I’ve been reading and studying non-western political theory for a while now – some of it includes straight up descriptions of alternate structures, but most of it is centered on the postcolonial mindset. Personally, I don’t agree with the term, but it’s a field of study that is most widely known, so onward.
I came across WordPress on a blog that was precisely wondering about the state of the “West”, and what that means for the world (right here). I see the intention, but I do not agree on some points. I hope to line them out and perhaps attempt to refute some point respectfully. I use my anarchist perspective in order to analyze.
Luckily, the writer identifies and defines what he means by the “West”; the “ideas values and traditions that have come down to us through history from ancient Greece and Rome and the rest of Europe and have been greatly shaped or influenced by Christianity”.
Now, some statements that are made that give credit to the West are a romanticization. For example, the writer claims that “it was in the West, that women were first emancipated”, with no evidence or historical claim. I would certainly like to know this.
The conservative stance of multiculturalism seems to be layered in some contradictions. For one, multiculturalism (the salad bowl), the coexistence of different ethnic groups, is seen as undesirable and corrupting. The writer sees that the “nation” should be the “greater good” that everyone should adhere to, and assimilate into, or else have the disappearance of civil society as we know it.
Yet, like Hannah Arendt mentioned in her book On Revolution, the “American” identity is not a total ethnic one. It never was, and when the Declaration of Independence was written, it was a mix of different European nationalities that were involved, their differences shed away from a few generations of living away from their homelands. The “we” of the Declaration of Independence was always in a pluralistic sense. The first Americans realized the regional differences but their common experience (exploitation by the British) was certainly a uniting factor. As such, I do not see how balkanization is totally bad, especially if it is organically directed from people (technically, the American revolution was a balkanization of the British Empire, a successful one at that).
I do not believe that the disappearance of the West (whatever that means) would be the end of the world “for all”. I also do not believe that ‘western values’ should be perpetuated by non-western peoples, unless there’s a process of mass assimilation on a global scale. I want a world of plurality, not one that is homogenized by the West, with it’s values being deemed as superior to the rest of the cultures – this sounds dangerously close to prejudice and even racism, and it already happened. Its called colonization.
What really is bad for all is the destruction of cultures, something that Europe definitely committed. How many languages are gone because of its mercantilist logic? How many scientific and cultural treasures are gone because of the West’s need to intervene and colonize the world? That the West is the only source of democracy, an assumed Western value, is not true. Prior to contact, some indigenous societies practiced democratic confederation, (Iroquois) and anarchists around Europe (labeled in the article as anti-western) also created democratic societies in Spain, Ukraine, Mexico, and pretty much many places around the world. Contact through a non-colonial framework, something ingrained in the inherent belief of superiority of European logic, could have been better for the whole world.
The West is in decline, that much is true. However, I propose that this decline is not because of “cultural marxists”, a totalizing and problematic term that groups feminists, anarchists and Marxists together (there’s much to be argued about how they overlap, and Marxists and anarchist have also historically killed each other in political disagreements in war). It is the result of the colonization and intervention of Europe and American policy on the rest of the world. The proxy war in Syria by presidents Obama and Putin displaced millions, caused by the vacuum of power of president Bush’s intervention that produced ISIS. If not for American support to Saudi Arabia, if not for the displacement of secular Afghanistan, Iran, and Egypt, the Middle East would be a prosperous and much more humane region than it is today. Instead, it is the battleground for imperial powers to satisfy their crave for oil.
There is one way the West can survive, and it is to leave matters of different peoples to themselves. Let them foster their own values, and let a world of differences flourish.