called ‘rape epidemic’ or the poverty that many in India continue to suffer, or even one of the many ‘women’s issues’ that India’s city-bred ‘liberals’ routinely blame on Indian culture. The media in the West feeds this condition, regularly pontificating about India’s internal matters and suggesting ways America can ‘help’ solve India’s problems. This seemingly good-natured concern then makes way for Western interference in India’s internal matters. In the article ‘India’s rape epidemic: Will the US apply pressure for change to its Asian ally?‘, author Barnini Chakraborty seems to eagerly invite foreign intervention.

From a political standpoint, how America responds to the rape crisis in India could have a ripple effect on ties with the country, which has been a key ally for the U.S. in the region.

Also included in the above article are gratuitous references to our new — but unfortunately still ‘communal’ — Prime Minister and mention of the fact that the US has to assert its “responsibility” and “leadership” on such issues. One wonders what purpose these things serve in an article on rape except helping the West feel better about itself and keeping the ‘world leader’ illusion alive.

Well perhaps America could start in its own front yard, where nearly 1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted. That’s 1.3 million women raped annually. For people from such a country to give Indians patronising sermons about women’s safety is a bit rich. After all, it is in this very same India that lakhs of people protested before the President’s home in Delhi after the horrific gangrape of December 16. It is in this India that the media never lets die the issue of women’s safety. When was the last time Washington DC saw something like this happen? For a more detailed perspective, read Rape and Racism by Balaji Viswanathan.

Rape is a horrible thing to happen to anyone. But using rape as an excuse to exercise cultural dominance by shaming an entire country with an unfair stereotype is also kind of horrible. In fact, it proves the exact opposite of the stated objective. The West is not concerned about the plight of women (either in India or in its own front yard). It is in fact rubbing its hands in glee and thanking the gods for the chance to beat India with the rape stick. Or perhaps there is no hand-rubbing happening. Perhaps they actually believe the lie they have sold everyone — that the world can’t do without American intervention.

It is with this same variety of good intentions that unspeakable horrors were committed in the past. Self-declared saviours from the West wiped out the pagan traditions of Europe. Later, they also saved the hell out of the aboriginal tribes of Africa and Australia. While once the vehicle of this ‘saving’ was Christian charity out to vanquish the godless and bring the light of the one true god to the heathens, these days it is more likely to take the shape of civilised and rational American goodwill out to defend the world against things like ‘rape culture’ and ‘religious ignorance’.

Aside from the damage this does to the world in general, this Saviour Complex also irreparably damages the Western mind by convincing it of its own moral superiority and thus preventing introspection among a large percentage of people who get into the habit of looking down upon the rest of the world in order to feel better about themselves. It also encourages seeing victimhood everywhere. Because after all, where would the saviour be without victims to come to the aid of?

Echoes of the Saviour Complex can be found in abundance in Western pop culture — comic books featuring superheroes who save the world on a daily basis, movies about American military might as a force for good coming to the aid of oppressed people around the world. This same Saviour mythology is responsible, at least in part, for America’s many military misadventures too.

I am all for diversity. I want there to be as many ways of looking at the world as there are people. This particular whine of mine is more about pointing out a problem than it is about demanding a stop to certain kinds of cultural behaviour. Yet, I would like to be able to look forward to a future where the West comes to terms with the reality of a genuinely flat world — one where it is not a hawk on a branch looking out for the interests of rats.

#india, #saviour-complex, #usa, #western-supremacism