Thursday, March 16, 2017

Kwame Appiah on western civilisation

There is no such thing as western civilisation. Erudite and all over the place. I do not know what to make out of it. Towards the end we have this passage:
"Culture – like religion and nation and race – provides a source of identity for contemporary human beings. And, like all three, it can become a form of confinement, conceptual mistakes underwriting moral ones. Yet all of them can also give contours to our freedom. Social identities connect the small scale where we live our lives alongside our kith and kin with larger movements, causes, and concerns. They can make a wider world intelligible, alive, and urgent. They can expand our horizons to communities larger than the ones we personally inhabit. But our lives must make sense, too, at the largest of all scales. We live in an era in which our actions, in the realm of ideology as in the realm of technology, increasingly have global effects. When it comes to the compass of our concern and compassion, humanity as a whole is not too broad a horizon."
I am concerned about the vagueness of the approach and sentences like the last one in the above quote. How many can have such effect? I have been acquainted with westerns, whatever that means, since 1964 and lived in the west for about half my life. When you talk to your neighbours or people on the street there are cultural differences since most people live locally. The problem seemed to me is that the percentage of people who are in the global circles has increased. It is not just the .1 percent, but this ten percent or so who are influential, from software engineers to bureaucrats in the European Union, who are influential in the global tends. It seems that they like most others are interested in their own well being as they see it and that is not helpful to the majority of the people. Since the influential sections are generally driven by their own self interests, we have system acting like a centrifugal force sucking the wealth upwards. When the economic growth decreases, this force inevitably marginalises the majority and tries to force them in to subsistence. I believe that armed resistance is futile in view of the strength of the centralised governments. There seem to no alternative to some resistance and decentralisation. Perhaps Fragmentation is the solution not the problem.
P.S.Trancripts of the lectures 123, and 4 which is the one linked above. I wrote the above responding to one paragraph in the fourth lecture which expresses a vague hope which I felt was unrealistic. The lectures as whole make a wonderful reading.

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