Purpose one: writing a travelogue to describe my various trips.

Purpose two: muse.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Betrand Russell on Asia

In 1945, Bertrand Russell wrote this about European vs. Asian culture.

Our use of the phrase the "Dark Ages" to cover the period from 600 to 1000
marks our undue concentraion on Western Europe. In China, this period
includes the time of the Tang dynasty, the greatest age of Chinese
poetry[...]. What was lost to Christendom at this time was not lost to
civilization, but quite the contrary. No one could have guessed that
Europe would later become dominant, both in power and in culture. [...]

Our superiority since the Renaissance is due partly to science and
scientific technique, partly to political institutions slowly built up
during the Middle Ages. There is no reason, in the nature of things, why
this superiority should continue. [...] It seems not unlikely that,
during the next few centuries, civilization, if it survives, will have
greater diversity than it has had since the Renaissance. There is an
imperialism of culture that is harder to overcome than the imperialism of
power. Long after the Western Empire fell, [...] all European culture
retained a tincture of Roman imperialism. [...] I think that, if we are to
feel at home in the world after the present war, we shall have to admit Asia
to equality of thoughts, not only politically, but culturally. What changes
this will bring about, I do not know, but I am convinced that they will be
profound and of the greatest importance.

This already sounds prescient, and it looks like the 21st century will prove Russell right on the mark.

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