The Left's Blind Eye to Non-Western Suffering

The tragic cost of our self-flagellation.

Last Thursday, Voice of America reported one of the saddest stories of the last few years: about half of all girls in Kenyan slums apparently give their bodies to older men in trade for sanitary napkins.  As health educator Lydiah Njoroge, a field officer for the Freedom for Girls Program, explained,

The least [expensive] in the market is 40 shillings … a packet that has eight pieces in it.  So, because this girl cannot afford 40 shillings – their mother, their parents are poor, they have other things to provide food and shelter – sanitary towels are not a priority.  So the girl just goes [and] has sex with an older man, most of the time not the same man – they would have one this month, another one next month, so they are very, very at risk of having HIV.

This story was largely buried in the media.  Instead, the media focused on issues like Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian Arab-populated areas; Rick Santorum’s opinions on birth control; and, of course, the evils of those GOPers who didn’t want to extend the payroll tax cut.  Can you say priorities, anyone?

The left’s incessant self-criticism of Western society has two major effects.  First, it undermines the pride and power of Western civilization, opening it to attacks from barbarians at the gates.  Second, it forces focus to Western civilization, leaving those suffering in other parts of the world to suffer their fates in silence.  When we worry about whether Catholic churches in American should have to pay for the pill in the United States, that’s attention we should be spending on the need for better education – and hell, cheap tampons – in Kenya.  When we agonize over Susan G. Komen’s funding of Planned Parenthood, that’s focus we could be directing at serious world problems.

Barack Obama was correct when he stated during his 2008 campaign that Americans are self-centered.  But even his criticism of Americans was self-centered.  Here’s how he put it:

We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK. That's not leadership. That's not going to happen.

But Obama, like the rest of the left, has it exactly backwards.  Of course people in other parts of the world think about their own material situations.  But they don’t think about whether Barack Obama is keeping his home heated. They think about their lack of tampons, and whether they need to trade their bodies to keep clean.  Obama suggests that the West has sinned by having a high living standard; in fact, the West has sinned by beating itself up for high living standards, when its real goal should be extending those living standards abroad.

But here’s the dirty little secret of the left: they don’t want our living standards extended abroad.  They think we’re sinning against the planet. By maintaining these standards.

They also know that the only way to extend American standards abroad can only be found in extension of capitalist principles and liberal modes of government abroad.

Take a look at Kenya, where these girls are having sex in exchange for Kotex.  No matter how many boxes of Kotex we ship over there, these girls will never see them– the corrupt government will steal them and sell them, bulking up personal bank accounts in the Caymans.  Honest and transparent – truly limited – government is a hallmark of the West, and it must be implemented before living standards can be raised.

When the British were last in charge of Kenya, during the period 1950-55, life expectancy at birth for females was 44.2 and 40.5 for males.  Today, life expectancy at birth in Kenya is a mere 55 years.  Over the past 55 years, life expectancy has risen just 15 years. British rule was sometimes racist, and marked by poverty and turmoil.  But take a look at another British colony, Hong Kong.  In 1950-55, life expectancy in Hong Kong was 61 years; today, it’s 82.7 years.  Hong Kong hasn’t had a great government the last several years, but it was ruled by the West for nearly all of that time.

If we want to solve serious problems around the world, the first step is to stop beating ourselves up, pretending that we are the problem.  We aren’t.  We’re the solution.  Millions around the globe beg for us to apply the Western solution rather than wasting our time in useless self-flagellation.

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