Friday, December 23, 2005

Rorty the Grinch

This is from a review of Ian McEwan's new book, reviewed by Richard Rorty in Dissent.
...Most of those who made that switch [from God to Enlightenment] took for granted that the West would retain its hegemony long enough to bring liberty, equality, and fraternity to the rest of the planet. But that hegemony is over. The West has reached its acme; it is as rich and powerful as it is going to get. Even the United States of America can deploy military power only by risking bankruptcy. The American Century has ended, and the Chinese Century has begun. America, while in the saddle, did more good than harm. Nobody knows what China will do—least of all the Chinese.

Yet economic and military decline is not the only problem for the West. It may be frightened into renouncing its ideals even before it loses its influence. Suppose a dirty nuclear bomb, hidden in the bowels of a container ship, were exploded in San Francisco Bay. Could a free press and an independent judiciary survive martial law? Would Germany remain a constitutional democracy if such a bomb went off at the Hamburg docks? The first terrorists to containerize a stolen nuclear warhead may be able to preen themselves on having demolished institutions that took two centuries to build....

But the postwar impetus has faltered, and the attacks of September 11, 2001, have made us realize how unlikely it is that the West will be able to determine the world’s future. It is dawning on non-Western nations that their fates will rest with Beijing rather than with Washington. How long Europeans and Americans have to stroll the gardens depends upon how long keeping them open remains in the interests of Cathay.

The tragedy of the modern West is that it exhausted its strength before being able to achieve its ideals. The spiritual life of secularist Westerners centered on hope for the realization of those ideals. As that hope diminishes, their life becomes smaller and meaner. Hope is restricted to little, private things—and is increasingly being replaced by fear....

4 comments:

Neil Shakespeare said...

A true Defeatist! Sign him up!

Ronzoni Rigatoni said...

Stuffin' nonsense, I say. But for the 2000 SCOTUS, nunna this crap hadda happen, and we would be dealing with a stronger united west. The work ahead involves repairing the damage, if it's at all possible at this point.

troutsky said...

I believe the jury is still out as to relative cost/benefit analysis of Western hegemon but decline is in the air and I am unconvinced the only paradigm is West vs East.From the ashes might spring a whole new phoenix.It is harder to think outside the box..

Anonymous said...

september 11, a sad moment to america.. :-(

http://the-anxiety-disorders.blogspot.com/