Oriental Osmosis of Occidental – Part (4)
Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures
– Cesar Chavez
Culture wars appear to be taking on a global dimension with increasing globalization. A culture with intertwining borders & languages, a culture that transcends geo-political national boundaries…can emerge in today’s world. Digging into the evolution of the cultures, the ancient Greeks and Romans took much from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and India. These interchanges were not signs of the poverty of their culture but its openness. Western or European culture has a base of Judeo-Christian religious and Greco-Roman intellectual values, on a diversity of predominately Indo-European people their languages and beliefs. Out of this arose European art and culture, and the developments of modern science and technology.
Occidental culture therefore is a polyglot affair, put together from different sources over time, and hardly a pure breed of any type. On the other hand, Oriental culture more or less has an original flavour as in India, have had their own rational philosophy much like the Greek, as we can see in the Upanishads, integration of science & philosophy by Aryabhatta & Brahmagupta. The Buddhist schools also similarly emphasize reason and dialectic but combined with ethical and meditation disciplines.
In fact Greek philosophy like Plato, Aristotle & Pythagoras has many affinities with the Hindu. Similarly Greek medicine and astronomy has much in common with Ayurvedic medicine and the astronomical systems of India. The cultural background from which science emerged via the Greeks therefore has more in common with the original religions and with the Hindu and the Buddhist that the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is a culture of hybridization, a culture that finds its identity in diversity, a culture in which otherness is an organic dimension.
The current politico-economic division is pertinent to encumber the tendency towards universalism. Probably elucidates why this tendency is skewed more towards interests-oriented than values-oriented. The focus is on the market rather than on the human being. Globalismis therefore, here primarily economic and political. As such it cannot be a globalism of equity and equality. Paradoxically, everything indicates that it is indeed a hegemonic globalism.
This is because values-oriented universalism, based as it is on diversity, on dynamic and continuous change, threatens in a fundamental way the interests-oriented globalism, its proponents, their thought, and their methods of operation. Thus, we are seeing how a melting and tutelage replacing diversity and harmony. The West dominates political globalism in the name of the authority of decision; it dominates economic globalism in the name of the authority of wealth, and it dominates cultural globalism in the name of the authority of knowledge. The moot point is where is the scope of magnanimity of the Western civilization to embrace the best of Eastern civilization?
In an enlightened articulation by Daniel Rondeau on the French writer Pierre Loti; where Loti feared for the cities of the East which were threatened by “the foul blowing of pit-coal coming from the West” with the “flow of tourists,” “the cities devoured by that “great octopus called civilization.” In the same articulation Daniel Rondeau refers to what Paul Morand later wrote; “Perhaps a day will come when there will be no longer East or West but only one wretched nation on this planet.”
Today we can all see how this blowing is expanding and intensifying, how the wretchedness of the East-West…. is also expanding and intensifying.