Harris Sherline continues to provide living proof that we must not mean what we say. Having previously issued a revolutionary call to bring down capitalism under the guise of a neoliberal propaganda piece, the weekend found him penning a thoughtful essay—pretending to be a bit of bland parochialism—on the damage done to the world by American good intentions.
Sherline begins charitably by noting the desire to do good that can be found in his fellow nationals:
From the vantage point of my own background, which includes about 15 years of active involvement with nonprofits, my perception is that very few communities have the extent of participation in charitable activities as our valley. Coming from Los Angeles via Santa Barbara, where my wife and I lived for seven years, I have never seen a community where so many of its residents are involved in some type of charitable work.
Such an impulse to kindness is itself praiseworthy, of course, but Sherline recognizes that much depends on how it is acted upon. He is therefore troubled by the fact that “various people and organizations feel it necessary to go outside the local area to help others.”
A reader unaware of Sherline’s politics might be alarmed and think that he is promoting some sort of tight-fisted nationalism in which those across borders are less deserving of aid. But of course, that is not the point he is driving at. That point is brought out in a brilliant bit of dark humor:
We are the most generous people on Earth and have done more for others around the world than any other society in history—ever. Yet we seem to be frequently castigated, both at home and abroad, for our failure to cure the world of all of its ills or for not preventing the starvation and privation that exist almost everywhere on Earth.
By reminding us of the incalculable death and destruction caused worldwide by the United States, and quietly reminding us that our good intentions with regard to the rest of the world are often misguided and sometimes do more harm than good, Sherline is making a point similar to that made by feminists in India when Harvard decided to tell them how to end gender violence in their country:
Keep your colonialist good intentions to yourselves.