Saturday, 7 April 2012

Has the West Triumphed… Or Not?

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“Like it or not (and much of the world often has not), for the moment, the West has triumphed.” What exactly does this quote mean? What does ‘for the moment” mean? What is ‘triumphed’? Who exactly is ‘the West’? To begin with the West begins in Europe, specifically Western Europe. When colonization begins, in the late 1400’s to 1500’s the West becomes America too. Before this there was not really a modern civilization. As Europe spread, so did the West. Now what does ‘for the moment mean’? It means that the West will not triumph forever. There was a time, believe it or not, when the Chinese were the ‘triumphing’ country or civilization. In a few hundred years there is a good chance that the West will no longer be the triumphing civilization. What is ‘triumph’? Triumphing can be anything from winning wars, inventing machines that make the world better, having a good economy, or even just having your people happy. All of this the West has done at one point or another. This quote is saying that the West is essentially in control of the world. Yes, we like this but the rest of the world doesn’t. lkjadflgkjdf

In 41 BCE Pericles made an oration (a speech) to the people of Athens. It was praising their system of government. This outlined what Athenian democracy was like, and we have used many of their ideas in our own democracy. Athens, Greece had the first step in Western culture of creating democracy; a government in which the people vote for who they want in office, or to lead them. Athens’ version of democracy was not the same as ours. They didn’t vote for people to represent them, they voted directly for the issues that affected their society. This type of democracy is called direct. One thing that not everyone knows is that only white land-owning males born in Athens could vote. In the US we have what is called “indirect” democracy. We vote directly for governor and representatives. We have representatives that vote on issues for us. The one thing, which is recent, is all man and women 18 and older can vote. This is one of many important triumphs of the West.

Over time the quality of government seems to go downhill for a little while. After the Roman Empire falls, everything in it seems to get lost, including government. In mid-evil (medieval) Europe they had a system called the feudal system where there was a king, who had lords, which controlled the lesser lords, who controlled the knights who then had control over the peasants and townspeople. Everyone in this society had someone in control of them, except the king; everyone also was in control of someone. The lords also had vassals, who had serfs who were basically slaves to him. Serfs would live on their vassals fief (estate) and in return for a place to live would have to give the vassal the food they grew. This is much like how some of the slaves were in the US before the Civil War. Around 148 Karl Marx came along introducing ideas which were the beginnings of communism. Lucky for us it didn’t catch for long in the West. He suggested idea where there would be public ownership of all land and all other means of production. He also talked about the “haves” and the “have nots” and how they never get along. He believed that capitalism would drag people into poverty until they rebelled. This did no happen, people actually got more money, and had better living conditions then they had in a while. Now all the countries in the West, except Cuba, are nice happy democracies, or we think they are. It took a while to develop as far as it did, and I think the West has triumphed politically, but went backwards during the medieval times.

For thousands of years people have worshiped different objects, whether they were animals, or gods, they all had a significant meaning. In Ancient Greece they had religion where they worshiped many gods. This type of religion is not understood today as well as it was back then. We sometimes find it hard to understand how worshiping more then one god would work, that’s why we have one. Christianity, the largest religion in the world, was into the Western world as an accepted religion by 00 AD. Roman Emperor Constantine began to accept Christianity in the Roman Empire around 1, and by 5 it was the official religion of the Roman World. Until 1 Christians in the Roman Empire were persecuted because they would not worship the emperor. Once Christianity was accepted, it began to flourish. 1000 years after Christianity began to flourish people started losing faith in the church. During the Renaissance people started to think for themselves apart from the teachings of the church. Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press and in 1455 he printed a complete copy of the Bible. Having the Bible available to the general public made the public able to interpret it how they wanted, not how the church did. This led to a reformation of the Catholic Church. The most famous reformer was Martin Luther. Luther had beliefs about how he thought the Catholic Church should be, and he showed this in 1517 Luther tacked the 5 thesis, saying how he thought the church should be, to the door of the Wittenberg castle church in Germany. This led to a split in the Catholic Church; the Catholics and the ‘Lutherans’, which were the churches that followed Luther. This was the beginning of the second biggest Christian denomination in the world Lutheran. Since the Reformation there have been other forms of religion that have become popular, but they have almost all been some form of Christianity. The West has triumphed; they have a successful religion, which is all around the world, with over billion people part of it. There are 1 billion Muslims around the world and about 15 million Jews.

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Where was the computer giant of today started? Where was the printing press invented? Where were the telephone and the telegraph invented? Where were the automobile and plane invented? The answer is the West. Alexander Graham Bell, Samuel Morse, Johann Gutenberg, Henry Ford and the Wright brothers were all from the West. Things are being invented constantly, but where were a lot of our important items we use daily invernted? In the West! These things being invented have greatly affected our countries. They have boosted our economy and allowed for people to do things they had never been able to do before. We were the first to switch from agriculture to industry. This happened during the Industrial Revolution. This is when the industries started to soar and so did the economy. This happened because countries had other goods to export, and luckily enough, other countries needed these things. Because of this people got money and became wealthy, and the wealth has passed on from generation to generation, which is part of the reason we are the wealthiest countries in the world. You don’t see people in Afghanistan, Africa or even our close neighbors down in South America living in huge houses like we do. We are lucky to have the economic system we have to keep our families supported. Now of course there are the down-falls like the depression and other post-war economic downfalls; but those happen to everyone. We have some of the wealthiest people living in the West, and are the wealthiest area per capita. Yes, we have triumphed. But… this if for the moment. Japan has some of the leading edge technology at this point; most of the new technological gadgets are coming out of Japan. Are we losing our placement on technological advancement?

Is there any way to triumph culturally? I would say there isn’t. We are the dominating culture in the world, but, we have not triumphed. Culture really has to do with how people live there lives. There is also a diverse culture in the West. The US is a lot different culturally then Europe. We eat high fat foods, large servings and are always moving. We try to fit too much into our schedules, and it’s hard to get it all done. Europeans live a much more laid back, lower fat, sit back and enjoy life kind of lifestyle. The culture and lifestyle of the West has changed a lot over the centuries. The west used to be totally agricultural and people lived on farms or around them and lived where they could easily get the necessities for life. After the Industrial Revolution the West turned much more industrial with people living in cities and near cities, so that they could get jobs in factories. Now most people live where they live because of jobs; that is what forces a lot of people to be where they are.

The world is not 100 percent democratic. 0 percent of the world is still communist. So is there any way we can say we triumphed socially when our social structure is based after democracy? During the Enlightenment there were two guys Calvin (Locke) and Hobbes both with ideas about human nature and society. The little boy believed that everyone had the natural right to life, health, liberty and possessions. This is what our Declaration of Independence is based after. The tiger believed that everyone was evil and that you could not trust each other so you had to have a neutral party or leader at all times. Unfortunately there are still societies around the world that believe this. Social structure around the world is very different, some groups have their social structure set up for farming and/or do stuff around the weather or other variable things like that. We have also not triumphed socially because if we had then there would not be all the oppression in the world that there is, and everyone would be granted their natural rights of life health liberty and possessions.

The West has not triumphed, but it has come close. It has hit its peak and is coming back down. “Like it or not (and much of the world often has not), for the moment, the West has triumphed.” So, most of the world must not like it, but if we haven’t really triumphed, then what is there not to like? We haven’t really triumphed, but we haven’t failed either. The West didn’t not approach triumph in the best way. We took over countries and kill people that weren’t ‘perfect’. We have won many wars, but have also killed and been killed. We are no where from close to being perfect, but then again, no one is. So for now I can say the West is in the lead, but who knows… in a couple years, it might be the other way around.

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