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The West must redeem itself

Nov 11,2023 - Last updated at Nov 11,2023

The West, represented essentially by North America and Europe, needs to redeem itself. And the sooner the better; for its own sake and for the sake of humanity as a whole.

For centuries, it has been following an erroneous and destructive, path.

Clearly, the subject is complex, and justice cannot be done to it in an opinion article. Nevertheless, I will attempt to lay the cornerstone of the argument.

For some time now, the West has been basing its global politics largely on a number of extremely self-centred and subversive premises, thinking only of its own narrow interests and paying little or no attention to those of other nations; especially those that are perceived as “weaker”, more vulnerable, and inferior.” “Weaker”, more vulnerable, and “inferior” due, of course, to the West’s own hegemonic and inhuman policies and practices.

The subversive premises, firmly interconnected, are primarily four; though some may add more to them: capitalism, imperialism, colonialism and racism.

Some may add missionarism, i.e. the use of religion for the purpose of domination and control, technologism, industrialism and patriarchy.

The four premises are interconnected because capitalism, in its perverse form, leads to imperialism, which manifests itself in colonialism and racism.

In this sense, capitalism, and not just “money” as the saying goes, is the root of all evil.

Several Western thinkers and authors have themselves pointed to one or more of these premises, which one may term as the “culprits” in wrongdoing.

These authors include Jonathan Swift in “Gulliver’s Travells”, Herman Melville in many of his South-Seas novels, Joseph Conrad in “Heart of Darkness”, Noam Chomsky in many of his works, and, of course, Edward Said, himself at once an Easterner and a Westerner, in “Orientalism”, “Covering Islam”, “Culture and Imperialism”, and many other texts.

Melville and Conrad alone suffice to illustrate the implications of the West’s disastrous “adventures” into other peoples’ homelands, from their destructive forays in the Polynesian Islands, and the territories of Native Americans during and in the aftermath of Columbus before that, to the Congo in Africa in pursuit of “strategic interests”, natural resources of all sorts, wealth, and appropriation of other peoples’ lands.

It is, after all, the Robinson Crusoe principle: conquer, occupy, usurp, rule supreme, demonise others, confiscate their resources and wealth; and go home rich.

Capitalism in itself may not, and should not, necessarily be negative and destructive. But when it is divorced from “wisdom” and “moral principles”, as Benjamin Franklin would say, and when it is solely self-serving and inhuman, it becomes a curse.

Capitalism in its deviant form is based, among other things, on the idea of prioritisation of wealth. To achieve wealth, and since you do not have enough of it in your own land, you go and colonise other peoples' lands, in the name of spreading “civilisation”, “democracy”, or any other convenient term or slogan.

And Conrad phrased it well: “The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea.”

And, of course, as one concludes from Conrad’s own novella, the idea never “redeems”, for the colonialists’ real intention is in fact “ivory,” or whale “oil” as Melville illustrated in his novels. Or it could be petroleum and gas in today’s world.

Imperialism, colonialism and racism cannot be covered or hidden by any idea or slogan.

This is why one says that capitalism, in the negative context, automatically translates into imperialism, which, aided by racism, translates into colonialism. Add industrial and technological clout to it, think of AI these days, and it spells disaster.

One could go on and on about why our world is terrible today, has been terrible for some time, due to the selfish and irresponsible acts of the “stronger” among us who epitomise Darwinism at its worst.

The point to stress here, on a more positive note and for the sake of all, is that all of this vicious cycle, beginning with capitalism and ending with colonialism and violence, needs to stop, and stop now. Enough is enough!

What the world needs more than anything else is cooperation and not occupation, collaboration not colonisation, partnership not manipulation, sharing not monopoly, coexistence not segregation or apartheid, altruism not selfishness, technologies that help improve life and not weapons that destroy life, stability not tension, freedom not oppression, and peace not war.

The globe is facing so many astronomical challenges, from global warming, resulting essentially from the irresponsible acts of the big industrial countries, to desertification and severe water shortages, from economic recession to nuclear weapons, from unemployment to poverty and starvation.

To address these monumental problems and others, which threaten all, we need to address first the injustice that reigns supreme in our world, including especially what is happening in our part of the world at this point in time and in broad daylight, so that we prepare and qualify ourselves to address the existential threats for the globe as a whole.

The West needs to redeem itself by putting an end to its self-centred, fallacious and destructive premises and works hard to align itself with justice not injustice, liberation not occupation, participation not hegemony, stability not tension, life not death; and standards, not double-standards.

The sooner it does this the quicker we will embark on an era that is good for all, and not an era that is good for the few but not the many; or for no one at all, as the case may turn out to be.

Time for the West to reverse course, and redeem itself!

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