Rudyard Kipling in his poem ‘The Ballad of East and West’ put it in his famous phrase: ‘East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.’
His idea was that the differences were too great to ever be fully reconcilable. The term reconcilable in turn stems from ‘reconciliation’, something two or more parties at war would do…
These modern times see the discussion going on just as forcefully, opinionated and to some extent just as wrongly prejudiced as Kipling was. He also was the poet laureate who coined the phrase of the ‘white man’s burden’. It’s another way of saying that ‘the West’ actually has an obligation and a duty to go elsewhere into the world and teach ‘them’ there what life should be like and how to think and feel.
The prejudice this idea is based on of course means: here (in Europe, the West, US) ‘we’ know all about it, are always right and could not accept another point of view because the truth is to be found here.
The ‘devil’ in such ideas lies in two things:
- That there exists one real truth only.
- That there are whole countries or regions filled with tribes or people who have to be taught what is right. In former times: to be religiously converted in a ‘mission’.
This is actually the same principle ‘the other side’ employs when influencing simpler minds into attacking and killing people, or go to war.
The propaganda for centuries has been the same:
Find an image in the ‘other’ that is harmful, problematic or even dangerous, paste it up, make it look shiny and ‘red’, present ‘the enemy’ in the most gruesome colours and then take up the weapons and march.
A very simple and core argument today is in judging Islamic terrorists by the fact that allegedly ‘they’ have the fierceness written into their religion, namely the Koran contains suras that explicitly ask its followers to go to war or kill. Although this is true – here comes the interesting and even more simple fact:
Terrorism sanctioned by the government is called just – war.
More importantly, if we take the human rights act and lay it beside the allegedly worthy, because peaceful bible, that is taken as proof that the West is worthier still, we may be astonished: the bible has many parts in it that are just as fierce, ‘bloody’ and dangerous to simple minds than any possible counterpart in the Koran. I just like to bring up the ‘eye for an eye’ phrase as an example.
If you want to understand and truthfully judge, how people think and live in a majority of a culture, you do not just take up their religious book and make an equation.
You start to understand this:
- Living, breathing and caring people are all around the world. They very often have very similar dreams about a peaceful life that contain love and reasonable wealth.
- The propaganda is the same – in basic fact – around the world, in words as well as in deeds. Using simple concepts and even simpler wording to ‘drive people crazy’ – and into torture or killing.
- Putting your own view of the world ‘up there’ as the only truth that has value and should be adhered to, namely be self-righteous, is the starting point of any narrow-mindedness and ultimately may lead to war just as easily.
If we want to really change the world, let’s start at our own door: open it to let different point-of-views in and thus different kinds of people from around the globe and try and understand, that many things can be differentiated and sometimes difficult – but they are certain to be exciting and fruitful, not to say beneficial too. Because variety is what makes life colourful!