Chapter 15 – A Copernican Revolution
Looking at ‘World History’ – on the one side the rational, incredible West who ends all other ‘histories’ and promotes the universal language, English, and on the other side the intuitive, incredible East who closes the historic circuit and integrates the universal language, English – in this century, the 21st, it is nevertheless the East who holds a considerable advantage: It is the bigger phenomenon.
Let us make no mistake: communism and capitalism were made for scale and the masses, and scale and masses are now in Asia. So are numbers. So are the world’s greatest challenges such as economic stability, food shortages, pollution, environmental destruction, population explosions, youth bulges, and terrorism, all things literally crying out for more (global) attention. The bigger – or, as we talk about history, shall we say the greater the phenomenon a theory describes is, the greater that theory becomes. In the past, great phenomena often happened in isolation and did not automatically call for global attention. For example, the intellectual output of India is legendary; her civilization is older than the Greeks (c. 3300 BC); India taught the West how to count; it conquered and dominated China, Korea, and Japan culturally (I am talking, of course, about the influence of Buddhism) “for twenty centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border” (Hu Shi [胡适], 1891-1962), it was the source of enlightenment for Europe, and the main source of German philosophy in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.Similar,China during the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1421) accounted for roughly 25-30% of the world’s GDP, while the combined GDP of the European nations was only close to 20% (Needham, 1963; Maddison, 2006; Spence, 2001). One could say then, thatChina andIndia had indeed been ‘great phenomena’. Once the ‘potential’ of those ‘great phenomena’, those two great Eastern giants, had echoed in the West, that indeed could have been one among the most important reasons why the small European states – with all their trials of Eastern expansion, colonialism, and imperialism – always seemed to have a greater interest in Asia – its technologies, wealth, land and resources – than it was the other way round, but this, of course, is just speculation.
What is not a speculation is thatEuropenever turned enough attention to were it gets more complicated: the religious, ethical, and sociological wisdom of the East. Or better, that religious, ethical, and sociological wisdom that had been created by the East which had not been created by the West. Today, times have changed, the great wheel of fortune has turned, andChinaandIndiaand the other Asian states provide golden opportunities for theoretical innovations, the creation of new values, more than in any other part of the world (Lin, 2006). Thus, the 21st century is very likely to be the century of the “Chinese economist” and the “Indian computer scientists”, both countries already producing more university graduates than the United States or Europe, which, of course, themselves heavily rely on tens of thousands of Asian graduates and those priceless connections these graduates will mean for the future competitiveness of the Western societies.
Having established that Asia, in this century, constitutes the greater phenomenon than Europe orAmerica, why then should someone think that the Chinese culture or any other East-Asian culture is the sorry victim of westernization?
On the contrary, isn’t it the case that not the West but the East is now nurturing (the content) of ‘World History’? Where are today’s Western politicians, historians, men-of-letters who stand up to the truth? ‘World History’ is becoming genuine not European, (let alone American, which is but an extension of the Eurasian people’s achievements). Are Western leaders afraid that their countrymen are not mature enough to face the ‘other humanity’, the East, unless they are assured it is an inferior one?
Chinahad encountered numerous invasions, like the Liao (907-1125 AD), Jin (during Northern Song, 1115-1234) or Jurchen, Yuan (1271-1368) or Mongols, and Qing (1644-1911) or Manchus, yet she absorbed them all. Indiain the 10h century alone was invaded seventeen times by the Muslim Mahmud Ghaznavi and his successors, by the Mongol Empire in 1221-1327, and, starting from the 15th century onwards, by the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British. Both Chinaand Indiahave assimilated or spilled out each and every invader. Furthermore, Russia, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Myanmar, Indonesia- none of these places appears to me as if the West had ‘taken over’. Even Japan, the American Geisha Ally (Shibusawa, 2006), is so entirely different in its religious, cultural, ideological and psychological appearance, that to call it a Western progeny is an insult to Japan, its long history and its people. Lastly, no Muslim or Arab state, not even the occupied Iraq or Afghanistan strike me as Western “colonies” either, quite the opposite: many people secretly thing it was Islam which brought down the US hegemony (by attacking the Twin Towers and provoking America’s disproportional response), and it is Islam (and the Middle East) which is now felt as the next future force to be reckoned with – and, as an alternative cultural mode, it is certainly ‘besieging Europe’ (minorityinfo, 2008).
