Musings on Contemporary Waffle
There’s a lot to say in a first post. It’s not possible to get it all in, of course, especially at this time of night. But the world, for someone who constantly polls NewYorkTimes.com and BBC.com and back again, is a serious one, let me tell you. If you are an aficionado of these fine news agents, then you’ll know what I mean. You’ll feel my pain, feel your own pain — feel everyone’s pain. We’ll read each other in the Comments sections of these important portals of wisdom and insight, catch the gist of each other’s passions, and some of you will even denounce the President of the United States with an impulse that suggests that we should wish to have a Putin at the helm instead. We might over-analyze “America’s role”, underestimate the nefarious forces against it, and throw up our hands that examples of unrest in the world exist because of the “West’s” “meddling” in its affairs.
I worry about this ambivalence about our own values, all of a sudden. I worry that we don’t realize how much there is for us to lose, here in a place called the Western World.
So this first post is an expression of worry about the dangers of the alternative to what the West stands for. I’m sure it’s clear to those who work in think tanks and advise presidents and prime ministers. But we’re not in those hallowed chat groups, are we? (Well, I’m not). Nevertheless, we know that there is a right and a wrong, a good and an evil in the world that cuts to the chase of who we are as a hemisphere, as a multicultural experiment that is so far a success, on balance; an overburdened culture always looking to the future for further validation. And so there is something to lose as that future unravels relentlessly before us. There is a world of trap doors, false arguments, and end-runs around our concept of democracy and experience of freedom, for example, that means that a fight is constantly at hand, and we are in it, whether we want to be in one or not, whether we even know that we’re in a fight at all.
We should know what we’re up against and be somewhat in agreement, at least, on what it is we stand to lose if we forget the values that have taken centuries for the West to stumble towards. Alright, I know. How can we forget such fundamental things? Easily. An economic crisis here, an invasion of an enclave there, and we’re suddenly confronted with a threat to our values, accompanied by a chorus of doubt.
We shouldn’t be feeling comfortable saying that we are somehow responsible for the aggressions of others, for instance. We may be responsible in some way, since the preservation of our values has consequences, but we should not feel COMFORTABLE acknowledging it. We should acknowledge it with reservations, caveats, and conditions, criticizing ourselves for our imperfect methods but not for the very values of equality, freedom, and transparency whose articulation and transformation into substantive meaning we essentially invented. By “we”, I must mean not the geographic place known as the West, but rather the part of the soul of anyone who, living anywhere, identifies with what that geographic West represents.
It is less a need to “stand united” as it is to admit the danger of our freedom to criticize ourselves for being who we are, on all of the levels that this freedom allows us to do so.