Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #274 - Westlessness and Universalism
Westlessness is a real concern in many Western political circles. The assumption is that there always was one Western Ethos, which powered the Western Universalism. Lets explore.
“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul” ― John Muir
Why is there such a huge and damning chasm between liberalism and conservative Western ethos? Because the liberals are no longer fighting the clergy while keeping the theological framework intact.
They are fighting the very fundamentals of a cultural value system. Because, West and its liberal groups are no longer carved out of homogenous ideological substratum. They are being coopted by others.
While Western leaders unable to cope up with new powers like China leading the charge in a multi-polar world worry about loss of “Western value system” - which they call Westlessness, the fact is that what was primarily a theological unity is now being infiltrated with stealthy sophistication.
Today we will explore a fundamental global shift occuring as we speak.
‘Westlessness’ - the new mantra
Last year at the Munich Security Conference in Germany a new buzzword was made popular. Westlessness.
India’s Foreign Minister explained the challenges in front of us all in a very insightful way.
The special report at the end of the conference shared what the organizers meant by this term.
In its entire introduction, “West” has been used as an adjective which is assumed to be loaded with certain “values”. There is an implicit understanding amongst many players as to what it means, although what is meant by it and what the “West” has actually done has rarely ever been in sync.
And, in that, there is a certain arrogance of what we will call “Western Nationalism.” (or more appropriately Christian Nationalism, we will see why)
Now, we need to understand that entire Europe has never been similar. Countries had always been at loggerheads with each other. The Nordic countries, for example, were very different in ethos from say, Britain. Or even Germany.
What really made them “one” was the overpowering and annihilation of local traditions (Pagan?) by the church. Which, of course, split into many denominations. Keeping the mascot and main credo - Jesus and the stories from the Nicene creed - the same.
So, in a continent with countries that have had very different cultures, often adversarial, it is rather interesting that we have now come to bunch all of these different colors in one lump called “Western ethos.”
If every culture in the European countries - which have been the source of the West (including North America and Australia/NZ) - was different, and yet we are now pretending that there is one cultural ethos, then what is the thread that brought them together?
The fact is that Western ethos is a shorthand for Christian ethos. Not as Jesus may have defined it, but as Constantine and other fanatic believers defined Christianity that the world saw thereafter.
So if there are internal schisms in the “West,” what are they? And why?
In a very interesting comment from Viktor Mihály Orbán, we see that there is a dichotomy between liberalism and Christian ethos.
Until Europe and most Western countries were homogeneously Christian, even the liberal mindset was driven by the frameworks of Christian tradition. Just that the liberals wanted freedom from the clergy. That is why, even though Meditation, called Dhyan (one type of meditative technique) in India (the origin of Yoga) went to both Eastern countries and the Western ones, the reception and the treatment it got were very different.
Eastern societies took Dhyan and adapted it as Chan and Zen (Source)- which were very valid spiritual techniques with a local flavor. The West made it into a method that had to be sold in the market (yoga schools and certificates). Just as Jesus has been by the Church and Clergy all these years. Meditation wasn’t an internal exploration but an external enterprise.
Now, when the West has multi-cultural societies, some of whom (like the Islamic groups with petro-dollars) have inserted themselves into the liberal politics to take the concept of liberalism into a theologically different direction, suddenly the adversarial relationship between liberalism and conservative groups ( powered by Christianity) is not as benign as it was before.
It is fatally broken.
Because Liberalism is not just anti-clergy or even anti-Supremacism but simply pro a different type of Supremacism. Because of that it cannot be expected to be a support for democracy for very long.
It is now cursed with an extreme case of masochism.
To understand Westlessness, therefore, we need to go back into history and look at what its origins are.
Manifest Destiny, Exceptionalism and Universalism - a model for imperialist righteousness
When John O’Sullivan came up with the idea of a Manifest Destiny as the fundamental component of the larger American idea, he was laying down the basic structure for American Exceptionalism. Americans were the “chosen people.” Different. Unique. And born to lead.
The focus on democracy where everyone could have the right to vote (which did not really materialize until the 1960s) combined with the inherent power in the idea of America as the chosen way of life.
