Democracy and Ideology

I find it helpful to place the term “democracy,” which appears in the wordcloud rendered from The Quiet American’s text, in the context of “ideology,” which appears in the wordcloud rendered from Charles Dodd White’s review. Pyle’s notion that the United States bears the duty of spreading democracy certainly operates ideologically, as a commonplace, within the larger ideology of what Fowler satirically calls “doing good” (18). Fowler’s commonplace identifies democracy as intrinsically good, and intrinsically contrary to communism, a juxtaposition that (il)logically links democracy inexorably, somehow, to capitalism. Such ideological beliefs, of course, ignore the actual definition of democracy—a state controlled by the people—and instead distort the term into a meaningless, feel-good tenant of Americanism.

When asked by Vigot why Pyle died, Fowler replies, “He was young and ignorant and silly and he got involved. He had no more of a notion than any of you what the whole affair’s about, and you gave him money and York Harding’s books on the East and said, ‘Go ahead. Win the East for democracy’” (31-32). This, in so many words, is Fowler’s denunciation of ideological involvement in Vietnam. Without completely condemning Pyle as a human being (callowness is not evilness), Fowler explains that the imposition of naïve Western ideology onto Vietnam is a misfit. Greene notes in his article “Indo-China: France’s Crown of Thorns” that “[i]f free elections had been held in Tongking, the majority of French officials admitted that Ho Chi Minh would have received eighty percent of the vote …” (223). It stands to reason, then, that the French and Americans are acting not only naively, but undemocratically. Little wonder: the democratic election of a communist leader would dismantle the ideology Pyle, York Harding and others hold dear.