Oh, it’s just “Ukraine”? Okay, sorry. I’ll try to remember that but I think I already forgot.
I’ve been trying to care about Putin’s reclamation of Crimea but it’s honestly a lot easier caring how rude Justin Bieber is in his deposition. Many would disagree with this and claim this conflict is crucial to our understanding of the world today but I suspect they’re lying. A huge part of knowing about foreign policy is just showing off. This is especially true in America, where we’re so parochial only a third of us have passports.
You probably feel the same way. Most of us do. That’s why, when there’s a missing plane in Malaysia the news tells us there were “three Americans on board.” In Western Culture, our Pyramid of Caring goes like this: Your immediate family, your extended family, your countrymen, your culture, people who look like you, and finally, just when you’re about to run out of care, the rest of the world. To reject these natural instincts is to pretend we’re all the same.
This naiveté rears it’s ugly head in the Middle East where we’ve stuck our heads so deep in the sand, we assume they care about democracy as much as we do. I don’t think they even have immediate family at the top of their pyramid. I think Islam goes first. I’d Google it but I don’t really care about the Arab world. They can’t even do jumping jacks. I’m from the Kissinger school of foreign conflicts; “it’s a pity they can’t both lose.” I’m not a xenophobe — being scared of something implies you give it the time of day. I’m a Western chauvinist, and so are you.
Ignoring our differences and focusing on what we have in common is disingenuous at best and downright dangerous at worst. Nobody’s saying Lara Logan deserved what she got but when you see a woman with long blonde hair walk into a Muslim mob in Egypt and report like she’s at a student riot in Berkeley, you can’t help but think, “What are you doing there?” She may have been an hour or two from Egypt’s real pyramids but she was several light years away from their Care Pyramid.
Maybe if Americans traveled to the places they pretend to be interested in, they’d see that we’re not just different on the surface. We are intrinsically different to our very core. Russians think death is funny. The Chinese pray for material items. Central Americans think the handicapped are cursed. Africans think albino blood is magic. Even Europe is fundamentally different than us. Have you ever seen Eurovision? It’s a mind-blowingly lame song competition that brings the entire continent together in screaming applause. No thanks.
All right, since we’re talking about it, I’m going to Google Ukraine and find out where it is. Okay, done. Apparently, it’s near that place Borat was making fun of and borders Romania. Its homeless people were documented by photographer Boris Mikhailov, born in Kharkov, in a haunting coffee table book called Case History. The only other things I know about Ukraine are that pretty American girls tend to come from there, and they experienced a holocaust that rivals the Jewish one. I only find this interesting because we hear so much about Hitler while the New York Times denied the Holodomor ever happened. In each instance, I only care about Ukraine when it affects life here.