In my last blog post I quoted UNDP Administrator Helen Clark at the launch of Asia-Pacific Human Development Report 2010 as saying that achieving gender equality is vital for achieving development goals overall, and for boosting economic growth and sustainable development. She furthermore stated that
- policy needs to advance gender equality, so that women as well as men can benefit from job creation and investments in social infrastructure,
- the under-representation of women in the workforce has significant negative economic consequences,
- Achieving gender equality promotes human development.
So any normal human being would then sit back and expect giant gasps or people screaming EUREKA while hurrying back to their countries to correct their old ways of repressing women.
Why are arguments such “sustainable development”, “economic growth”, and “human development” not enough to sway opinion in favor of gender equality in areas such as South Asia, which Helen Clark was referring to?
Like everything else it is a question of priorities. It is NOT a question of rational discourse or trumping 3rd world backwardness with the superiority of Western technology or even “if we all sit down together and talk then they will realize how wrong they are”. They chose to live this way and they did so for a reason. You may not agree with it and I may not agree with it – but they do.
Not everyone puts economic freedom before everything else. That is why Multiculturalism is a dangerous illusion and it is part of the reason why the US messed up so badly in Iraq. The problem is called mirror imaging and it denotes the expectation that opposite parties hold the same basic values and priorities as you yourself do.
In fact, the list of other possible priorities is endless: religion, tribe, ethnicity, honor, tradition, happiness, greed, etc. The US apparently values financial freedoms over all else.
The prevalence of honor killings in some parts of the world is testament to other people having other priorities. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that the annual worldwide total of honor-killing victims may be as high as 5,000. Not even the sanctity of human life, can we agree upon.
Half the women imprisoned in Afghanistan are detained for “moral crimes” such as running away from home, refusing to marry, marrying without their family’s wishes, and “attempted adultery”.
When claims of the (financial) virtues of gender equality are put forward in South Asia and Africa they clash with a cultural or religious ethos that places women under the authority of men and that take precedence over any financial considerations you might bring up. This is why the UNDP report will have absolutely no impact outside the UN system.
Specifically, Islam institutionalizes the inferiority of women to men and spells out different rights and duties to each sex. When Helen Clark says that “policy needs to advance gender equality” she is basically saying that Muslims should ignore certain parts of their religion in order to gain financial progress.
In my own part of the world, Northern Europe, there ruled the idea that immigrants could merge seamlessly into society and create a new diversity that would enrich all those involved, and that, over time, immigrants and their descendants would gradually shed their old silly ways and instead adopt a more enlightened Scandinavian way of thinking. It has now been proven wrong.
The new generations do in fact not blend in, enrich society at large or change their ways. Immigrant groups from certain areas of the world pose no problems to society and others do most certainly. The result of the grand Multiculturalist experiment has resulted in some immigration populations that live in ghettoes, that are more prone to violence, hold the same values as the parent generations, have much higher unemployment rates than ethnic Danes and pose a great financial burden on the host society.
On February 27, 2003, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz rejected the claim of then-Army chief of staff General Eric Shinseki who predicted that “Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers … would be required” to provide adequate security in a post-invasion Iraq. Wolfowitz said that Shinseki was “wildly off the mark,” and that he was “reasonably certain that they [the Iraqis] will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep [troop] requirements down.” Wolfowitz’s position was shared by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who predicted that post-war troop levels would be lower than what was required for the invasion of Iraq.
Saddam was a vicious dictator who liked to kill his own people as a hobby and the US would bring freedom and democracy – so why was it actually unreasonable for Wolfowitz to expect Iraqis to greet the US as heroes or liberators? Because, to many Iraqis there are thing that are more important than freedom and democracy – things such as national pride, or the sheer opportunity to kill lots of Americans.
In American debates the notion that other people may have other priorities than achieving the American dream of material wealth is often met with ridicule and arguments such “they all want to come and live here so obviously they agree with us” or ” in order to achieve any of those other priorities you first have to make some money and then you can go after your other dreams. Even an Islamist terrorist has to eat, right?”.
Yes, but he may prioritize killing you before making a sandwich or building a house by the sea. One thing does not preclude the other.