In this age of diversity-worship, it is considered virtually axiomatic that all cultures are equal. Western culture, claim the intellectuals, is in no way superior to that of African tribalists or Eskimo seal hunters. There are no objective standards, they say, that can be used to evaluate the moral stature of different groups. They assert that to deny the equality of all cultures is to be guilty of the most heinous of intellectual sins: "ethnocentrism." This is to flout the sacred principle of cultural relativism. I disagree with the relativists--absolutely.
His First Claim: Reason
The Greeks were the first to identify philosophically that knowledge is gained through reason and logic as opposed to mysticism (faith, revelation, dogma). It would take two millennia, including a Dark Ages and a Renaissance, before the full implications of Greek thought would be realized. The rule of reason reached its zenith in the West in the 18th century--the Age of Enlightenment. "For the first time in modern history," writes one philosopher, "an authentic respect for reason became the mark of an entire culture. " America is a product of the Enlightenment.
My Evaluation: This claim is misleading for two reasons. First it implies that cultures before the Greeks did not employ reason. By reason I take him to mean the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways. If this were true, then how can you explain the architectural accomplishments of Kemet and ancient China, if they did not use reason, and have knowledge of laws of physics? Second, though ancient cultures had elements of their societies that included what has been called mysticism, that does not mean they failed to use reason; the two are not mutually exclusive. The system that employed so-called mysticism were actually techniques that addressed psychological components of the human being. They were systems designed to develop the character of the person; designed to develop disciplined and responsible persons imbued with leadership qualities. In other words, the frailties or "human weaknesses" that continue to make Western leaders and the general populace dishonest, unprincipled, greedy, selfish, and a host of other inimitable qualities and behaviors, mysticism was meant to eliminated or at least significantly improved upon. I have argued in Distorted Truths that it was the Greek's movement away from Afrikan cosmology, and their development of philosophy that was the root of the problem. It was a movement away from using nature and natural law as foundational a guides for ascertaining knowledge. That they move away from knowledge that was extracted from the synergy of environmental laws and human wisdom, to knowledge centered around human intellection, often removed from its environmental context. Before the Greeks, other cultures understood that though knowledge was expansive, its application had to always work within the constraints of nature, i.e. "God." (The Latin word Nature is derived from the Kemetic Netcher, which meant deity, force or power of nature.) So already, Afrikans did not set themselves up for failure by creating a dichotomy that would created a science vs religion paradigm, because to study nature was to study 'God." Human knowledge consequently is predicated and derived from God, so why would the foolish idea of conquering nature ever develop?
His second point: Individual Rights
An indispensable achievement leading to the Enlightenment was the recognition of the concept of individual rights. John Locke demonstrated that individuals do not exist to serve governments, but rather that governments exist to protect individuals. The individual, said Locke, has an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of his own happiness. The result was the United States of America. (Disastrous errors were made in the West -- for example, slavery, which originated elsewhere, and Nazism--but these were too incongruent with Western values to last and were corrected, by the West, in the name of its core principles of reason and rights.)
My Evaluation: Before addressing the main idea, I must correct his disclaimers. Slavery did not originate elsewhere. Slavery or forced labor has existed in practically every human society, hence the West did not have to borrow it from elsewhere. In fact, the Greeks he just finishing praising, all of their city-staes or poli were based on slavery, even Athens. Nazism, a form of totalitarianism, was a Greek invention--it was practiced in Sparta. No there is no disclaimer on that. The problem with individual right is that it is class-exercised. It is only actualized once an individual has acquired material wealth. In the U.S. persons of wealth and status exercise individual rights, while the poor and impoverished are subjected to the individual rights of others. Hence, individual right have a monetary value; the more money you have the more rights you can exercise. Equality of individual rights exist in law but not in actuality. In the end, the idea of individual rights has been used as an excuse for those that have means to impose their will on others. Look at the history of the West, it is telling.
His third point: Science and Technology
The triumph of reason and rights made possible the full development and application of science and technology and ultimately modern industrial society. Reason and rights freed man's mind from the tyranny of religious dogma and freed man's productive capacity from the tyranny of state control. Scientific and technological progress followed in several interdependent steps. Men began to understand the laws of nature. They invented an endless succession of new products. And they engaged in large-scale production, that is, the creation of wealth, which in turn financed and motivated further invention and production. As a result, horse-and-buggies were replaced by automobiles, wagon tracks by steel rails, candles by electricity. At last, after millennia of struggle, man became the master of his environment.
My Evaluation: What religious dogma was suppose to do, was keep human being from thinking they were "God" or the Creator, and throw all limits to the wind, and think so outside the box, that it is now conceivable that life as we know it, which has existed for eons, can be destroyed. This destruction will be at the hands of the West. Either through the military science and technology that excels at creating and producing more and more killing technologies, even weapons that have the capacity to obliterate human life. Or this destruction will come more slowly as the hands of nature defending itself against the waste and disruption Western culture has visited upon the planet. Some of theses ills are: Global warming, rising Sea levels, release of Greenhouse gases, Ocean acidification, environmental impact of the coal production, species extinction and endangered species, environmental impact of hydraulic fracturing, air pollution, health impact genetically modified food, overgrazing, farming monoculture, pesticide drift, land pollution, desertification, soil erosion, contamination, and salination, Alkali soil, Nuclear fallout and meltdown, Nuclear weapons, Nuclear safety, radioactive waste management, biological effects of UV exposure, noise pollution, water pollution, Acid rain, Marine pollution, Ocean dumping, Oil spills, Thermal pollution, Mercury in fish, exploitation of natural resources, Cyanide fishing, Deforestation, Toxic waste and Toxins, such as chlorofluorocarbons, PCB, Dioxin, and DDT, Herbicides, Pesticides, Electronic waste, Litter Medical waste, and a host of social ills to match.
His conclusion: The result of the core achievements of Western civilization has been an increase in freedom, wealth, health, comfort, and life expectancy unprecedented in the history of the world. The achievements were greatest in the country where the principles of reason and rights were implemented most consistently--the United States of America. In contrast, it was precisely in those Eastern and African countries which did not embrace reason, rights, and technology where people suffered (and still suffer) most from both natural and man-made disasters (famine, poverty, illness, dictatorship) and where life-expectancy was (and is) lowest. It is said that primitives live "in harmony with nature," but in reality they are simply victims of the vicissitudes of nature--if some dictator does not kill them first.
The greatness of the West is not an "ethnocentric" prejudice; it is an objective fact. This assessment is based on the only proper standard for judging a government or a society: the degree to which its core values are pro- or anti-life. Pro-life cultures acknowledge and respect man's nature as a rational being who must discover and create the conditions which his survival and happiness require--which means that they advocate reason, rights, freedom, and technological progress.
I have only listed the environmental ills facing the planet but there are countless social issues, which have the potential to cause societal implosion as well. Remember the West has issues with nature, and people. And as it continues to conquer nature, and here is where the West shows a lack of reason, because in the end it can only conquer itself, since Western civilization is part of nature.