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Opinion

Is the East Becoming Westernized?

The east-west dichotomy is the exclusive labeling of ideals and concepts as "either eastern, or western" (I.e. "the traditional east" and "the modern west").

Many sociologists and historians categorize societies to four: 1) The Islamic or Arab World, referring to the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of South Asia 2) The Brahman World, referring to the traditional Hindu societies of the Far East and major parts of the Indian subcontinent 3) The Confucius World, referring to the Far East and Southeast Asia, and 4) The Western World, referring to Europe, parts of the Oceania, and the Americas.

Generally, the first three societies are collectively referred to as "the east" and put in contrast with "the west." There is also the Eurocentric way of looking at such categorization: "the west and the rest."

The east-west dichotomy is the exclusive labeling of ideals and concepts as "either eastern, or western" (I.e. "the traditional east" and "the modern west").

Proponents of an east-west dichotomy believe that there are essential differences in the way of thinking, culture, society, and structures of the east and the west—particularly the Islamic world and the western world—arguing, therefore, that the two worlds will inevitably be in an ideological clash (Samuel Huntington's theory of Cash of Civilizations, for instance). Such way of thinking puts the east in contrast to the west and claims that there is something inherently irreconcilable about the two.

Because of such dichotomy, many believe that concepts of the Enlightenment era such as "modernism," "modernity," and "reasoning" are exclusive western achievements. Hence, in many cases, "modernization" is replaced with "westernization."Many in the west consider themselves the gatekeepers of science, modernity, and social advancement. And thanks to such orientalist propaganda, the east stays away from all ideas labeled as western in order to avoid being subject to imperialism.This is also a reason for the reactions against ideas such as "democracy" in the east.

Moreover, since the human journey toward enlightenment is considered an exclusively western phenomenon, many westerners have incorrect and biased images of the east. For instance, eastern women are patronized and considered "weak," "passive," and "backwards." The west thinks that eastern women need the west—and of course, its ideals of democracy, human rights, and freedom—to save them. Even some western feminists discuss eastern women's issues in a very condescending tone. These orientalist ideas assume that the east has always violated ideals that the west has safeguarded. Many are surprised that an eastern woman from the 10th century could have written poetry about concepts of rights, freedom and liberty, the very concepts that are now labeled as western.

It is, indeed, true that many ideals have emerged and/or developed in the west. However, to call all these ideals exclusively western—and irreconcilable with the east-- is unfair. Cyrus the Great was the first to bring up the notion of human rights. Should we, now, consider human rights an eastern—even better: Persian—idea? We cannot. The idea diffused transnationally, it evolved and it became what it is today, a global ideal.

Additionally, one cannot ignore the socio-political, economic, and regional circumstances that allowed the west to reach the Enlightenment movement at the time that it did. It is important to consider post-colonial scholarship and the role of Colonial Europe in the emergence of the Enlightenment. Courtesy of the European colonialism, cheap labor—as a result of slavery, the access to natural resources of foreign lands, and the socio-cultural environment of the time allowed for breakthroughs in Europe. Colonial Europe—the west— had the opportunity to advance as the east struggled to stay alive.

In their journey toward enlightenment, people everywhere yearn for certain ideals considered noble when they find the opportunity. In this journey, every society takes its time to advance and evolve; ideals emerge, expand, change, and diffuse.

In the 18th century, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her speech "the Rights of Woman and of the Citizen" as a direct response to the French "the Rights of Man and of the Citizen."Many ridiculed her. Very few people agreed with her thoughts of equality. She was one of the first to bring the idea of women's equality in front of men who in no way and form accepted women as their equals. Now that the eastern women have finally got the chance to fight for the same ideals, they are labeled as "westernized," as if wanting equal rights for all global citizens is a western phenomenon only.

Arguing that certain ideals are exclusively eastern or western creates and cultivates prejudices and stereotypes and forms an ideological divide, leading to bigotry, racism, and superiority complexes.In today's evolving, globalized world of diffusion and transnational spread of ideas, there is no room for labeling ideas as either this, or that.

The east is not becoming "westernized." It is finally getting the chance to evolve and move forward in its journey toward modernity and change. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge and highlight that: 1)The ideals of democracy, modernity, human rights, and such are not "western."2) There is no inherent irreconcilability between the east and the aforementioned ideals.3) There is notjust one successful model of modern ideals. For instance, asserting that an American-style democracy will be successful everywhere is problematic.4) The east should not label prominent ideals as foreign/western and work toward creating its own models of them.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed are those of its author and not representative of TOLOnews.

Opinion

Is the East Becoming Westernized?

