Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Opinion (Niall Ferguson): Why our enemies -- and friends -- hate us

George Orwell (standing, third from left) in Mandalay, Burma in 1923. Of his experience there, Orwell wrote that he, 'hated the imperialism I was serving with a bitterness which I probably cannot make clear'. Orwell went on to write 'Animal Farm' and '1984'.

BEING HATED IS NO FUN. And few people hate being hated more than Americans. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've been asked, "Why do they hate us?" — and another for each of the different answers I've heard. It's because of our foreign policy. It's because of their extremism. It's because of our arrogance. It's because of their inferiority complex. Americans really hate not knowing why they're hated.

The best explanation is the simplest. Being hated is what happens to dominant empires. George Orwell knew the feeling. As a young man he served as an assistant police superintendent in British-run Burma, an experience he memorably described in his essay, "Shooting an Elephant." Called upon to kill a pachyderm that had run amok, Orwell was suddenly aware "of the watchful yellow faces behind" him: "The sole thought in my mind was that if anything went wrong those two thousand Burmans would see me pursued, caught, trampled on and reduced to a grinning corpse like that Indian up the hill. And if that happened it was quite probable that some of them would laugh."

Read the rest at the LA Times