The world is divided into two spheres: East and West. This dichotomy is based on geographical differences as well as the common features of those who live in two different regions of the planet. The East usually refers to Asia and the Middle East while the West usually refers to Europe and the American continents. The difference between East and West can be summed up in the way the inhabitants view each other. The East views the West with contempt while the West views the East as inferior.
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Before going any further it is important to focus the discussion on specific locations. Although the concept East and West can cover a significant geographic area, it can be argued that East and West are symbolic terms. Thus, when one talks about the West the image that comes to mind is the United States and highly industrialized nations that can be found in the Western hemisphere.
On the other hand, when one talks about the East the image that comes to mind are Third World countries in Asia, China, India, and the Middle East. By limiting the discussion in this manner, it is much easier to analyze the different and conflicting perspectives between these two spheres.
The East views the West with contempt in terms of how the Orient values the importance of culture and religion (Hofstede 351). The Eastern mind believes that the West is full of individualistic people that only care about wealth, sensual pleasures, and fame.
It is difficult to discount this idea considering the fact that the United States’ significant imports are linked to Hollywood films, unhealthy food, liberal ideas concerning sex, marriage, and social values. The United States and other powerful Western countries wield great influence and power. But the East views them with contempt because they seem to act without regard to the welfare of others.
Consider for instance the growing hatred towards the United States and its allies when it comes to foreign policy. The animosity between East and West is rooted in the feeling of contempt coming from Asia and the Middle East. Recent headlines had shown the belligerent attitude of China towards the United States and Europe.
The Great Dragon of the East wanted to show the world that they cannot be pushed around b the West. China is gaining supporters from like-minded allies like North Korea and other Asian countries opposed to the domineering attitude of the West.
Although antagonism between China and the United States increases by the day, the conflict between East and West is highlighted when the Middle East demonstrated through violence their complaints against the Western world. September 11, 2011 is a date that will be considered as one of the saddest episodes in American history.
On this fateful day Arab terrorists commandeered commercial flights and use these airplanes as guided missiles full of highly-combustible fuel. The targets were the World Trade Center, the White House and the Pentagon. The group aiming for the Twin Towers of New York City succeeded while the others failed through the heroic efforts of some of the passengers.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attack the whole world reviewed images of burning buildings with disbelieving eyes. They cannot fathom the cause of the hate that fueled an intense dedication to kill innocent civilians. One of the people who were dumbstruck by the ferocity of the terror strike was the former President George Bush. He made the exasperated remarks “Why do they hate us, when we’re so good?” (Chomsky, Junkerman & Masakazu, 2003, p.84). This is a prime example of the difference in perspective between East and West.
The Western mind believes in its own superiority and therefore it easy not to see the complaints made by those from the East. It has to be made clear that the conflict is rooted in cultural and religious differences. This sentiment is true especially in the Middle East where traditions are as important as life itself. It is common to hear the criticism leveled against Western values in reaction to the kind of products and values that they export to the East.
The East does not know how to deal with the brazen individualism and loose moral values of the West. In ultra-conservative countries, the people are horrified at the revelation that Western men and women can live together even if they are not yet married (Gohari 10). They oppose the way children dishonor their parents and they cannot understand the way Americans and Europeans express their affection with the opposite sex in public. In the Middle East there are strict rules regarding how couples should behave in public places.
The East views the West with contempt and this statement is not only limited to religious fanatics such as those that destroyed the World Trade Center in a terror attack. I the aftermath of the September 11 attack, the Wall Street Journal wanted to find out the root-cause of this hatred towards the West especially the United States and its allies.
The researchers focused on those who live and originated from the Middle East. The participants were not terrorists or religious zealots. In fact, they were bankers, lawyers and managers of American and European transnational companies. The results of the research provided another angle as to why many are angry at the West.
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One of the reasons given was the impression that powerful nations in the Western world only support democracy if it serves their interest. The respondents said that in many instances the West support brutal regimes if it is advantageous to them (Chomsky, Junkerman & Masakazu, 2003, p.85). It can be argued that the West may have added fuel to the fire because in the past few centuries their actions support some of the persistent beliefs regarding Western aggression and dominance.
The Western world views the East as inferior. This mindset goes back to the Medieval Period when European superpowers like Spain, Portugal, France, and Great Britain began sending massive cargo and battle ships to secure trade routes and establish colonies in the East. The native inhabitants of these colonies were stripped of their rights and forced to serve foreign monarchs located thousands of miles away. They labor like slaves and many were forced to pay taxes.
The evidence can also be seen in works of literature. In the play entitled The Green Goddess, the playwright depicted the inhabitants of the Orient as barbaric. They are described as intellectually inferior and violent as if they were unable to transition from the Stone Age to the modern world (Archer 1).
The scathing remarks were based on what can be perceived from the superficial examination of Oriental values and traditions. It is easy to understand how Western explorers tend to interpret what they saw. They had seen a culture lacking in technological advantages as well as a culture steep in superstitious beliefs. This view is further strengthened by the presence of shamans, high priests, and inefficient governments.
The Western mind looks down on the people of the East. This is made evident by the works of famous artists, writers, and poets. One of them is the world-renowned author, Rudyard Kipling who repeatedly provided caricatures of the Asian man as a bumbling fool. In the poem entitled Gunga Din, Kipling described an Indian man with terms fit only for a dog.
He said that this man is blackface and that the fine soldiers serving the British Crown treated this lad called Gunga Din with disrespect (Kipling 1). The soldiers acted as if Gunga Din is some kind of a tool that can be used at will without considering his value as a human being.
The East views the West with contempt while the West views the East as inferior. The root cause of the conflict is due to how they perceive each other through the lens of culture and social values. The East value traditions and religion as much as they value life. The Orientals also perceive Western governments as bullies that take whatever they want without regard to the rights of others.
The Western mind on the other hand believes that the people in the Orient are not their equal. These views persist in the present time. However, it can be traced back to a period in human history when military superpowers from the West dominated the East. It is time to learn more about cultural differences in order to lessen the tension between East and West.
Archer, William. The Green Goddess. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1921. Print.
Chomsky, Noam, John Junkerman and Takei Masakazu. Power and Terror: Post 9-11 Talks and Interviews. UK: Turnaround Publisher Services, 2003. Print.
Gohari, Michael. The Taliban: Ascent to Power. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.
Hofstede, Geert. Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions and Organizations across Nations. CA: Sage Publications, 2001. Print.
Kipling, Rudyard. Gunga Din. Poetry Lovers Page, 2011. Web. <http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/gunga_din.html>.