The east-west dichotomy is the exclusive labeling of ideals and concepts as "either eastern, or we

Thumbnail

The east-west dichotomy is the exclusive labeling of ideals and concepts as "either eastern, or western" (I.e. "the traditional east" and "the modern west").

Many sociologists and historians categorize societies to four: 1) The Islamic or Arab World, referring to the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of South Asia 2) The Brahman World, referring to the traditional Hindu societies of the Far East and major parts of the Indian subcontinent 3) The Confucius World, referring to the Far East and Southeast Asia, and 4) The Western World, referring to Europe, parts of the Oceania, and the Americas.

Generally, the first three societies are collectively referred to as "the east" and put in contrast with "the west." There is also the Eurocentric way of looking at such categorization: "the west and the rest."

The east-west dichotomy is the exclusive labeling of ideals and concepts as "either eastern, or western" (I.e. "the traditional east" and "the modern west").

Proponents of an east-west dichotomy believe that there are essential differences in the way of thinking, culture, society, and structures of the east and the west—particularly the Islamic world and the western world—arguing, therefore, that the two worlds will inevitably be in an ideological clash (Samuel Huntington's theory of Cash of Civilizations, for instance). Such way of thinking puts the east in contrast to the west and claims that there is something inherently irreconcilable about the two.

Because of such dichotomy, many believe that concepts of the Enlightenment era such as "modernism," "modernity," and "reasoning" are exclusive western achievements. Hence, in many cases, "modernization" is replaced with "westernization."Many in the west consider themselves the gatekeepers of science, modernity, and social advancement. And thanks to such orientalist propaganda, the east stays away from all ideas labeled as western in order to avoid being subject to imperialism.This is also a reason for the reactions against ideas such as "democracy" in the east.

Moreover, since the human journey toward enlightenment is considered an exclusively western phenomenon, many westerners have incorrect and biased images of the east. For instance, eastern women are patronized and considered "weak," "passive," and "backwards." The west thinks that eastern women need the west—and of course, its ideals of democracy, human rights, and freedom—to save them. Even some western feminists discuss eastern women's issues in a very condescending tone. These orientalist ideas assume that the east has always violated ideals that the west has safeguarded. Many are surprised that an eastern woman from the 10th century could have written poetry about concepts of rights, freedom and liberty, the very concepts that are now labeled as western.

It is, indeed, true that many ideals have emerged and/or developed in the west. However, to call all these ideals exclusively western—and irreconcilable with the east-- is unfair. Cyrus the Great was the first to bring up the notion of human rights. Should we, now, consider human rights an eastern—even better: Persian—idea? We cannot. The idea diffused transnationally, it evolved and it became what it is today, a global ideal.

Additionally, one cannot ignore the socio-political, economic, and regional circumstances that allowed the west to reach the Enlightenment movement at the time that it did. It is important to consider post-colonial scholarship and the role of Colonial Europe in the emergence of the Enlightenment. Courtesy of the European colonialism, cheap labor—as a result of slavery, the access to natural resources of foreign lands, and the socio-cultural environment of the time allowed for breakthroughs in Europe. Colonial Europe—the west— had the opportunity to advance as the east struggled to stay alive.

In their journey toward enlightenment, people everywhere yearn for certain ideals considered noble when they find the opportunity. In this journey, every society takes its time to advance and evolve; ideals emerge, expand, change, and diffuse.

In the 18th century, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her speech "the Rights of Woman and of the Citizen" as a direct response to the French "the Rights of Man and of the Citizen."Many ridiculed her. Very few people agreed with her thoughts of equality. She was one of the first to bring the idea of women's equality in front of men who in no way and form accepted women as their equals. Now that the eastern women have finally got the chance to fight for the same ideals, they are labeled as "westernized," as if wanting equal rights for all global citizens is a western phenomenon only.

Arguing that certain ideals are exclusively eastern or western creates and cultivates prejudices and stereotypes and forms an ideological divide, leading to bigotry, racism, and superiority complexes.In today's evolving, globalized world of diffusion and transnational spread of ideas, there is no room for labeling ideas as either this, or that.

The east is not becoming "westernized." It is finally getting the chance to evolve and move forward in its journey toward modernity and change. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge and highlight that: 1)The ideals of democracy, modernity, human rights, and such are not "western."2) There is no inherent irreconcilability between the east and the aforementioned ideals.3) There is notjust one successful model of modern ideals. For instance, asserting that an American-style democracy will be successful everywhere is problematic.4) The east should not label prominent ideals as foreign/western and work toward creating its own models of them.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed are those of its author and not representative of TOLOnews.

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