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The West is suddenly infused with self doubt



From under the floorboards of Fortress Modernity the West’s moral foundations are slowly crumbling. Contrary to its mantra, not all progress is good progress.

Now the international community has taken notice. Disillusioned with the modern world, alternative ideologies are reaching for the gauntlet of power as it slips from the West’s hand.

Western society has faced a long history of resistance to its imperialism. Since the 1790s, independence movements in regions such as Latin America, Africa and Asia have challenged the West’s authority. Instead of pushing an ‘anti-Western’ agenda, however, these rebellions focused on infusing Enlightenment values with their own cultural flavor. Not so today. For the first time, the West is assailed by escalating anti-Western sentiment.

China’s President, Xi Jinping, pumps out government warnings against the insidious influence of the West. Still smarting over its unnecessary humiliation during the Opium Wars, modern China defines ‘Western values’ as a ‘non-traditional threat to its national security.’ Its policies towards economics, the media, think-tanks and NGOs directly oppose the West’s free-for-all moral culture. In contrast to the West’s selfish neoliberalism, workers in China toil for the common good. Pulling 680 million citizens out of extreme poverty in twenty years, China’s economic success far outstrips the West’s.

A military powerhouse with a short fuse, Russia’s autocratic ruler refuses to compromise on his principles. Regularly quoting the doctrine of his favorite philosopher, Ivan Ilyin – a Russian nationalist with core fascist leanings – Putin hits back against the West’s unstable morals. In 1950, Ilyin correctly predicted that, under the dubious banner of ‘freedom’, the West would use any means necessary to dissolve parts of mother Russia. Ignoring its doctrines, the West curbed Russian independence to pursue its own agenda. Putin’s military continues to fortify against the West’s double standards, challenging their decadence to establish a Russian lifestyle.

Jihadism similarly seeks to fill the void left by the West’s evaporated values. Founded upon the qualities the West has lost– community bonds, moral education, and a sense of decorum –fundamentalist Islamic groups scorn the West’s insecure principles. Radical Islamic fighters see physical violence as an antidote to the West’s hypocrisy.

These alternative creeds aim to recreate a modernity where beliefs are still sacred: where Western modernity is reigned in. The West’s antagonists want to step back in time, to challenge its narrative of progress.

And the West is afraid. Airport scanners. Armored vehicles. Aggressive trading. All a hyperbolic, blustering response to the threat of dominance. Post 9/11, it’s all about posture, military prowess, technological bravado. My tank is bigger than yours. My economy is better mechanized. But the West is fighting the wrong battle. This is not a war of technology. It’s a war of ideals.

— Kate Wilson is a Vancouver-based writer and Cambridge graduate.

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