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Quote on East & West

Western colonialism has caused resentments in the East and Eastern enlightenment is affecting the conscience of the West. It has been said by Rudyard Kipling that “East is East and West is West– and never the twain shall meet. But they must meet to realize the common universal aspiration. Why this dichotomy?

Where is the ‘West’ and at what point does it begin? Where is the ‘East’ and at what point does it end? Our perceptions are more passionate than precise. We know how we feel but no clue what we mean.

West is watching East

West is watching East

Where is this mythical frontier between East and West located? Is Eastern Europe of the East because it is Eastern or the West because it is America? What about Africa or South America, which are on the same longitude with Europe and North America, the citadel of the so-called West? They have older cultures, which resemble the Eastern more so than the Western.

Are the American Indians Easterners or Westerners? Their culture is more of the Eastern, yet they are the inhabitants of a region regarded as Western.  On what fundamentals do we make the distinction of East and West? If it is by race, we must reminisce that many of the people of East those of India and the Middle East are of the same Caucasian race as the people of Europe. If it is by colour of skin we should note that the Southeast Asians have a white skin colour like the Europeans. If it is by religion, there are a number of Christians and Muslims in East especially Middle-East & South-East Asia.

Are they Easterners or Westerners? Muslims share the same general Biblical religious background as the Christians.  Are they therefore Westerners? And what of the many Americans and Europeans who are embracing Hindu and Buddhist practices? Are they thereby ceasing to be Westerners?

If it is by language, we must note that most of the languages of India and Iran are of the same Indo-European family as those of Europe, whereas those of near East are of different families like the Semitic. According to the English linguist David Dalby, based on present trends India will become the largest English-speaking nation in the world crossing the United States. By the judgment of language India should then belong to the West.

If the division of East and West is by technological advance, then Japan & Singapore belongs to the West and as various Asian countries develop economically then we would have to say that they have joined the Western bandwagon, even if they may have preserved their older Eastern religious practices. Similarly, Mexico and other Latin American countries as well as Eastern Europe by their poverty would have to be Eastern. If economic affluence makes the division between East and West then in medieval times when China and India were affluent and Europe was poor, was Europe then of the East and Asia of the West?

Presumably, the conjecture is a hypothetical boundary, which has gained credence in the philosophical talks and in the minds of polemics…. and continues to garner debates in a contentious manner across the geographical boundaries. The human mind has invented countless divisions, some of which explicate things in the world; others that create barriers that inhibit understanding.

One of the most common divisions in culture & civilization is that of humanity into East and West. This can be a convenient way to designate different types of cultures and civilizations. Acknowledging it as a real boundary can only aggravate the socio-cultural prejudices and techno-economic disparity what may be only a provisional or philosophical distinction.