Nothing in this blog can be believed. If you think that anything in this blog is true or factual, you'll need to verify it from another source. Do you understand? No? Then read it again, and repeat this process, until you understand that you cannot sue me for anything you read here. Also, having been sucked into taking part in the mass-murder of more than 3 million Vietnamese people on behalf of U.S. Big Business "interests", I'm as mad as a cut snake (and broke) so it might be a bit silly to try to sue me anyway...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Musings Of A Global Village Idiot

On the topic of Western "civilisation", recent and not so recent events have caused me to frequently grapple with the following questions and/or variants thereof:

[1]     Is the term still relevant to today's world?
[1a]   If so, what does it mean in today's world?
[1b]   If not, why not, and, what term should now be used to replace it?

[2]     Is "the West" the superior culture it claims to be, or is it inferior, or has it gone mad?

[3]     Should it be lauded or "dealt with"?

[4]     What should the response be from the rest of the world?

Discuss.

Lack of a sufficient number of intelligent responses over the next three months will result in this blog's closure and its removal from this interweb thingie.  That's right, I can't be bothered with a blog with which people do not interact or engage. Once again I say "use it, or lose it."

Waiting...

24 Comments:

Blogger Number One Bag said...

I am tempted to respond woith Ghandi's line that when asked what he thought of Western Civilisation, he replied that he thought it would be a good idea.

Which is not a bad point to start from. After all, a 'civilisation' that can produce the Congo, the Somme, Belsen and Westt Belfast really shoudln't be taken at face value as necessarily a font of enlightenment. Look, too, to the rise of creationism and the anti-science zeitgeist of the States which also holds currency here, but I digress.

For arguments sake let's assume that the West is civilised and that's where life is at - which is a long bow but, as I said, it's for argument's sake. And we do need to cut the West some slack. After all, any understanding of history shows us that food security is a recent phenomena, and the OECD seems to have mastered that at least.

SO, taking the OECD as representative of the West, and assuming the west is a good thing, I'm going to attempt to answer your questions, and I would encourage others to do likewise. We can't have Gerry yelling into a well for the duration, or being stuck reading my dribble over at Number One Bag...

September 16, 2012 12:58 PM  
Blogger Number One Bag said...

[1] Is the term still relevant to today's world?

Yes, it's a useful shorthand for general statements about culture and economics and, therefore, politics.

[1a] If so, what what does it mean in today's world?

I think we can use it to mean the OECD in an economic sense and those cultures that accept the liberal principles of the enlightenment in a cultural sense.

[1b] If not, why not, and, what term should now be used to replace it?

Where it fails is in its generality. The West is a diverse thing, and what is considered free speech in, say, Norway, may not be considered free speech in, say, Utah.

[2] Is "the West" the superior culture it claims to be, or is it inferior, or has it gone mad?

Culture is not a league table. rthe WQest is what is what it is, for good and ill, and other cultures are what they are. But the West does have (nominally) the genius of democracy, which is the right to dissent; the right to think differently (but probably not to act). It is telling that the great threat to our liberal "freedoms" (such as they are) come, not from other states, but from corporations who operate outside of the nation state and resemble more the medieval war lords that, ironically, laid the platform for the West as we know it today. Corporations are inherently anti-democratic, in the traditional sense in that they don't handle dissent within their own ranks very well.

There is an argument that liberal western values are somehow universal. I'm not so sure, but an interesting example of this is running over at the excellent Jacobin magazine regarding labour unrest in China.


[3] Should it be lauded or "dealt with"?

I'm an anarchist. I think any state or power structure is an anachronism. I think it's best if it is observed, buit unfortunately it is mostly endured.


[4] What should the response be from the rest of the world?

While the West - at least those that have an emotional investment in it - would probably hope that the rest of the world rises and applauds, the general response seems to be a paradox of loathing and desire; evidenced by the significant number of people that wish to live in the West matched with the hostility to western values that seems to be concurrent with such feelings. Someone who has read that old goat Derrida's prolix work on masochism may be able to enlighten us further here.

I'm not so sure there "should" be any response. That there are responses is a given, and they will be plural and orientated towards achieving a multitude of outcomes. There is no single homogenous challenge to the West, so history will do what it will and this epoch shall pass, as all others have before it, and some other dominant culture will arise, or is arising, that we can only guess at from here.

September 16, 2012 1:14 PM  
Blogger Number One Bag said...

I'd also like to remind you, Gerry, of the words of that great union leader, Martin Luther King Jr. "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter".

September 16, 2012 1:27 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Bloody 'ell, NOB, you tryin' to fry my brain? I'll get back to you on this just as soon as I can digest it all. :-(

September 16, 2012 9:19 PM  
Blogger Number One Bag said...

Well Gerry, you did ask! :")

September 17, 2012 7:16 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Yes, as they say: "Be careful what you wish for..." :-/

I'll get around to responding soon. I'm still overwhelmed. Maybe others could also respond comments. (He says hopefully...)

