Wednesday, September 22, 2004

On Western Civilization

If you’re easily shocked, please sit down now.

Despite the fact that I am a twenty-something progressive educated Canadian feminist, I don’t hate America. Or Israel. Or Western civilization.

These days, it seems fashionable to sit in York classes (science, humanities, social science, etc.) and talk about how much we hate Western civilization. American arrogance is bad. American culture is bad. Western “colonialism” is bad.

Give me a break.

Newsflash: Despite its flaws, Western civilization is the best thing that has ever happened to this world. Though, like every civilization, it has committed injustice in the name of ‘progress’, it has also given birth to the most free and enlightened period in history.

At their core, Western democracies are founded upon principles of equality that by their very nature cannot exist under any other form of government. It is only in democracy that every person has equal say, vote and rights simply because we are all born human, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion or class.

As a woman, I am grateful to Western civilization for recognizing that I am as valuable as any man and have all options available to me. I can attend university, travel freely without a man, choose whom to marry and when (if?) to marry, whether or not I want children – options many of the women of the world don’t have available to them.

Similarly, the multiculturalism and diversity as well as the freedom of Western states such as Canada, the United States and Israel are based on fundamental respect for human rights of all people, something that many people in this world are denied. And of course, the freedoms we Westerners have, espouse and protect are despised by those whose “alternate world views” tell them that murder – intentionally taking the lives of civilians – is a legitimate way to achieve their goals.

Unfortunately, we need look no further than our own backyards for examples of how, in our own day and age, basic human rights are under attack. Abroad, over 300 schoolchildren in Beslan, Russia were massacred by terrorists only a few days after two bombers killed 16 people on buses in Beersheba, Israel. Closer to home, the 9/11 terrorist attacks shocked Americans who were certain they were immune from the hatred of their “liberty and justice for all.”

What is most appalling, of course, is that the United Nations, the body charged with defending the downtrodden has made itself irrelevant while 800,000 Rwandans were slaughtered with machetes just a decade ago. Even now, they look away while the black African population of Darfur, Sudan is being targeted for ethnically-motivated murder, just as happened in Rwanda.

And if we stand by and do nothing, we become the guilty bystander, culpable for our inaction. Yet act we must.

There are those in this world who think that it is progressive to want to overthrow Western civilization for real or imagined transgressions. Perhaps, instead, we should lay off the one society that grants us the freedom to criticize it and take up the case of the truly oppressed people of the world, who, unlike us free Canadians, are targeted for discrimination, violence, rape and murder simply because they were born to the “wrong” group.

- Editorial by Aliza Libman, News Editor, published in York University's Excalibur on September 22, 2004.


Post a Comment

<< Home