Based on its analytical, deduction-based approach and narrow views on the complexities of nature and history, the West lost sight of holistic, long-term future relationships, consciously or unconsciously indulging in the uncertainties and banalities of a postmodern, utterly deconstructed, and individualistic world. The East itself has not yet encountered this post-modern insecurity, 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 Post-modernism (c. 1950-2000) (Hutcheon, 1989). For some Eastern observers it seemed that in certain areas of analytical inquiry, the West was approaching its limits. Could there be anything smaller than Werner Heisenberg’s smallest possible particles, the ‘quarks’? What is the meaning of anything once everything is deconstructed?
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. (Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, in Brannen, 1964)
Werner Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Principle’ (1926), Kurt Goedel’s ‘Incompleteness Theorems’ (1931), Ludwig Wittgenstein’s ‘Language Games’ (1926), Edmund Husserl’s ‘Distress in Meaning’ (1970), which he crowned with The Crisis of European Sciences, Jacques Derrida’s ‘Deconstructionism’ (1960), Claude Lévi-Strauss’ ‘Bricolage’ (1962), Edward Norton Lorenz’s ‘Chaos Theory’ (1792), and the ‘butterfly-effect,’ the whole idea of Franz Boa’s ‘Cultural Relativism’ (1942), meaning that all beliefs are valid and truth relative itself – all of those end-of-meaningful-science theories contributed to undermine our belief in a society’s certainty, consistency, and continuity. If you are preoccupied with minutiae, after a century 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 sindhu kaveri stranar-atham prati-grhyatam.
I am taking a bath with all these rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Narmada, Indus, Kaveri.
One world, one dream.
The “Bath Sutra” of the Urdhvamnaya Tantra, which 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 Confucian concept of ‘tianxia’ (天下, All 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 her minorities and vital, problematic regions like Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang. To my knowledge, there is no equivalent of such a 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 analytically-based West today it is inevitably the minuscule individual in multiculturalism (European Union, USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand), in the integration-based East it is still the collective nation in numbers (China, India, but also Russia, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, and the Middle East).
It is the old problem of either seeing the trees or seeing the forest, as reflected in the following two statements:
From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. (Karl Marx, 1875)
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:
As more people are walking all the time, in the same spot, a path appears. (Lu Xun, 1981)
In 50 years from now Iran, through political consistency, is projected to have one hundred million citizens (and possibly the atom bomb). Turkey, by then, is going to be Europe’s biggest negotiating partner with the East, and, if accepted into the European Union, it will be its most populous nation with about 95 million people, in addition to the diaspora of almost 10 million Turks living scattered throughout the European Union. Vietnam, with its projected 120 million citizens, could become as populous as France and Great Britain combined. On a political level, the Communist Party of China has already more members than Germany’s population, and since 2006, the Shanghai Cooperation Council has been the largest regional grouping in the world (and, it should be noted, without U.S. presence), not the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Jairam Ramesh, former secretary of India’s Congress Party’s Economic Affairs Department, voiced this simple truth:
We [Indians] 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 decline, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Arab League with its 22 member states, Vietnam, Bangladesh, as well as other nations have no inclination towards state birth control, and China, facing a demographic aging problem, is reconsidering its one-child policy. Having too many workers is not China’s problem, because it could always export more diasporas to Siberia, Africa, the Middle East, or Australia to expand the Chinese world.
The birth rates in European countries in the first decade of the new millenium were merely 1.3 in Germany, 1.29 in Italy, and 1.5 in France. According to the United Nations Population Division, on top of the world’s population of 6.5 billion, we are expecting an additional 2.85 billion human beings in the next 50 years (UNPopulationDivision, 2007), apparently none of them statistically white (although not necessarily non-Western). The percentage of white European descendants worldwide will shrink (relatively) from 8 percent at the turn of the millennium to just 2 percent 50 years later, down from 30 percent a century ago. With the exception of some Anglophone nations, notably the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Great Britain, which will all increase in number due to massive immigration, the remaining European societies are showing a remarkable disinterest in their own voluntary decline, not to say ethnic and cultural suicide.
If there is going to be a ‘world democracy’ today, with each world citizen having exactly one vote, the declining Europeans had better unite 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 relatively new to European intellectuals, but now suggested by the facts.
The last time European culture had been “seriously slackened to its bones” was when the Romans assimilated the Greeks around 300 years before the birth of Jesus Christ (Sisci, 2008). The rise of the East is now real and inevitable.
Having established that after the second half of the twentieth century the influence of the East is being felt everywhere, the question remains: “Who exactly is the West?”
Some say it is the Northern hemisphere, others say it is the white man; still others claim it is the First World, the developed world, or just the ‘elite.’ Surely we can find a better definition. I have one: The West, as I see it, has been victorious. That’s why Japan wisely joined the club after 1900 when she defeated Russia and invaded China, Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia. In spite of being defeated in World War II, she 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 gross domestic product and became the fourth biggest market economy. In 2009, China overtook Germany, and two years later she surpassed Japan and is now the second largest economy on Earth. With India surpassing Great Britain’s gross domestic product last year, has the West become nothing more than a mere geographical entity?
But geography is also misleading if one looks at 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. Also, due to the declining population in the West, a number of Easterners 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, and ancestors… everything.
Pattberg, Thorsten (2013), The East-West Dichotomy, Foreign Language Press, Beijing