Friday, May 27, 2005

Do It Yourself


From National Review:



Not long ago Pepsi Cola’s chief operating officer, Indra Nooyi, gave an address to the graduating class at Columbia Business School. In it, she metaphorically likened America to the middle finger on the global hand.


Denunciations and anger arose from her use of the silly metaphor.

Then came her employer’s obligatory explication that she really did not mean what she said. And soon her defenders claimed hypersensitive Americans could not take well-meaning admonishment. Pepsi is a $27 billion company. Those who run it, like Nooyi, make big money from its global sales and take-no-prisoners marketing approach. Pepsi is not known for worrying too much about putting indigenous soft-drink makers out of business. Here at home it does not often allow small businesses to offer both Coke and Pepsi in a spirit of consumer convenience and choice. Roughshod, no-holds-barred business gets such a company to the top — and allows multimillion-dollar salaries for its grandee hardball officers.

Former cricket-star-turned-Pakistani-politician Imran Khan in some ways jumpstarted the Newsweek-induced frenzy when in a May 6 press conference he demanded an apology for the alleged slight to the Koran. “This is what the U.S. is doing,” Khan boomed, “desecrating the Koran.” His mischaracterization, based on a lie, was then beamed across the Middle East — and, presto, Mr. Khan got the anti-American outburst he apparently wanted.


Khan may have made his fortune and name in the British tabloids as a soccer star and international playboy of the London salons, a lifestyle that had strong affinities with the West rather than the madrassas. But now he is back in Pakistan crafting a political career and catering to the Islamists, even though religious extremism is antithetical to what allowed him to succeed and prosper abroad. Yet this same demagogue earlier urged Hindu extremists to remain calm during a recent cricket match between India and Pakistan. After all, religious extremism is valuable to beat up the West and the United States — but not to the point that such fervor might endanger playing a Western sport amid frenzied Hindus. Left unsaid is that there is no place for an Imran Khan in the world of the Taliban, where soccer stadiums were used to lynch moderate Muslims, not enrich pampered athletes.

Arundhati Roy, the Booker-prize-winning novelist, has developed a second career critiquing the United States, especially its promotion of the free markets and capitalism that she believes are the catalysts for righteous hatred against America.

Roy doesn’t quite get that the reason that the UK recognizes an Indian novelist like her, writing halfway across the globe — and that she is able to jet over to the United States for lucrative speaking engagements, and that her books are mass-produced and hawked aggressively over global Internet book marts — is precisely the system that this child of capitalism so vehemently detests.

Pakistan, well before 9/11, was the recipient of billions of dollars in U.S. aid, and, in response, its intelligence services created the Taliban that in turn helped al Qaeda pull off September 11. India is making billions from an American free-trade policy that encourages outsourcing business overseas, even if it means the loss of U.S. jobs. Neither country has much of a legitimate gripe against the United States, and surely has not objected that its elites are going to the West to be educated, to profit — and, in these above cases, apparently to master the easy anti-Western rhetoric.

But note the anti-American two-step. Immediately after her silly remarks, the corporate mogul Nooyi provided a recant. Neither Khan nor Roy has vowed to stay out of the U.K. or the U.S., where the Koran is supposedly not respected and where the homeless starve as a result of capitalism — a system that both created and enriched them all and which they apparently love to chide.


There are easily identifiable constants in these sad examples. Rhetoric is always at odds with lifestyle: A novelist who tours and writes in English is the epitome of the Western liberal tradition that allows freedom of expression, promotes book sales through open markets, and enjoys unfettered peer review. Ms. Roy will always operate deeply embedded in the system she ridicules, and Western grandees will always pay her well for making them feel badly for a few hours. Islamists, Communists, and theocrats — in a Saudi Arabia, Iran, Cuba, or China — would not only not pay her, but might well issue a fatwa, jail time, or a death sentence for what they didn’t like to read or hear.

As a cricketer Khan made a fortune doing what most normal Westerners do not do. By some reports, corporate grandee Nooyi took in $5 million-plus a year — and lives a life that most Americans outside of Greenwich, Connecticut, and without her access to a globalized captain’s seat at PepsiCo could only dream of.

So it is not just the West per se that has enriched these megaphones, but the hard-driving, over-hyped culture of the West, as exemplified by marquee sports, highbrow publishers, and the Pepsi Corporation.

In other words, Khan, Roy, and Nooyi are, by their own volition, knee-deep in the supposed greed of the West in a way that most ordinary Americans surely are not. ... these ungracious operators all seem to gravitate to, profit from, and then spite the paradigm that created rich global business, media, publishing, and entertainment conglomerates — and themselves.

A final suggestion for these unhappy and privileged few: To end your obsessions with the pathologies of America and the West, find a way to create your own alternative sports, literature, corporations, soft drinks, and filmmaking in the non-West.

It is not that we Americans are mad at what you say. It is just that you have all become so hypocritical, then predictable, and now boring — you are all so boring.


I like sports, movies, books and Coca Cola. Is it really to much to ask that who make their fortunes off these quintessentially American (well, maybe not books, but free speech) American institutions should like them also?

And, is it too much to ask that these gods and godesses of Capitalism realize that their fortunes were made because of the freedom of Capitalism?

By the way, I want to note that Victor Davis Hanson started to shape a pretty interesting question in this essay, but never quite finished it. The question is:

If America is the Middle Finger of the Global Hand, then is Pepsi the free market equivalent of an exposed anus in a really florid, dropped-the-pants-and-bend-over, BA?