July 15, 2003
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE LEFT:
But, as McClure found out, "everywhere" does not include Congo. In fact, it doesn't include Africa at all. ANSWER has organized no protests and issued no statements on Africa's four most ravaged countries--Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe--although they contain exponentially more oppression and suffering than the four targeted by the group's "International Days of Protest."
ANSWER is symptomatic of the left in general. A LexisNexis search going back to 2000 finds not a single reference to the crises in Congo, Liberia, Sudan, or Zimbabwe from Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Michael Moore, Michael Lerner, Gore Vidal, Cornel West, or Howard Zinn. In Congo alone, according to the International Rescue Committee, five years of civil war have taken the lives of a mind-boggling 3.3 million people. How can the leaders of the global left--men and women ostensibly dedicated to solidarity with the world's oppressed, impoverished masses--not care?
The answer, I think, is that the left isn't galvanized by victims; it's galvanized by victimizers. The theme of answer's upcoming protest, after all, is "Occupation and Empire." In a recent essay, Roy explained that "the real and pressing danger, the greatest threat of all, is the locomotive force that drives the political and economic engine of the U.S. government." In other words, imperialism, what she elsewhere calls "a super-power's self-destructive impulse toward supremacy, stranglehold, global hegemony."
But, if the greatest injustice in the world is U.S. imperialism, the world's greatest injustices must be found where U.S. imperialism is strongest. And, here, Africa poses a problem. Africa, after all, has less contact with the United States than any other part of the world.
"Ostensibly" is the operative term. Are there people whose suffering won't advance the Cause? Ignore 'em. End the occupation of Iraq! Free Mumia!
UPDATE: Reader Dennis Hollingsworth emails that Peter Beinart, in the passage above, conflates the "left" with the "hard left." Fair enough point, I guess -- though when Nick Kristof presents the "hard left" as mainstream when it suits his purposes, well, it's hard to get too exercised about Beinart's presentation.