Defining references to the West

A recent response to the post ‘Fossil-fuelled transport’ includes the reflection: “I do find the opposition between bad western technology and good eastern technology to be a bit wide of the mark . . . Surely the distinction is between clean and dirty technologies, not eastern and western ones.”

 The phrase used was ‘Western industrial paradigm’ – which is surely an accurate term for the theory behind the industrial practices introduced by the British and later the Americans [in the case of the Green Revolution and now GM]. 

The ‘opposition’ is between these and the low carbon Indian practice displaced.  

Some years ago I expressed discomfort at Winin Pereira’s use of the term Western, and from that time onwards he qualified it as follows: 

The term ”West” it must be clearly understood, is not used in a limited geographical sense. In our global society a formidable, entrenched, well organised elite promotes or substantially benefits from installed, imposed Western political, economic, industrial and military systems.

This bloc is referred to throughout this book as the “West”. It includes the essential collaborators in the Two Thirds World who promote and willingly depend on the Western cultural system with its particular aims, objects and the means used to achieve them.  

Excluded from the term “West” are the powerless in all countries ruthlessly impoverished by these unholy alliances, those living in the geographical West who reject its values and practices and individuals working outside these systems who fight against such exploitation.

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One response to “Defining references to the West

  1. CHSUK Feedback

    A thoughtful comment from a reader in Balsall Heath UK:

    The problem with ‘Western’ as a term for destructive and dirty technologies is that it may conceal the real progress in western countries at ‘cleaning up our act’. There is an energy efficiency revolution taking off in Western economies, which needs to be exported.

    Also one has to consider the big contribution to the global environmental problem of traditional practices such counting cattle and children as wealth, burning dung, burning forest, flooding rice paddies, etc. With modern size of populations, the methods of subsistence farming can be disastrous.

    The bicycle, the electric light, the phone, the laptop, the modern hospital; all products of the western industrial paradigm at some point.

    We may be doomed to have to judge every case on its merits

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