I found the following quote online the other day:
"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do."
-- Samuel P. Huntington
At first I thought this was a great quote. It had a nice lefty ring to it that tries to demonize our agressiveness and drop-kick our moral arrogance into the dirt.
Then I realized it was a bunch of shit.
First of all, its rather rediculous to try to separate "ideas, values, and religion" from the behavior that these beliefs induce (in this case "organized violence"). The West's (Europe's) ability to apply organized violence is a direct outcome of the beliefs held in Industrial Age/ Imperial Europe. The success of the econo-military campaigns that brought European ideals to the rest of the world (a process still in progress, of course) is a direct result of the ideas and values of the people.
And organized violence is just a mean-spirited word for human behavior. Our species, for better or worse, naturally falls prey to a cognition that defines the world and our place in it via violence. Combined with our innate social proclivities, and there you go: instant organized violence.
It's no coincidence that our greatest technological advances are byproducts of organized violence; it's what we do best. The West won precisely because of our ideas and values. Of course it wasn't a democratic consideration of those values and they weren't accepted/ didn't come to dominate because they were inherently more attractive to the people of the world, but make no mistake: Europe dominates the world because of the way that Europeans and their ilk from the last 500 years think.
Organized violence isn't the exclusive domain of Europeans and their decendants. There was plenty of violence throughout the world prior to the colonial exodus of the Europeans. It was just that, due to the patchwork network of countries and monarchs in 16th Century Europe who were constantly at war with each other, the Europeans are the best at fighting. Remember how warfare drive technological advancement? Constant warfare among the Europeans (along with a few fortuitous inventions and discovers and a nice geographic hand to play) led to them developing highly organized and technologically advanced armies and techniques of warfare, economics, and social advances.
A glance at the status of the world leading states 500 years ago would suggest that the Chinese should rule the world today, with Europe at the bottom. China had all the technology and knowledge, from ships to maps to astronomy to explosives. Europe was a bunch of backward illiterate yoinks going nowhere fast. The Americas had larger empires than Europe, but they never got into the whole metal thing. Africa had bad geography, a north-south orientation that spans latitudes. This made it harder to export technology and methods to different climates. Even travel was difficult with the desert in the way.
Then the Europeans started fighting and getting better at it. Population and economic growth drove them from their homelands in search of new places to export people to and markets to exploit.
And that is why the West won. It didn't have anything to do with an inherent attractiveness of their ways of thinking and believing, but it sure as hell had everything to do with what they thought and believed (and knew, for that matter).
So that quote is full of shit, no matter how attractive it may seem to some at this point in history. The site I got the quote from is kind of intriguing. Apparently a blog written by someone inside Iraq. After skimming through it, I'm skeptical, but I don't know why. I guess I just feel that Iraq is too destitute to support a blogger like that.Posted by Nutrimentia at May 16, 2003 08:46 PM | TrackBack