The third world's Archie Bunkers

After years of effort to bring power to the third world's lower and middle classes, we seem to have turned the third world over to Archie Bunker.

He's an exotic Archie bunker - he might be a Muslim, or an African nationalist, or a Southeast Asian communist - but he's good old Arch just the same.

He's not an evil man or woman nor a stupid one, but he is running scared. He's seen his whole world change under a tidal wave of blue jeans, television sets, air conditioning, and mysterious economic forces. To him communism may be a way of getting back to the past.

For 40 years we've been saying that if only the third world could produce a politically active middle class or - for those enchanted by the romance of radicalism - a revolutionary working class, and if Americans would simply leave them alone, then democracy was just around the corner.

We really believed that if Africa, Asia, and South America had the sort of shopkeepers and labor unions we did, then despotisms would be magically turned into debating clubs, the way the British king was carried from absolute monarch to democratic figurehead on the backs of British merchants and factory workers.

The surprise, of course, was that when the third world finally did grow middle sectors and labor fronts, many of the shopkeepers and laborites proved to embody the worst aspects of The People - racism, sexism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, and occasionally, even sadism.

All through the third world, we find ourselves facing the very nightmares we've fought so hard at home.

We thought the third-world Archie Bunkers would be Gandhi or Nehru. That we were being condescending - we were treating them as though they were noble savages, childlike and innocent and eager to be saved by our missionary efforts - never once occurred to us.

What we must do, as liberals, is remember that the third world is peopled neither by noble nor ignorant savages.

It is inhabited by equals, and equals have among other privileges, the right to be wrong and the right to be responsible for their errors.

We must be no more forgiving when third-world Archie Bunkers persecute minorities than we would be of our own should they do the same.

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