December 07, 2006

Blame it on rationalism

Hurtling Through History at the Speed of Enlightenment

Civilization:  A New History of the Western WorldMr. Osborne moves in for the kill in his discussion of colonialism. His vague sense of unease with reason and progress as uncontested virtues culminates when he takes up the near-extermination of the native peoples of the Americas, a calamity that, for him, raises a disturbing thought. “We are drawn to wonder,” he writes, “whether the western way of thinking and of organizing human affairs makes us incapable of gazing on, and perhaps even learning from, another culture without needing to dominate and destroy it and make it part of the western system.”Osborne's conclusion:“The fundamental western belief that there are rational ways of organizing the world which will bring benefit to all has been at the root of every human-made catastrophe that has overtaken us,” he writes, “yet many of us still believe that we have a bounden duty to bring our simplistic, universalizing, ‘progressive’ systems of government, economics, education, policing, judiciary and morals to every part of every society on the planet.”

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