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Understanding the Crisis of the West

Understanding the Crisis of the West

November 26, 2018

Today, when the concepts of East and West are spoken of, political and cultural meanings forcibly attached to these directions are referred to. That is to say, ‘the West’ is a phrase used for the purpose of collectively specifying the economically developed and advanced countries more than a geographic region. When Western countries are evaluated as economically and socially advanced countries, Far Eastern countries like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are sometimes included. The fact that Central and South American states are positioned beyond the scope of the concept shows that the concept carries an economic-political value, not a geographic one. This means that determining countries as that of the east or west is a relative assessment.  The identification of any piece of soil on earth as eastern or western is a work of political, ethnic, religious, and social prejudice. And it will be seen that this is harmful for so many reasons.

There are many viewpoints regarding how the East and West first became distinct in history in today’s meaning. One of them says that this differentiation began more than 2,000 years ago, not as East and West, but as Greek and ‘the other’ (meaning Barbarians); the flow of this idea was carried through the modern era by affecting the Christian societies in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Another opinion believes that the distinction between East and West started with the division of the Eastern and Western Roman Empire, that Western Catholicism saw itself as different and superior than Eastern Orthodoxy. But following the conquest of the Eastern Roman Empire in Istanbul by the Turks, a shifting view began to emerge. When this happened, the Westerners began to see not the Eastern Orthodoxy or the Greeks as ‘the other’, rather Islamic Civilization; as Muslims’ conquests in the Middle Ages became more frequent, they started to perceive Islam, previously deemed simply as a religious threat, in the form of a military and cultural threat. The perception of Islamic Civilization as a religious, political, and military threat was also formed under the influence of Greek classical texts; this intellectual foundation of the Greeks’ distinction between East and West has lasted until today.

That is to say, the distinction of East and West was intentionally constructed by Westerners by making such a discrimination between itself and the others. The West has intentionally coded the East as culturally valueless and with an understanding of an exaggerated other. Based on this perspective, the West is presented as innovative, the East is imitative and ignorant; the West is disciplined, and the East is lazy.  This exaggerated fiction is still continuing aggressively as we speak.

The West connects the preoccupation over its identity and the foundations of its civilization to philosophy as a gift to Western intellect and tries to exclude everyone but itself from its history.

The West connects the preoccupation over its identity and the foundations of its civilization to philosophy as a gift to Western intellect and tries to exclude everyone but itself from its history. But the root of the problem is much different than this because the technologies they used were taken from Eastern wisdom. Being a late developed civilization, and when it developed only after internalizing the information and experiences it obtained from other civilizations, the West experienced a transformation within itself. The British moved into a hegemonic position over the world with the revolutions it successively carried out. The West then defied God and in turn deified man, making the whole world pay heavy prices with its understanding of modernity that it constructed over civilization and the distinction of barbarism. As a result of the transformation it underwent on intellectual level, it first occupied nature and then the whole world; and it led to millions of people losing lives and suffering.

First it can be seen that the West, though making various advancements with the information transferred from Eastern civilization in the field of information and technology and sets its own existence on epistemological foundations in the process, is suffering a deep depression of mental, moral, and spiritual dimensions, as is seen. This state of depression isn’t just harming the others, but it also poses dangers to itself in all areas of life like health, nutrition, environmental quality, societal relationships, and the economy. For example, today in America, poverty rate is almost 45 million. The failure to create work opportunities in America has led to the increase of the number of homeless citizens with each passing year. And it’s not just the United States; the European continent is also grappling with social hardships and rising unemployment following the 2008 economic crisis. In 2015, while 23,296,000 people were homeless across Europe, 17,756,000 of this figure were in the Euro region. In Europe, where a total of 5 million youths are unemployed, the highest rate of youth unemployment is in Greece with 53.2%. Similar problems are present in Germany, which is seen as one of the strongest economies in the world. The gap in income distribution in Germany is growing deeper each day. The rich are growing richer and the poor are getting poorer. 4.17 million German citizens who correspond to 6.1% of the population are crushed under heavy debts and work in sectors where the minimum wage is low. 

Western countries carry out terrible human rights violations on all geographies where they intervene, including their own populations. Today, people, in the number that has never been seen before, are exposed to various suffering due to oppression, violence and environmental degradation.

Second, it is evident that one of the most significant crises in the West is the degradation of social structure. In Western countries, which had a traditional family structure until the start of the 1960s, it is seen that the institution of family is deteriorating today and that marriage rate is significantly decreasing. Social, political, intellectual, and economic elements were influential in the deterioration of the structure and contents of family as an institution. Divorce rate is also increasing, while an apparent decrease in birth rate emerged. Extramarital associations are propagated with the effects of popular culture and the media in Western societies, and this is seen to contribute to the growing divorce rate.

Moreover, child abuse in Europe is greatly higher than the global level. According to Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) data, 60% of the images and videos involving child abuse content are found in Europe. This rate increased 19% compared to previous years. According to these data, the country with the most extrajudicial content regarding child abuse is the Netherlands.

Aside from child abuse, violence against women is also showing a concerning fact. An average of 50 women lose their lives each week because they are exposed to male violence. 95% of violence experienced within the family takes place against women. One in three women is exposed to physical or sexual violence as of the age of 15. Every woman is subjected to a form of sexual assault in Europe. 75% of women who work in management in any field of the labor force are sexually harassed at their workplace. One in four women are exposed to physical or sexual violence while they are pregnant. This situation increases the risk of miscarriage. 60% of homeless women in Europe are victims of intra-family violence.

Third, the West’s mechanical understanding of thought based on epistemological foundations is unhealthy and has led to an inhuman technological development; this uncertain growth has threatened the deterioration of balance in nature, such as the gradual increase of radioactive wastes and the increase of toxic gases secreted into the atmosphere.  The propagation of nuclear energy use, disproportionate growth in the defense industry, and the increase of urban migration are directly linked to technological advancements and the consumption of natural resources of the West. This situation is dragging the West, and then the whole world, step by step into an ecological disaster.

Hence it is safe to say that the West has worn out all fields of life; from politics to law, from environmental problems to education, from family structure to the economy, because of the materiality-based mental depression it experienced. Western countries carry out terrible human rights violations on all geographies where they intervene, including their own populations. Today, people, in the number that has never been seen before, are exposed to various suffering due to oppression, violence and environmental degradation. There needs to be a new distinction of the East and West, and it should be thought of more objectively; because this might just be one of the solutions to stop mankind competing in such an unhealthy way, that it could destroy the world and humanity as we know it.