The Western World, we’ve been bad. We’ve been real bad.
You probably already know this. And even if you aren’t totally familiar with the history, almost all of us have an instinctive knowledge that the Western world has been bad.
But we’ve also been good, have reason to hold our heads’ high and here’s why.
First, a brief explanation of why we (we have to admit) are bad. We, the Western world (Europe, North America and the English speaking world) have dominated, impoverished and left deep wounds upon much of the rest of the world. We are guilty of imperialism, cultural and economic domination.
And this is not just something of the past. When we talk about how naughty we’ve been, I’m not just talking about your great granddaddy the Indian killer. I’m also talking about us the consumer and thus supporter of purveyors of fine slave coffee and even cheaper bananas. I’m attempting to entertain you here a little as my recent reading of ‘12 tips to write a successful blog’ suggests I do. But this is no joke.
To summarize, Britain, France and the other imperial powers dominated countries, exploited their wealth, massacred them and used their populations as slaves. The United States, the leader of the Western world as well as others, continues imperialism into the 21st century, imposing their economic and political will, overthrowing democratically elected governments.
As for Canadians (all peace, love, trees, some fish and fresh faced Trudeau) you (we) generally stand aside with occasional objection. All the while buying even cheaper coffee and slave bananas. (not to be confused with ‘slave cock’ that a character on the BBC ‘Rome’ series accuses her daughter of sucking at orgies – Season 2 ep 5, to be exact. For the hilarious sex quotes alone, that show’s a good watch.)
BUT. But we have done some good. Yes, my Western friends, we have done some good! Surely.
We have a lot to be proud of.
Look at what we’ve done! We proved that multiculturalism, on an industrial scale, for the most part, works. We have, on a large scale, advanced women’s rights. We have advanced individual rights in terms of free thought, free expression and individual lifestyle.
We have made great developments in science. The Western world has dared to question God, to an extent that no other culture has done. Western science has benefited immensely from this. Once God could be questioned, the sky was the limit and anything could be challenged and questioned. The questioning of other beliefs and superstitions was emboldened, thereby expanding all fields of knowledge, including science. Our explorers and thinkers dared to challenge age old superstitions.
These achievements, along with the bad, is what the West is, who we are. We have much to be proud of.
Yet we never really hear it. We can state such and such scientific achievement was made by so and so but there is rarely pride in our culture. We are either ashamed or ambivalent.
We are ashamed because of the wrong we have done, for which we, to a degree, should be ashamed. And we are ambivalent because we have this feeling that compared to other cultures, we stand for nothing!
Other societies seem to hold their values and religions so dear to their heart. They would kill for these, while we would kill for almost nothing. Other societies go mental if someone draws the likeness of their prophet, while we shrug mockery of Jesus Christ as free expression, if not art itself, although pretty passé.
While we do fight foreign wars perpetuated by our statesman like Blair and Bush, we don’t generally go ape shit on mass if someone burns our flag, our messiah or some book. There is no sacred object or land we profoundly declare in ranting speeches our willingness to spend a 1000 civilian lives defending. So in comparison to other cultures we seem, we feel, like ‘the who cares’ culture. Apathy. As long as I have my pizza, my car, my TV and, occasionally, the right to say what we want… we don’t care.
This leaves us and everyone else in the world with the perception that the West is a society that cares only for ‘fun’, materialism, fake tits in mini-skirts, malls and football.
But, but, but, but (and btw ‘butts’ have made it big these days, ‘fake tits in mini-skirts’ is a bit 80s, init?! Maybe should be ‘fake butts in mini-skirts’. Take your pick, maybe both?)…. But…..
…Our awesome power is that our principles are universal and unspecific to any one culture. They appear to represent for no one, no one culture, for no one thing or belief – not even our own for that matter!
And this is exactly true, they stand (or attempt to stand) for everyone, they stand for what is common to all.
In science a principle that can explain all or most phenomena is considered to be the ideal, the crowning achievement. But in regard to political and cultural identity, it appears that principles that explain too much, that are too global, risk not being able to be identifiable to individual local cultures. In other words, global culture (humanity itself), may identify with such principles while individual cultures struggle to identify with the same principles.
Thus in the Western world we have problems with identity. There is less of an identifiable cultural rallying point. Hence we often ask ourselves what it is to be Canadian or British. The answers trotted-out in documentaries and news programs are the predictable ideals of hope, tolerance and diversity or some such tried and tired combination. A combination that the phenomena of Trump and Brexit prove are indeed tiresome to much of the electorate.
While these predictable answers to questions of identity in my opinion lack vigour and sense of purpose, their banality hides the huge power of Western principles.
We should be ecstatic that our cultural principles and beliefs support religious, ethnic and individual diversity. Western values champion the development and fulfilment of the individual regardless of their gender, religion and ethnicity. We are broad based and transcend culture, race and religion.
We have developed the first large scale liberal democracies defined by freedom in terms of expression of thought, religious expression and multiculturalism. Do you understand what an achievement that is? Do you understand how tricky that is to pull off?!
To have this cacophony of different and potentially competing voices and yet maintain a requisite degree of cohesion. It would be so much easier to simply have a command and control system – stuff gets done so much more simply and for the common good at that! But we thankfully don’t. And the example of how to maintain a society that functions, yet is relatively respectful of each individual within it, is of great importance. This is fantastic stuff!
There is no reason for apathy here. It makes me wonder why we have Islamic jihadists killing for medieval ignorant principles. Where is our (non-violent) Western jihadist equivalent? Where are the fans of the West? Where are the groupies in hot pants?
For we have developed a belief system of far greater soundness of principle, sophistication and sensitivity than fundamentalist Islam!
And I write this post because I feel a sense of apathy mixed with a sense of guilt about being a citizen of the Western world. This sense that unless (and this is especially true in Britain and Canada as opposed to say Europe) you’re from a foreign culture, you as a Canadian or a Brit have less cultural value, little distinctive culture, that your cultural heritage is relatively bland because, well you seem unwilling to stand up for anything, you have few sensitivities (or you have little right to them), you have no religion, you have faith in nothing but material wealth and your national food is fucking pizza.
The answer I think here is to just be reminded why we may appear bland, but that we are actually not so at all (you have to watch the quiet ones). The answer is also to remind ourselves of what we’ve done. Yes, we have done some terrible things, brutal things, for which we must be ashamed. But we have also done some amazing and wonderful things – our freedom of expression, of thought, multiculturalism, developments in scientific and intellectual areas, and the global scope of Western values – for which we should be proud.
And so I say, I am a Westerner! I know what my culture is guilty of but I also know of the immense good we have done. I am active in this awareness and I am keenly aware of the significance of Western values and what they have delivered to the world.
I am not apathetic, nor am I irrationally self-hating, I am a Westerner!