What is “the West” and why does it so often praise others?

We were reminded this year that ‘the West’ is not ‘white people’. Russia, for example, is not the West, according to the West and also Russia. Some people say that Japan is part of the West. But that’s because they think that if a country is rich, and has comedians and fair elections, it must be “the West”. But is it possible to locate “the West” on a map? I don’t think all of the United States will make it. Maybe the West is not a region. That’s not even most people in Europe and North America. But the West exists. Some scholars say the West is an idea. Researchers who say something is an idea usually mean it’s a good idea. The West probably is, but if so, it’s a good idea who thinks there’s no other good idea, making it something sacred, like a religion . But the West has been a sacred idea for so long, its modern description must be more than that.

I think the West is a set of behaviors. For example, he talks a lot. He’s always engaged in articulation, especially about things you might not have thought possible to talk about. The West is big on compliments. He appreciates others when they do something pleasant or fascinating, or when they wait in line. It has awards, tributes, odes, panegyrics, epitaphs, and other forms of appreciation.

You might think it’s all human nature, but the uniqueness of the Western path is in the degree. Before the influence of the West, other cultures did not invest as much effort and resources in articulation and public tributes. Even now they don’t. We Indians rarely praise others in a foreign land, because there is something immodest about it. But I know Westerners who land in a foreign country and are quick to sing the praises of its artists, even declaring some of them “national treasures” when they are already national treasures. This may seem trivial but is actually a visible side of the powerful technique of subjective acclamation, a method of persuasion.

The West is also very into self-loathing and self-flagellation, which are also ways of speaking. But one of the most important aspects of the West is that its political impulse is Christian, especially its atheists and rationalists.

The substantial part of Christianity is no longer its fables and magical realism, but its old obsession with the transmission of a moral idea. This too is speaking.

No other religion wants to convince you of its merits than Christianity through sermons and open debate. The ancient Brahmins, on the other hand, worked very hard to keep everything secret. It is possible that even the little articulation that other religions began to do was in response to the spread of Christianity, which believes that there is only one right path, and everyone should be persuaded to see it that way. On this medium of communication, the Christian concern to transmit a moral idea runs through almost all the great ideas that define the West: democracy, individual freedom, equality, ecology, etc. There is only one way to live, to rule and to be right, and that is the way of the West. Everything else is bad, unless it’s esoteric like innocuous cultural festivals, colorful sarees, and “mindfulness.” The origin of the European Enlightenment was in Christian monks learning obscure languages ​​so they could converse with people from other countries and show them why the Christian way was superior. The arguments brought philosophical ideas to Europe, in which the elites marinated for decades, talking, talking, talking.

You will never hear China or Russia seriously trying to persuade you to adopt their political ways. They may praise themselves, run a clumsy propaganda wing, exaggerate their past, but they don’t devote time to proper evangelism. But the West never tires of asking people to be like it. This is why he keeps talking about ideas that are more abstract than they seem, such as equality and rights; and celebrates those who fall from the ranks with prizes like the Nobel. And he condemns people who challenge the Western way as despots and oligarchs, who are somehow different from his presidents and billionaires.

Nelson Mandela, though courted with praise from the West, was too smart to fall under his spell. Once, when asked by an American journalist why he was friends with people like Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat and Muammar Gaddafi whom the West condemned, Mandela replied: “One of the mistakes that some political analysts make is to to think that their enemies should be ours This observation gets to the very reason why the West is so preachy. He also praises the nations for their own sake. , and now that he is shipwrecked, for his “courage”.

The West is smug because it believes it has reformed the world. And it was she who best transmitted this hypothesis: that without the West and its invention of organized compassion, the world would have been filled with savages, alpha males would have run amok, women would have had no joy. , the widows would have been burned and the unlucky would have been abandoned. But the records of ancient Western intellectuals indicate something else – that most everything the West claims to be its invention was borrowed from other civilizations that flourished long before its rise. Moreover, there is no evidence that customs such as ‘sati’ in India were widespread. One of the most absurd triumphs of Western historians is convincing some of us that Indians had no qualms about burning girls alive until they were reformed by nice guys. The whole reform itself must be a sham; it leaves some people taking too much credit for the mundane goodness inherent in most people.

Manu Joseph is a journalist, novelist and creator of the Netflix series “Decoupled”

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