The East-West dichotomy /Chapter 18
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|This source text was taken from The East-West dichotomy, retrieved August 16, 2009|
Based on its analytical, deduction-based approach and narrow views on the complexities of nature and history, the West lost its view on the holistic, long-term future relationships, consciously or unconsciously indulging itself with the uncertainties and often banalities of a postmodern, utterly deconstructed and individualist world. This post-modern insecurity the East itself has not yet encountered, and, as I will argue, it does not necessarily have to.
After Modernism (c. 1880-1950), which is understood as the age of totalities, essentialisms and meta-narratives, Western societies had deconstructed all those past meta-narratives and entered the age of Postmodernism (c. 1950-2000) (Hutcheon, 1989). For some Eastern observers it seemed that in certain areas of analytical enquiry the West was approaching its limits. Could there be anything smaller than Heisenberg’s smallest possible particles ‘quarks’? What is the meaning of anything once they deconstructed everything?
西方的自然科学走的是一条分析的道路，越分越细…而对这些细节之间的联系则缺乏宏观的概括。 Western science has walked down the analytical path; the more it deduced the smaller became the deducible…and (they) lost the macroscopic general perspective about how those details were related to each other. (Ji Xianlin, 2006 )
Man faces a serious problem in the modern world because science has pursued the objective method of cognition and has analyzed and classified phenomena until we are left with only the pieces. (Makiguchi, in Brannen )
Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Principle’ (1926), Goedel’s ‘Incompleteness Theorems’ (1931), Wittgenstein’s ‘Language Games’ (1926), Hussel’s ‘Distress in meaning’ (1970), which he crowned with his Crisis of European Sciences, Derrida’s ‘Deconstructionism’ (1960), Lévi-Strauss’ ‘Bricolage’ (1962), Lorenz’s Chaos Theory (1792), famous for his ‘butterfly-effect’, the whole idea of Boa’s ‘cultural relativism’ (1942), meaning that all beliefs are valid and truth relative itself, etc., all of those end-of-meaningful-analysis theories contributed to undermine our beliefs in a society’s certainty, consistency and continuity. If you put yourself into little things, after a hundred years it gets to you: secular Western societies therefore left it all to the individuals and their individual experiences to decide how to make sense of the world, and what to do with their minuscule lives.
The spiritual East however is different:
Ganga ca yamuna caiva godavari sarasvati; narmada simdhu kaveri stranar-atham prati-grhyatam. I am taking a bath with all these rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Narmada, Indus, Kaveri.
同一个世界，同一个梦想 One world – One Dream
The ‘bath sutra’ – it exists in various forms all across the Indian subcontinent – is a harmless spiritual song about the perceived unity of India and her now 1,2 billion people. The Chinese slogan for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, is derived from: 同一个中国 (one unified China) and thus not only confirms the ancient Confucius concept of ‘tianxia’ (天下, everything under heaven) or Dong Zhongshu’s ‘he er wei yi’ (合而为一, unite and become one), but also subscribes to China’s two famous policies: a) that the world should embrace (Confucian) harmony, which alleges that China’s dream is everyone else’s dream too; and b) that China is indeed ‘one’ nation, including all its 56+ minorities and, vital, problematic regions like Taiwan (台湾), Tibet (西藏), and Xinjiang (新疆). To my knowledge, there is no equivalent of such spiritual – seemingly naïve - sense of unity in recent European history.
In contrast, Western societies, after a long history of assertiveness and expansion, so it seems, do not conquer anymore, they converge. While in the analytical-based West today it is inevitably the minuscule individual in multiculturalism (EU, USA, AUS, CDN, NZ), in the integration-based East it is still the collective nation in numbers (China, Indian, but also Russia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, and the Middle East).
