We need a new west.
There's no better time to rethink some of our common assumptions than now. We disparage other cultures for female genital mutilation, and as heinous as it is, we dismiss male genital mutilation in this country because we suppose we have a better reason to do so. While we're busy fighting to keep people out who would prefer a clit-cutting community or even just arguing with people who think that letting them in is a gesture of tolerance, perhaps we will take a minute to examine just what it is we're defending.
The following are some common precepts about western life, practices and ideas which are as enduring as they are unquestioned and ignored as often as questioned:
￼1) Male Circumcision Is About Hygiene. Male circumcision may have turned into a hygienic issue to justify itself, but slicing your buttocks down to your anus can be argued to be hygienic as well. To say that it is about hygiene begs the question; is there a moral hygiene?
￼2) The West Ended Slavery. The west merely rebranded it so that organic life and everything in the orbit of politics could partake of its fruits. Libertarians might be keen on the idea of maintaining that taxation is theft, but this is only because they consider everything through the register of coercion; violence and non-violence, so that reality becomes an exhausting ethical war. They cling to 'natural rights,' taking for granted that we have all been hard won as property by conquerors who set out to win society over as a mass slave camp long ago. To say that 'We no longer want to be property' is a very different thing from saying, 'We are NOT property.' The Communists figured this out. But for them, they added an extra sentimental feature and said, 'We no longer want to be in the unjust position of being property.' They allow themselves bloody revolution to free themselves from this perceived slavery to capitalism, and in doing so, become slaves to the good of the commune. Libertarians are little better at this, for if one were to take their conclusions to the end, we would basically have Ikea-like secular monarchies, in which landlords are the absolute rulers of what happens on the plot of land they could blackmail, bargain or barter their way into attaining. The west simply became the best at hiding its various forms of slavery within itself. It hid them in virus-like ideologies which affirmed the basic selfishness of the masses.
￼3) The West Has A Strong Moral Character. The history of western morality has been uneven and apocalyptic in its moral projections. The west, ever stratifying the mania of shame, killed all its kings and gods and thought it could get the same deeds done with signed papers and ballot boxes. When these authorities proved facile, the west stopped believing in quality altogether by robbing everything of its essence. The west then fell susceptible to every numbing agent which allowed it to forget that it didn't have a purpose.
4) ￼The West Has Produced Many Great Artists, Thinkers and Heroes. When I look through history, I see many wests, and often, many wests dueling for supremacy at one time. I see many institutions, individuals, courts, states, orders, groups and schools trying to maintain some sense of belonging in the world.
I should say up front that I love the west. But let us do away with this folly of some sacred west which must manifest its destiny in the course of history. Unlike Noam Chomsky, I do not think that the west is far more evil than other countries or that it created terrorism. Not even the Clintons or Obama, Bush or Trump 'created' terrorists any more than you can create a barista. Only individuals can display the capacity for behaviors we would be inclined to call 'evil.'
If I love the west, it is not because it cuts less skin off, or because it makes me feel like a good person. I love it because I love the life I've had here. I see no need to endorse its people, any institutions, its linguistic structures, its medical and legal practices, or what it does in the bedroom. It simply is.
People can say that the west is the best until Socrates manifests himself somewhere in the fog of a digital singularity, but it doesn't say anything save that life can be ever suspended for the memory of a few choice exceptions.
By all means, love the west if you like, but I'll hear no idiocy about preserving our 'way of life.'
We need to think bigger than that.
We need to make the west better, rather than making it, simply, not worse.
We need, perhaps, more and more wests.