September 17, 2012 11:47 PM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

As always, a good starting point is Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_culture

I would assert that the very existence of Wikipedia is emblematic of Western civilisation. And, further, my view is that this a good thing.

This answers Q1 in the affirmative.

September 18, 2012 8:42 AM  
Blogger Vest said...

There is more freedom within the westernised cultures. where quality of life is certain if you abide by the laws of the land.
This perceptiom is spot on, assuming that it would not be likely to envisage wholesale migration to Sino, Afro or Muslim countries by established Brits, US cits or Aussies for example.

September 18, 2012 8:39 PM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

Western civilisation is without doubt a preferable way of life and system of governance to anything else used on the planet. The problem is that freedoms and pluralism carry a cost, which the western economic model (capitalism) can only afford by exploiting other civilisations.

So the answer to Q2 is: Western civilisation is superior (USA notwithstanding) but it might be unsustainable.

September 19, 2012 9:01 AM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

Q3. Should it be lauded or 'dealt with'? No doubt the mad mullahs in Tehran want the West 'dealt with', possibly in a thermonuclear conflagration, but most of the other nations on Earth are aping the model. And so they should: democracy, pluralism, free speech, tolerance and so on are all things worth having.

Capitalism is another matter: it has been the engine that has delivered all of the above benefits, but we should be turning our minds to how we are going to replace it.

My answer to Q3: lauded.

September 21, 2012 9:35 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

@NOB: "...some other dominant culture will arise, or is arising, that we can only guess at..."

"The West" gave us capitalism and this has now mutated into a globalised form which, in concert with instrumentalities it has invented for itself, namely the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO, is now busy bulldozing national laws and politics, and even cultures. So we already have the new dominant culture, we just need to name it. Let's call it Globalised Corporatocracy, and it is the bastard child of the West.

@AndrewM: You say Western culture is a good thing.

You say it gave us capitalism, but maybe you're forgetting that the West also gave us socialism and communism which became really popular in countries being colonised, occupied, and/or bullied by the capitalist West.

The ensuing Cold War waged by the West was really a statement which said "We invented socialism and communism, and whilst we have been unsuccessful in outlawing these ideas in our own countries, if _you_ adopt them in _your_ country and thus try to expel our bloodsucking corporate tentacles (which are the only means by which our culture is even remotely sustainable), we will do whatever it takes to _install_ a pro-capitalist "democracy", or if that's not an option, we'll install a pro-capitalist dictator (or shah, or king), and we don't care how many millions die in the process. We actually only give a shit about "democracy" if it's pro-capitalist (and we all know why [wink, wink].)"

The West gave rise to Hitler, Stalin, Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Castro, and Chairman Mao.

The West gave Israel to the Palestinians.

It gave The School Of The Americas to a whole swag of South American countries (google that if you don't know what I mean.)

It gave Pinochet to Chile.

And for centuries before that, the West raped, pillaged, and plundered cultures, nations, and peoples at will in order to prop up its self-indulgent, self-serving, and totally unsustainable lifestyles. It murdered millions upon millions in the name of self-proclaimed "superiority". It was nothing more than a racist culture of White Supremacists.

And now it has given us Globalised Corporatocacy which is busily installing "the best democracies money can buy." It owns the military industrial complex. It owns America, and the might of the American military machine is its sword

September 22, 2012 7:37 AM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

Noting you have left a long and thoughtful response to my earlier comments, nevertheless I will finish my responses to your first questions.

Q4: What should be the response from the rest of the world?

A4: Why should there be any response at all? Western civilisation isn't a problem; Americans and capitalism are the problems. In any event, a great many nations on earth have responded by imitating Western civilisation, suggesting to me that you have there a legitimate response that works.

September 22, 2012 4:22 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

@AndrewM: "Western civilisation isn't a problem."

Is that true? Care to re-read what I wrote in my previous comment to both you and NOB?

You're running with a logical fallacy when you try to run the argument that a culture is good because it is popular.

McDonalds is popular. Is it good?
Mind-numbing TV programs are popular. Are they good?
Sub-prime mortgages are popular. Are they good?

And anyway, much of the "popularity" you refer to is the result of long term campaigns to destroy opposition to the West's agenda by fair means and foul. Decades of lies, propaganda, subversion, and mass murder included.

Americans and capitalism _were_the problem. They were the major influences which now define what I call the post-Western civilisation, i.e. Globalised Corporatocracy. And there's nothing democratic about this new culture. In fact, it is an abomination of democracy.

But be that as it may, you try to excise America and capitalism from our definition of what we mean by "the West". That is a bit of a scam, Andrew. That would be like saying the Germans weren't the problem, it was only Hitler and the Nazis. (Don't even _think_ about invoking "Godwin's law". :-)

September 23, 2012 8:08 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

@NOB: You said "I'm an anarchist. I think any state or power structure is an anachronism."

