13 March, 2006

Why So Many Americans Take an Anti-DP World Position

(Sorry, more DP World commentary, --AARGH!-- but I hope to offer something new.)

It's obvious why politicians in the US have jumped on the anti-DP World bandwagon, but why has the average American done so, with polls showing up to 3/4 believing all that crazy rhetoric? As an American I hope I can shed some light on this. To start with, however, I should declare my own bias. I am of the view that there is no rationale whatsoever to oppose the original decision by US authorities to approve the DP World takeover of P & O operations in the U.S. I won't attempt to argue this point, except to urge anyone who would differ to read more about and research the issue at any respectable news site.

So, I'm coming from a position that holds there was no justifiable reason for American opposition to that deal. What I aim to do beyond that is offer a plausible explanation for the American position.

I proceed by way of an analogy and an anecdote:

A few years ago there was a bit of a fuss about the prospect of a Chinese entity taking over some operations in a California port. It seemed a sensitive issue considering the port in question was home to one of the US military's main Pacific fleets. I remember thinking it would be insane (from an American perspective) for such a deal to go through. Why? Well, at that time China seemed to be emerging more and more as a potentially unfriendly rival to the US in a variety of spheres. It seemed simple logic not to handover control of such a sensitive facility to a potential enemy.

Ask me today what eventually happened with that deal and I must sheepishly confess, I have no idea! It never reached the level of hysterics that the DP World matter has--it probably wasn't an election year. But more importantly I never took the time to really look at the issue. I just heeded a gut-reaction.

"So, what was that all about?" I ask myself today. Why did I so easily jump to conclusions? Was it racism? Did or do I dislike Chinese? I would not like to think that was a factor--certainly not a critical one. I had no particular interest in China but at the same time I had nothing against the Chinese in any racial sense.

Was I being overly patriotic and defensive? Well, yes, I would say that was part of it. I was uncomfortable with the fact that China seemed to be challenging America on so many fronts.

Was there a level of ignorance on my part? Absolutely. I never really dug into to the story to find out the ins and outs. I more or less just followed the headlines.

Was I indifferent to what might have been any Chinese perspective? Totally, and this I think was the heart of the matter. It never even occurred to me that I might want to look at it from a Chinese perspective. Were they not entitled to persue profitable business opportunities just as any American company was? Could they even have had something to offer the US by whatever acumen they had in the field? I never thought for a moment to consider such things.

Fast-forward to the present and DP World. I live in the UAE. I see things from a UAE perspective as much as, if not more than, an American perspective. But back in America, it is the rare individual who would see or even consider the perspective that we, being here, take for granted.

This, I think, explains part of this wierd phenomenon of Americans feeling so threatened when there are no objective facts to support such a position. It is not only ignorance--a little reading up on the issue would clear that up--but a mindset that makes it almost impossible to view things from the other side. This explains the problem to a degree, but certainly doesn't justify it. If we in the UAE can avoid being defensive in return, then we might find a few ways to get the average American to be less egocentric. The calls for Oprah to come and do a show here are certainly a step in that direction.

And if you're not sick of reading about this topic--actually its a great issue, but who has time to keep up with it?--then see also Don't bash America... promote Dubai.

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3 comments:

urbanite82 said...

As an American living in Dubai, I agree with your point about taking "the other perspective" for granted...I believe that it is a big mistake on the US's part to turn down this deal...I think that a lot of the hype back home also has to do with the fact that "we" (the blind sheep part of "we" that is) were pretty much scared into distrusting all things 'Arab' after 9/11, by the media and all those crazy color coded alerts, unfortunately. And ofcourse, the majority of "us" don't take the time to do our own research because "we" eat whatever the bogus media feeds "us".

John B. Chilton said...

Dear BD:

The more I read your stuff the more I find to like. I like your style. Terrifically well thought out and articulated post.

I've added some technorati tags in hopes of bringing in more readers who might not otherwise find it. You'll get a link over at Emirates Economist, too.

Trying my best to adopt your eternal optimism, I am,

JC

BD said...

Thanks for the tags. I'm gradually trying to get more familiar with Technorati but it seems a bit of a chore to set everything up.

Optimism... It can be so easy to criticize one's own (country, family, etc.). The tendency is to want to shout "What's wrong with America!" But I want to try to be more balanced. Just being American doesn't qualify me to pass judgement on America. I need just as much to be non-judgemental as I hope any non-American would be.

I'm also very much impressed by the non-confrontational approach of the UAE government on this issue--at least in public. If they can take the high ground then we too as citizens and residents of the UAE can as well.

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