Western Identity — Ours and Theirs…Part I


The attempt here is to discuss the Westernized Identity over multiple articles. In the beginning we discuss the relevance of this for the Non-Westerner, specifically the Indian. Then we discuss external, i.e. Geographical Sociopolitical & Military aspects of it. The idea of “The West” is so implicit in any discussion, that we forget there is a simple and well-documented history behind the construction of “Western” identity. Much of this series of articles will try to look at a broad overview of this history, i.e. the history of the interaction of ‘The West” with “The Rest”.

Though the primary interest here is of the interaction of India with the West, it is necessary to place this in the context of the West’s own worldview, i.e. its idea of how it (The West) has interacted with Russia, the “Islamic World” the “Far East”, and it’s own claimed Graeco-Judaic heritage. On this subject, I have found the lectures of British historian Arnold J Tonybee to be invaluable in their conciseness and clarity, and will be using them as a sort of “Skeleton” to frame the discussion. The 1952 vintage lectures do miss out the last fifty years or so, but the broad framework he lays out has not changed enough to affect his historical points.

Also, his views, expressed when the dominance of the West was still uncontested, reflect the confident and explicit assertions typical of even the most well meaning Westerner when he talks of the Rest, and they are free of the “politically correct” obfuscations by Westerners in today’s environment. An example could be the West of today calling itself the “International Community” when it attempts to enforce its will.

In later parts of the article, his views, basically the standard Western views, are contrasted for balance with important non-Western perspectives, for example those of Native American leaders, and of course ideas from Indian History & Culture.

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