Highlights

 
Quotable
Since the end of the World War II, the United States has fought three "small" wars...we lost all three of them and for the same reason--hubris.
Andrew Greely
Original Letters Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
June 19, 2004

The Sage-King Mindset


by Sascha Matuszak

I wrote a column a ways back that infuriated a lot of Asians out there. Friends here in Sichuan said I had gone over the top and I apologized for what I thought was a pretty poor attempt to explain stereotypes in China.

I have thought about that column for a while now and I have come up with the key:

Chinese and Americans are the same.

Now people all over the world are the same from the get-go, but historical developments, geography, neighbors and so on bring out those juicy differences.

What makes Chinese and Americans so uniquely similar?

The answer: A special blend of two types of people, arrogant and ignorant and arrogant and educated.

This special combination allows for the creation of stereotypes that not only pigeonhole other people, but make them inferior in some way or another. At most equal. All cultures do this: the Germans make fun of the Poles, the English of the Irish, Indians of Bengalis and so on.

What both China and the U.S. have going on is a population of arrogant and educated elite that are able to solidify these stereotypes through their own actions and words. The scope and power of the elite depend on their continuing success, the more they succeed, the more arrogant the ignorant become. It's a positive feedback chain of mutual backslapping and vicarious pride that is essential for the creation of a superpower mindset.

Now China and America are at different stages of superpowerdom, so the U.S. expresses its arrogance and perceived superiority by running around invading countries and setting up governments.

China is still sitting back and preening itself, acting as if superpower status is not a goal at all. China expects the mantle to be handed to them sometime in the future. The U.S. is scrambling around with the crown like the guy who has the ball in Smear the Queer.

Despite this difference in superpower maturity, certain strange coincidences pop up. Such as the stupid questions Americans and Chinese ask people from other countries:

"So ya'll eat rotten cheese, right?"

"Can you people use chopsticks?"

Or the need to co-opt ideas:

"Ah yes, we Chinese were the first to "

"Oh yeah, that's American innovation for ya "

Or the inability to admit when one is wrong:

"But you Westerners have very poor human rights records. And you were Imperialists!"

"They hate us because we're free."

I am arguing here that the superpower mindset is a mixture of chemicals in the brain that can be replicated and, unfortunately, has been replicated since the dawn of Rule. That we are unable to locate the elusive combination of chemicals that creates a sage-king mindset is just as unfortunate.

comments on this article?
 
 
Most Recent Sascha Matuszak Column
Archives

  • Business Over Bluster
    11/10/2008

  • A Win-Win Situation for China
    10/28/2008

  • The Security Blanket
    8/5/2008

  • The World Under Fire
    7/31/2008

  • The No-Fun Olympics
    7/24/2008

  • The US and China:
    Unsettling Similarities
    6/9/2008

  • Give China Some Face
    5/30/2008

  • Chinese Contradictions
    5/21/2008

  • Tremors in Chengdu
    5/14/2008

  • The Sword Is Blunted
    4/29/2008

  • The Dragon or the Snake?
    2/5/2008

  • Chaos in the Great Game
    9/18/2007

  • Politicize It
    8/29/2007

  • A Counterweight,
    or a Bloc of Foes?
    8/20/2007

  • China's 'Nuclear Option'
    8/13/2007

  • Keeping Up Appearances
    7/23/2007

  • China's Crises Will Pass, With Help
    7/7/2007

  • Pride and Prejudice in Chengdu
    6/9/2007

  • From China to Cairo
    2/21/2007

  • China's Little Capitalists
    9/4/2006

  • Getting a Piece of the Pie
    4/6/2006

  • Rebirth
    2/11/2006

  • Drums in the Streets
    12/24/2005

  • Livelihoods at Stake
    12/17/2005

  • Let the Hostilities Begin
    12/14/2005

  • Setting the Stage
    12/13/2005

  • Who's the Boss?
    11/23/2005

  • German Gloom, Chinese Boom
    11/11/2005

  • Free the Diplomats
    8/3/2005

  • Laowai and Zibenren
    4/11/2005

  • Bumpin' It in China
    3/21/2005

  • Proxy Wars
    3/14/2005

  • Issues for East Asia: A Sinocentric View
    1/8/2005

  • Chinese Dreams, American Dreams
    11/22/2004

  • Riding the Tiger
    10/9/2004

  • Nonviolent Chauvinism
    9/22/2004

  • Sino-Japanese Grudge Match
    8/7/2004

  • Sino-Pak Policy: Carrot and the Stick
    7/31/2004

  • From China to Frankfurt
    7/26/2004

  • The US Stumbles Over North Korea, Taiwan
    7/12/2004

  • In Defense of Piracy
    7/3/2004

  • The Sage-King Mindset
    6/19/2004

  • The End of a Golden Age in China
    6/12/2004

  • Medieval Theocracy vs. Market Socialism
    6/2/2004

  • China and Islam in the Northwest Chinese Region
    5/10/2004

  • Chinese Workers Work, American Workers Die in Iraq
    4/17/2004

  • The Price of Stability
    4/12/2004

  • Chinese Generalizations
    4/5/2004

  • Revering the Big Men
    4/3/2004

  • Chinese and US Bluffs
    3/22/2004

  • The 50-Year Communist Assault on 5000 Years of Chinese Culture
    2/28/2004

  • China: Whining Victim or Great Power?
    2/23/2004

  • Iron Stomachs
    2/16/2004

  • Can China Keep Up the Pace?
    1/31/2004

  • Chinese Beats
    1/10/2004

  • Another Christmas in China
    12/27/2003

  • Taiwan, the Errant Son
    11/29/2003

  • China's MBA Craze
    11/15/2003

  • Anti-Fools of the World Unite!
    11/8/2003

  • To 'Patriotic Fervor and National Cohesion'
    10/25/2003

  • Chinese Big Bosses Rule with the Backing of Beijing
    10/11/2003

  • Mao Exonerated by Chinese Capitalism
    9/20/2003

  • Let's Hope Nobody Calls the US's Bluff
    9/6/2003

  • The Best Possible Course for North Korea
    8/30/2003

  • Crouching China, Paper Tiger
    8/16/2003
  • Sascha Matuszak is a freelance writer living in Chengdu.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2003 Antiwar.com