What could be behind this so-called process of ‘westernization’, if not the self-actualization of non-Western people and nations? No one would think about the West westernizing itself. The East is studying the ways of the deductive West and gets stronger; I ask: what did the West learn in the progress from the inductive East to get wiser?
Not much, because it is not in their natures to switch roles easily. That particular, aggressively progressive element of the materialistic-driven ‘West in the East’ has always been (statistically) hopelessly outnumbered, short-sighted: it either complied or else had to leave for good – ‘good’ as in ‘de-colonialism’. But it never lost its self-confidence in irritating, that is, in “better than the East”, like a sand-corn on a plain. Naturally, the pattern has never changed and the destructive, dividing-and-conquering Europeans kept coming back, and they are still keep coming back today (if not in the form of the their latest version, the war-loving, self-righteous Americans), not with their swords and guns if not necessary, but with their pens and patents; all the same, the West is now all about the East: World History is now all about the great phenomena; World History is about the final universal “oneness”, and the key to it is kept in the East.
Understandably, there is a most delicate degree of difference between let us say the prophet tempting the disciple and the disciple tempting the prophet; or: the human subjectivity deluding the world’s objectivity and the world’s objectivity deluding human subjectivity. Does not the East-West relationship, after its great derailment, facing a similar dilemma too? Is it not high time for a shift of paradigm, a ‘Copernican revolution’ in sociology, similar to that of Galileo in astronomy and that of Kant in metaphysics before? For 2,500 years of the East-West discourse we were tempted to believe that the human universe consists of the West at its core with all the other cultures revolving around this core. ‘World history’ worked fine that way.
Presently, after having compiled so much evidence in this little book, I am not longer convinced about that Western core. From the Eastern point of view, the distant peripheral Europe and Americahad the historical sense of mission to manipulate the East – the core. In Physics, the core is always the most passive, most unwavering element. Passive and unwavering is precisely how the West perceives the East.
By the above definition, Europe and North America are understood as the active, peripheral forces revolving around whatever stable, passive and irremovable it is that occupies the core of the human universe – like the two hands molding a precious vase. However, the deductive West did not add any substance; it only formed, divided, conquered, ruled for a time, it invented thousand of new rules, new regulations, stuck its fingers into the clay, then did not know what to do next, it had no sense for Eastern form, substance and spirituality, and, alas, so bad the West was at human relationships, be it in form of missionaries, conquerors, soldiers, bankers or businessmen… the deductive West left its material imprints and emotional scars, but nothing that could ever transform the East into West.
There is a very active Western part… some Western nations recently fought tooth and nails on Eastern soil during the Cold War, and now the West is back again with thousands of business contracts and globalizing catechisms. Asia is indeed very busy, busy studying all those new theories and techniques from the various Western ‘invaders’, infinitively more so than the invaders could possibly learn or could possibly be willing to learn from the East… yet, all the same, it is the inductive East that attracts all these energies, all this Western attention. This pattern of the Western nations revolving around Asia makes me think that… it is the East who is at the core, one could say: the East, roughly since 1950, has not only become the world greatest phenomenon, but has also, slowly, shifted to the center of gravity of World History. The East and the inductive ways in which it excels are seen as the solution to humankind’s problems: ‘oneness’. If this world is truly to become a more stable, peaceful, albeit more complicated, ‘integrated’ place, a better place, as everyone now seems to believe it should, then the ‘integration-based’ East and the inductive ways are not only destined to play a greater role in all human and world affairs, they must also stand to that core!