In many ways, it was an extension of the concepts that had found currency in the “Age of Reason” Or “Age of Enlightenment”. Concepts such as liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government, and separation of church and state were central to the battle that the groups who wanted to push their societies out of the ‘dark age” where Christian theology was the only way to understand reality. Scientists found the religious ways were inadequate and often counter to the natural scientific interpretation of reality.
The inclusion of these concepts from the credo initiated by the revolutionaries and thinkers of that era became the basis of American society.
These ideas found their way into the legal framework, specifically the laws governing Western societies, and in the larger conceptualization of global morality.
With the assumption, of course, that a certain way of thinking which emerged from the resistance to a very specific theological challenge - Christianity - which itself was a product of contempt for the more advanced (scientifically and artistically) Greco-roman civilization - could be a universal answer.
Catherine Nixey writes in “The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World” about how systematically the Greek schools, libraries and scholarship were destroyed. In the very first chapter Nixey starts off with the march of Damascius, the leader at the most famous Greek philosophical school called The Academy, which traced its lineage to Plato, along with his students from Athens. They were the last ones left. The rest had been mercilessly destroyed.
This was the darkening age that set on the entire European continent, which saw a reaction in the form of the “Age of Reason.” A reaction that assumed the Christian ethos to be the universal experience of the entire world. So, their concepts - the way they defined it - had to be accepted as “Universal” as well.
Even for civilizational societies which did not have to go through the devastating impact of a religion that had dominance via devastating force as its greatest accomplishment.
Just as Christianity destroyed the earlier Greek civilization with its own idea of god, scholarship, and way of looking at the world, the resistance to it, was no different in its conceptualization of what was ‘righteous.
Interestingly, Righteousness is a concept that is derived from Christian theology. It is “The quality of being morally right or justifiable.” (Source)
Only the Christian God, as the arbiter of morality, is the sole preserve of righteousness, as per theology in New Testament.
For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they have not submitted to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Source - Romans 10:3-13)
So basically faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the only real way to achieve righteousness. A righteousness that isn’t yours but imputed to you via Christ through a transaction - your sin imputed to him and his righteousness imputed to you.
God, Christian God, is, therefore, the only valid source of righteousness. A quality that humans neither possess nor deserve as per Christian theology. Except for Christ, who inherits it from God.
Righteousness is therefore either imputed or infused to humans.
This idea of being the only source of morality for the rest of mankind is at the heart of the idea of American Exceptionalism, which in its righteous avatar morphed into Western Universalism.
The world was given to understand for the last 300 years that nothing was “discovered” until the European world saw it for the first time. And everything that originated from the West was the only “modern” thing.
The rest was in darkness and inherently archaic.
Custom definitions of values - Us vs Them
Concepts like liberty, progress, toleration, fraternity, constitutional government, and democracy are not what they really mean or were defined as. They are how the Western Ecosystem defines for the rest of the world.
Why does one say that? Well, the current government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won record mandates in two elections in India. The last election was the largest democratic election in human history. By far! 900 million voters.
Yet, the National Endowment for Democracy (a front for CIA) writes in its magazine called “Democracy Digest” - Modi’s ‘majoritarian state’ threatens India’s multi-party democracy
Here are some figures showing how Modi won majority votes across different social castes/groups/religious minorities! And, yet, the Western “intellectuals” - whose hearts beat for democracy come up with fake narratives for the Western audience.
Or, the headlines like The Decay of Indian Democracy - saying why India is “no longer the land of the free.”
Some who realize that the majoritarian charge - stupid as it is in a parliamentary democracy - come up with another spin.
Recent data from the 2014 and 2019 elections suggest that the party’s deft use of Hindu nationalism played a key role in blunting caste divisions and securing landslide victories for the BJP. (Mounting Majoritarianism and Political Polarization in India)
[Please read this issue on what ‘representation’ really means - Issue #258 - Are we being represented?]
One never realized that removing social divisions was such a bad thing. When someone wins across different groups, who until then were sworn political adversaries (in how they voted), isn’t that something to respect?
