The West (395- ) means Western civilization. The Oxford dictionary, National Geographic and Samuel Huntington see it as western Europe and North America. I see it as the civilization that grew out of the western Roman Empire. Any country where the main religion is Catholic or Protestant Christianity I would regard as Western. That would take in Latin America and much of Africa and the Pacific. This post assumes my definition.
Some countries are partly Western, having taken on some Western ways, such as Japan, Turkey, Indonesia and Russia.
- writing: Latin letters
- numbers: Arabic numbers
- religion: Protestant or Roman Catholic
- calendar: Gregorian calendar
- epoch: years are counted from the birth of Christ
- measurement: metric or English
- philosophy: based on Plato and Aristotle
- universal states: Roman Empire
- cities: Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Berlin, London, New York, Los Angeles, Rio
A quick way to tell if a country is Western, or at least part Western, is to look at the writing.
The West compared to other parts of the world is violent and warlike. That is because it is divided into so many countries. It lacks a true empire that would keep it at peace. It is not for want of trying: Charlemagne, Napoleon and Hitler have tried.
Its longest period of peace was at the height of the British Empire. The current American Empire has kept the West at peace for most of the past 60 years. When it weakens, the West will again find itself at war.
Two things make the West different than the rest of the world:
- The truth as something that can be known and written down. It gets this from Greek philosophy. You see it from the Nicene Creed to Einstein. God, physical laws, all of it can be known and written down and reasoned about. It is not a mystery, it is not beyond man’s understanding, it is not beyond word or number. It is black and white. Not only that, the truth matters. The truth is what will save mankind. So it is not just knowable, it is sought after. It is one of the highest callings of life, to seek the truth.
- The West as universal. The West does not see itself as belonging to just one people or age, but as something for all mankind, as the purpose and end of history itself. Everything has been building up to this moment when the West burst upon the scene with all the answers (be it Christian or Communist or whatever).One other part of the world sees itself this way: the Muslim world: Islam is the faith for all mankind.
Many in the West will smile at this now. That is a sign that it is changing.
The West has been moving away from both of these positions over the past forty years. The truth is not knowable and not all that important. The West is not for everyone and certainly not what history has been working towards. It is just another part of the world, and maybe not even the best part.
The self-confidence that the West once had is giving way to self-doubt and despair. This is especially true in Europe, less so in America.