Sunday, 15 January 2012
The Biggest Bully in Town
After reading a David Bromwich review what struck me is that civilisation simply means whatever power happens to be dominant at any particular time. The powerful republic or empire sets the standard, and measures all other cultures against itself. Thus the Roman Empire dismisses its German barbarians, the Ottoman rulers their European ones, as they march forward into history. Today it is “The West” that carries the banners and flags, and it rules because of its particular DNA, or so a popular historian argues: competition, science, property rights, medicine, the consumer society and the work ethic.
But how does it set this standard in the first place? By conquest. Yet strangely of the six factors that Niall Ferguson says makes the West great war is not one of them. How odd. How instructive!