It is like dinging Obama for winning votes from both Blacks and Whites because he appealed to Christian Nationalism! (Which he, if you were to use the benchmarks that US analysts use to evaluate a Hindu politician like Modi, would do by doing things like singing “Amazing Grace” or citing Bible!)
See how outrageous that charge is? But such an argument is fully acceptable against Modi - in the world that is paved with Western Universalism.
That Obama takes oath on a Bible, while Modi takes the oath of his office on the nation’s Constitution and not his religious book doesn’t absolve Modi of “Hindu extremism” and cast Obama as “Christian extremist” in the infinite wisdom of the moral busybodies in today’s journalism.
Democracy, you see, is not a universal concept. It is a slave of the Western Universalist. He can twist and turn it the way he wants. When he wants.
Universalism is a euphemism for coloniality really.
Moral constructs and Universalism
The story of Gautama the Buddha goes that in search of Truth, he had gone to every spiritual master and tried every way. Many were hard and extreme ones as well. He came to a point where he would consume just a few rice grains in many days. A large crowd of disciples had gathered behind him who would follow him faithfully and take care of him (as much as he would allow). One day, weak and thin from his hard sadhana, he came to a gentle stream, but could not walk much. He was being washed away by even that stream of water.
That is when he realized that he had achieved nothing in the spiritual realm and had lost even the basic human strength in the physical body. So, he sat down under a tree and decided to only get up when he had realized and experienced the Truth.
Shortly after that, it is said he was enlightened.
And, the first thing, when he could see everything the way it is, he did was to cook a huge feast for himself and eat it. All those disciples who had gathered around him thought he had gone mad and left him in disgust!
All that time, when he had nothing to give them, they were following him. When he really had something to share, when he was the Buddha - they left him.
Because spirituality of those who are in it for something other than realizing the truth is nothing more than deception.
Gospel of Matthew reads “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” It was this that set a young prosperous man named Antony to sell everything he had to live in a pigsty eating only bread, salt, and water. He scorned his body as he assaulted it and was sworn into a life of isolation, humility and self-abnegation.
St. Antony, as he is called, was living god’s purpose. His story moved many believers of his times for his sacrifice and asceticism.
Stories of asceticism have been known in the East as well. But the goal was not “treasure in heaven.” It was to experience the truth of this existence.
It was to go beyond the physical, not out of hatred for it, but because it was meant to be “maya” or illusion.
Why is the physicality called Maya? And, this needs to be understood. This physical world is NOT an illusion because it is not there. It is. So it would be foolish to even say that. The fact is that at the Quantum level, there is a wave (infinite universal consciousness). At the physical level, there is matter. The physicists tell us that the wave with its infinite possibilities collapses into one possibility that is visible as matter. It is called a Wave collapse. An infinite number of possibilities collapse into one possibility called this existence. What we see - this existence - is one of the infinite possibilities. So it is part of the truth of the reality, but not the truth itself. To believe that this existence (one out of infinite possibilities) is the ONLY truth is to negate Infinite minus One possibilities. So, this existence is not an illusion because it is not there. But because is a spectacularly insufficient version of the truth. And, in that, it is deceiving and false.
Asceticism of the East was in search for the Whole. Not any treasure. For, every treasure will be just one more illusion (one out of Infinite possibilities).
That is the most fundamental difference between moral constructs that the Western theological frameworks and Eastern mystical traditions were built upon.
Inherently different in approach.
In fact, morality itself is eschewed in the spiritual traditions of the East. For, it is a major roadblock to the realization of Truth. It is not without reason that those who have always promoted “Love thy neighbor” have wiped out native populations of at least three continents (North and South America and Australia/NZ)
And, it was this insufficient and self-serving edifice that the “enlightened” ones in Europe, post the dark age were fighting against.
With different beliefs but the same universalist framework!
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video corner: Ladies Room discussions?
One of the things that have always gone wrong in a man’s world is - portrayal of women. It is very stereotypical. This video was insightful as it was hilarious! Women are portrayed in a ladies’ room annoyingly as talking about men. Characters written by, well, men of course!
Let us see what women actually discuss in that room when they are alone together.
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