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Westernization

Bush’s remarks on Middle East Democracy are quite fortuitous, since I wanted to talk some more about that war of civilizations thing. Bush is about to say, or said, that the changes we want to see in the Middle East are not “synonymous with Westernization.”

But that’s really the heart of the matter. The thing we call Western culture (and if ever there was a loose definition, there it is) is immensely viral. It spreads. It is intensely aggressive. Give us a new market, and we’ll shoulder our way into it if it all possible. McDonalds on every corner, etc., etc.

Is our civilization at war with Islam? In the sense that it’s doing its damnedest to spread into the Middle East, you bet. In the sense that we’re directing military activities which include deliberate cultural propaganda, not at all. However, it is wise to remain aware that there’s something pretty threatening about Western culture from the outside.

But this aggressiveness is not characterized as war except by extremists on that side of the fence, in the same way that nobody believes we’re at war with drugs except rhetoricians. (Parenthetically, do you think Stephen King worries about the War on Terror breaking down his door? Probably not.) It’s a conflict, but it’s not a war.

It’s also not one I feel terribly bad about. Free speech is one of my most cherished values. It’s not my job, or anyone’s job, to make people stop watching crap Hollywood movies. If a culture wants to compete, it should take a page from India and Bollywood. If you don’t like what people are reading, write more relevant books.

There’s a pretty fierce argument lurking somewhere around here about the aforementioned McDonalds and Wal*Mart. This is, of course, the monopoly problem. I am going to avoid it on the grounds that “Western culture” was spreading before either behemoth strode the global stage; I am also going to cite the trend of various nations to eschew Microsoft in their governmental software purchases. It is not as easy as it should be to compete with the big American countries… but it’s not impossible, either.

6 Comments

  1. t.rev t.rev

    A very, very sketchy comment regarding ‘Westernization’ and category errors:

    POP QUIZ:

    Does introduction of antibiotic drugs count as ‘Westernization’?

    Does introduction of any system capable of reliably providing antibiotic drugs to individuals count as ‘Westernization’? If your answer to this is different from your answer to the previous question, explain why.

    Does introduction of a self-supporting and stable system, i.e. able to secure and support personnel, equipment, and distribution systems on an ongoing basis, capable of reliably providing antibiotic drugs to individuals count as ‘Westernization’? If your answer to this is different from your answer to the previous question, explain why.

    Does introduction of a self-supporting and stable system, i.e. able to secure and support personnel, equipment, and distribution systems on an ongoing basis, capable of reliably providing other types of necessary goods to individuals count as ‘Westernization’? If your answer to this is different from your answer to the previous question, explain why.

    Does introduction of a self-supporting and stable system, i.e. able to secure and support personnel, equipment, and distribution systems on an ongoing basis, capable of reliably providing desired goods to individuals count as ‘Westernization’? If your answer to this is different from your answer to the previous question, explain why.

    I call this ‘sketchy’ because I’m not prepared to give serious answers to most of these questions myself. You can probably guess my point, though.

  2. Damn it, rev, you need a blog.

    I was going to actually ask if I could hoist your previous comments up as an entry, cause I wanted everyone to read ’em.

  3. t.rev t.rev

    I don’t blog because if I had an actual blog, I would never write anything on it, and then it would become a dark presence hanging over my head, actively discouraging me from writing. I only seem to be able to write long, coherent statements when I don’t intend to. This is one reason I mud.

    What I need, as I was told quite a few times in college, is a Boswell.

    And along those lines, by all means, hoist away. You might want to use the version I put up on your livejournal, because it’s a little better edited and I added a more focused conclusion.

  4. t.rev t.rev

    And, er, I seem to have referred to the ‘Clash of Nations’, while the topic of discussion appears to be the ‘Clash of Civilizations’. If I had a blog, I could edit that, I suppose.

  5. t.rev t.rev

    BONUS QUESTION:

    The first antibiotic was discovered by a Frenchman. Would you call France a ‘Westernized’ country? Why or why not? What sorts of self-sustaining and stable systems does France have? What sorts of systems have they introduced in other nations?

  6. Incidentally, I think a reasonable case could be made that Wal*Mart cannot be defeated at all, let alone as easily as Microsoft can. Doesn’t change your point, though – Wal*Mart doesn’t create the problem, and getting rid of Wal*Mart doesn’t eradicate the problem.

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