"History is a wonderful thing, if only it was true"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

West is West and East is East

... and never the twain shall meet

Likely simplistic overview of history

Worlds at War - Anthony Pagden - Book Review - New York Times

Democracy vs Despotism

"The Greeks subscribed, broadly, to “an individualistic view of humanity.” The Persians displayed courage and ferocity on the battlefield but as a society, Mr. Pagden writes, paraphrasing Herodotus, they were “craven, slavish, reverential and parochial, incapable of individual initiative, a horde rather than a people.”

From the Greeks to today's "Crusaders"

“The society of Islam is ultimately based not upon human volition or upon contract but upon divine decree,” Mr. Pagden writes. “In the societies of the West, by contrast, every aspect of life has been conceived as a question of human choice.” Never the twain shall meet.

Mr. Pagden is scathing about the idea that moderate voices might prevail, since the very notion of moderation appeals primarily to one side in the argument. “Who says that tolerance, dialogue and understanding are virtues?” he asks. “The answer is invariably: secular Westerners.”

So here we are, after 2,500 years, back in the same place. On one side stand the liberal democracies of the West, convinced that their Enlightenment values and political ideas apply to all peoples everywhere. On the other side, a restless and aggrieved Islamic world defines itself as a vast community of faith, its members convinced that their beliefs, too, are universal. It may take another 2,500 years to sort this out.

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