It is the old matter of seeing the trees or seeing the forest, reflected in the following two statements:
From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. (Karl Marx, 1875)
有的国家占的篇幅多一点，有的少一点。这只事实求足。 Some countries take up more space, others less. That is simply how things are. (Ji Xianlin, 2006 )
The former quote suggests a philosophy for the individual (each tree) and hence implies the notion of self-interest and limitation, the latter suggests a philosophy for the masses (the whole forest) and hence implies public-spiritedness and certainty.
Long-term vision and constancy, as we have seen, are intrinsic values of integration-based Eastern societies:
世上本没有路，走的人多了，便也成了路. As more people are walking all the time, in the same spot, a path appears. (Lu Xun, 1981)
In 2050 Iran, through political consistency, could have 100,000,000 citizens (and possibly the atom bomb). Turkey, by then, is going to be the biggest negotiating partner of Europe to the East and the EU’s most populous nation (95,000,000), letting alone the 10,000,000 diasporas living scattered over the EU-27. Vietnam, with 120,000,000, could be as populous as France and Britain together. On a political level, the Communist Party of China has more members than Germany has population, the Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCC) is already (2006) the largest regional grouping in the world (and without US presence [!]), not NATO. Jairam Ramesh, former secretary of the Congress party’s economic affairs department of India announced a simple truth: We [India] must examine our brains, if we are not capable to lead one billion people to become the world’s third largest economy! (Jairam Ramesh, 2002)
Although some Europeans have analyzed the problem of declining native populations and accepted their ethnic ‘Niedergang’, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Arab League (22 member states), Vietnam and Bangladesh etc. have no inclination towards state birth control, and China (facing a demographic aging problem) is re-considering its one-child-policy, since it could always export more diasporas to Siberia, Africa, the Middle East and Australia in order to extend its cause. The birth-rates in European countries in 2005 were merely 1.3 (Germany), 1.29 (Italy), 1.5 (France). According to the United Nations Population Division, on top of 6.435,000,000 (2005), the world is expecting an additional of 2,848,000,000 human beings in the next 50 years (UNPopulationDivision, 2007), apparently none of them white (although not necessary non-Western). The percentage of white European descendants worldwide will shrink (relatively) from 8% (2000) to roughly 2% by 2050, down from 30% in 1900. With the exception of some Anglophone nations (US, CDN, NZ, UK), who will increase in numbers due to massive immigration, the rest of European societies show a remarkable disinterest in their own (voluntary) decline, not to say ethnic suicide.
If there is going to be a ‘world democracy’ today, with each world citizen having exactly one vote, the declining Europeans would have better united with the neighboring Muslim world or else simply become irrelevant - if not to say impotent - in international politics. Anger, awe, fear, and the strange feeling of intimidation are relative new experiences to European intellectuals, but now suggested by the facts.
The last time European culture had been similar “seriously slackened to its bones was when the Romans assimilated the Greeks around 300 BC” (Sisci, 2008): The rise of the East is now real and inevitable.
Having established that, after only 50 years since 1950, there is now plenty of East everywhere, the question is: “Who is the West?”
Some say it is the Northern hemisphere, others say it is the White man’s thing, still others claim it is the First World, the developed world, or just the ‘elite’. Surely, we can find a nobler, if not cynical definition. I have one: The West, as I understand it, has been the victorious. That’s why Japan correctly joined the club after 1900 when defeating Russia, invading China, Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia, and in spite of being defeated in WW2 became the world’s second biggest market economy after the USA. In 2004, China finally challenged the West too by overtaking Great Britain in terms of GDP and became the 4th biggest market economy. With India surpassing Britain in 2010, is the West no more than a geographical entity?
As geography betrays us, on any Asian map of the world, the USA lies to the East. It is only natural to conclude that the only distinction between East and West that matters today, as I said before, is their different modes of thinking, and that, due to declining population in the West, a selection of Eastern people will (voluntarily or not) immigrate - not to conquer the declining West but to strengthen the equilibrium. And equilibrium it will be, for to reform either side’s civilization would mean, let us make no mistake, to discount that side’s history, beliefs, ancestors… its everything.