This is interesting to me. I have not yet found anyone who can explain anarchism (syndicalist, or otherwise) to me in a way that makes any sense to me.

I wish you would try to explain it to me.

Perhaps by way of comments OVER HERE >>>

September 23, 2012 9:04 AM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

Hah! I was so NOT going to mention the Nazis. You succumbed, I win. :-)

And I win again (!) because at no point have I said that democracy is popular, or should be encouraged because it is popular. I have no idea where you got that idea from; the only person to use the word 'popular' was you.

A technical correction: you claim Western civilisation gave Chile the dictator Pinochet. This is wrong; it was the Americans via the CIA that did that. Before that Allende was trying to establish a fully functional Marxist state by employing the British head of the Operations Research Institute, Stafford Beer, to create a command economy based on OR principles and computers. Stafford Beer is as much a product of Western civilisation as the CIA.

September 23, 2012 9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good thing the news today inspired me to pop in and say Hi.

On your post question my response is that I just loathe everything running anything and have much anecdotal evidence of incompetence everywhere.

Today the Feds are trying to keep secret the fact that they colluded with IndonesianCops to trap SchapC.
The sister is still relentless in demanding answers and the Feds are running for cover. They were probably after the father, and were probably shocked at the 20 years etc etc. but still not being honest with us.
X X annie

September 23, 2012 2:54 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

Annie the Anarchist? Hmmm. :-)

September 23, 2012 8:25 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

@AnderwM: "...at no point have I said that democracy is popular, or should be encouraged because it is popular. I have no idea where you got that idea from; the only person to use the word 'popular' was you."

You misquote me. What I _actually_ said was: "...you try to run the argument that a culture is good because it is popular" i.e I said "a culture", not "a democracy".

And I did so in response to your statement "...a great many nations on earth have responded by imitating Western civilisation." If that's not you claiming that Western civilisation is popular, I don't know what is... (I'm assuming that it's OK with you that I interchange the terms "Western culture" and "Western civilisation".)

And...

You keep playing the gambit that America, and its misdeeds, and influences, are somehow divorced from Western culture. I would say that from the latter half of the 20th century onwards, America has been the dominant influence in the West.



September 24, 2012 10:33 AM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

@Gerry: you're right, I do keep interchanging Western civilisation and Western culture, and that's not good because they are not exactly the same thing. I shall use WC henceforth :-)

I'm not playing any gambits at all. I am just repeatedly pointing out that WC is not monolithic; Norway is not Italy is not USA is not Australia. And the actions of one nation state that forms a component of WC are not the actions of WC itself, though they may in some way reflect WC values.

I'm going to continue down my preferred path of not blaming the French or the Greeks for something the CIA does.

September 25, 2012 9:17 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

@Andrew: 'scuse me... but what are you having WC mean, exactly?

September 25, 2012 7:29 PM  
Blogger AndrewM said...

WC = Western Civilisation. Or a toilet pan. Take your pick :-)

I was just using the abbreviation to stop myself conflating 'civilisation' and 'culture'.

September 26, 2012 10:16 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

@Andrew: I would argue that WC is not sustainable. As we have both agreed, it's existence presupposes that a goodly chunk of the world's population needs to be exploited in order for WC to continue to exist. In other words, we are left with wealth being the product of exploitation. I cannot agree that such a "cvilisation" is a good thing.

And what of my thesis that WC has in fact morphed into a globalised corporatocracy?

September 28, 2012 11:36 PM  
Blogger Gerry said...

AndrewM said: "I don't think WC itself has morphed into a globalised craptocracy..."

Well, maybe you would like to take a closer look at what the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO (and their verious instrumentalities) get up to when dictating to "sovereign" states what laws they are to impose on their people, and how they are restructuring the political and economic workings of those "sovereign" states.

You might also like to read Confessions Of An Economic Hitman by John Perkings (and his other book, Hoodwinked.)

An earlier book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast sets the ball rolling.

read these books and THEN come back and tell me how we're not living in a globalised corporatocracy.

Andrew, I think you're desperately clinging onto an idealised propaganda version of what WC is all about. Sort of like admiring the beautiful finish of a Colt 45 as it is put to your head.

October 08, 2012 9:14 AM  
Blogger Gerry said...

AndrewM said: "I don't think WC itself has morphed into a globalised craptocracy..."

Well, maybe you would like to take a closer look at what the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO (and their verious instrumentalities) get up to when dictating to "sovereign" states what laws they are to impose on their people, and how they are restructuring the political and economic workings of those "sovereign" states.

You might also like to read Confessions Of An Economic Hitman by John Perkins (and his other book, Hoodwinked.)

An earlier book, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast sets the ball rolling.

Read these books and THEN come back and tell me how we're not living in a globalised corporatocracy.

Andrew, I think you're desperately clinging onto an idealised propaganda version of what WC is all about. Sort of like admiring the beautiful finish of a Colt 45 as it is put to your head.

October 09, 2012 8:04 AM  

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