Thursday, June 22, 2006

Redemption songs

The title of this brief liberal summary could just as well be "On human bondage" - history is truly a prison, its iron structures fashioned by our human imperfectness, our hysterical fear, our aggression and panic. In the West we see stupidity without bounds, greed and short sightedness in power, all true reason and enlightenment sidelined and utterly powerless to change our disastrous random paths. Outside the West history still has its naked face, iron fists requiring no silk gloves: abject poverty, collapsed states, tyranny and horrendous violence - or, in good cases, a most brutal version of the blind Western way to wealth adopted shorn of most or all its enlightened aspects. An animal process in other words, a brief history of a hungry, fearful species on its frenzied way to extinction.

So, why then say a "liberal" summary, why talk about any redemption? It just seems to me that our human awareness is not constrained at all, our eyes reach so easily beyond these prison walls - if powerlessness is an inherent part of our condition, so is hope. We are balanced, maybe imperfectly, but still balanced: and that is the human condition - no bondage, no prison without songs of redemption, songs of freedom echoing over the walls. Maybe one day the balance will tip and the walls will crumble - or the songs will falter and stop - but until that transformation, hope will be our eternal companion.


helsinkian said...

Where do you draw the line between the West and the rest of the world? Do you follow Huntington or is there some other idea of where the border is?

How do you understand India? It is a country of great contrasts. The poverty is there, the sectarian violence is there, but the middle class and the pop culture and the high technology are also there.

Does it go without saying these days that Japan, South Korea and Taiwan belong to the "West"? I know your blog is mainly about the West but in some sense to know what is Western it can be good to ask what Eastern is and what kind of contrast that makes. Is the big picture of the East the abject poverty of Indian slums and the corrupt rule of the Chinese Communist Party? I have no crystal ball but that could be only the East of yesterday that will fade away with the forces of history to be replaced with something different. What worries me most about the East is the state of the environment in a country like China. With a corrupt Communist Party in power, there is no hope that the economic growth will be environmentally sustainable.

stockholm slender said...

That's a very essential question. For me the West is the secular, enlightened and liberal civilization, most clear in post-Christian areas but also in evidence in other parts of the world - potentially it is a universal world view though historically connected with the recent European explosion of trade, industrial production and conquest. Fundamentally, I think the question is ideological and philosophical while Huntington is more interested in contemporary analysis and is intellectually not very interesting, even faintly unpleasant. We have counter forces and ideas even within Europe and the USA (fundamentalist religion as most important of them).