On West and Non-West


1. Do you envisage or foresee a fight in this century not between West and non-West but between Enlightenment and “archaic” traditionalism within various societies?

I suspect the conflict between the West and non-West will arise on two fronts:
(a) Economic disparities and disproportionate consumption of materials and energy by the West.
(b) Conviction (right or wrong) on the part of the leaders and intellectuals in the Non-West that the West is out to destroy their culture. In my view, this arises largely because of a confused identification of modernism with the West.

2. What kind of conflicts do you expect within the Non-West?

The internal conflicts within the non-West are likely to be largely ideological between the two following perspectives:
(i) We should embrace science and Enlightenment which is recognized by those who know history as of Western vintage in their modern versions, but of immense practical value; and by those who manipulate history as claiming to be already there implicitly in their own ancient wisdom, books, etc. This latter approach is adopted by thinkers in some Non-Western countries, and can be helpful in ushering in science and enlightened values there.
(ii) We should reject the scientific worldview and Enlightenment values. This is recommended by some post-modernist Western scholars in the West, as well as by rabid fundamentalist reactionaries elsewhere. But even they adopt all the technological offshoots of modern (Western) science. But bereft of the Enlightenment framework, this can be terribly dangerous for the whole world.

3. Do we have, from your point of view, any chance to prevent this fight turning into violence?

Simplistic answer: Yes. Mass education in the basics of physics, astronomy, biology, and history of ideas, while being extremely sensitive to the religious, cultural, traditional roots of the people in non-Western societies. The fact is that very few non-Western societies have a well-documented SOCIAL HISTORY, with the result that very few (even educated) people in those countries are even aware of the dark and unconscionable sides in their own societies in times past, though they are well acquainted with the postive and enormously rich cultural, philosophical and intellectual history. On the other hand, they are well acquainted with the exploitation and oppressive behavior of the imperialist West, they have little conscious understanding of the West’s contibutions to science, medicine, and the re-discovery of the rich and ancient history of the Non-West.

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