Dependency: Not a Topic for Polite Conversation

When a topic is avoided and rarely mentioned in polite conversation, it tends to be something that gets at the root of an issue. Dependency is one of those terms in contemporary discourse concerning international relations. I first encountered the emotional rejection of dependency concepts as an Undergraduate at the University of Richmond. I was attending a public forum concerning Middle East politics and politely listened as a tenured Political Science professor explained the goals and polices of the US government in the region. Specifically, how the US supports the expansion of democracy and a kind of middle school civics lesson on how the American system of checks and balances could fix all divisions between sectors and ethnicities. Being that this was 1989, the destruction that this Neo-Con agenda would unleash on humanity was not obvious.

I asked a question that I felt at the time was not controversial or “radical” thereby demonstrating that undergraduate innocence of not understanding how academia is more a conditioning to power rather than a quest for “truth”. My simple question concerned how the effort for political transformation could be accomplished without social transformation, considering the relationship to resources and trade routes crafted under the British mandate and the continued disenfranchisement of entire populations.

His response was immediate and tinged with an anger that felt out of place. He SHOUTED that my question was derived from dependency theory. A theory, he explained to the audience, that was a discredited adaptation of Marxist thought. He went on to say that he did not need to, nor would he, answer a question that was so absurd and beyond the bounds of rational discourse. What struck me was that his utilization of an ad hominem device was not as much a deflection of an unwanted question but rather appeared to be so apodictic that his patience for such a sophomoric question was tested.

The later vote in Gaza and the ramifications of Palestinians not acting as they are supposed to demonstrates the validity of the question. Sufficient primary documentation exists of colonial governments formulating policy to induce dependency that the topic should not be radical or controversial. Why then are “experts” so blind to entire lines of thought and analysis? Some might argue that there is a confirmation bias. Information that contradicts a held conclusion is rejected. This is the argument that is often provided to describe how the Neo-Cons got so much so wrong. I reject this explanation. I think if we apply Occam’s razor to the question, we may conclude that dependency continues to be a vital tool in the neocolonial tool box.

Laura Catania