The Rise Of China Does Nothing To Fix What's Wrong With The West
The West and its brand of modernity may be waning in favor of an ascendant China, but is it offering anything besides replacing market forces with brute force.
BOGOTÁ — It's a bedlam out there. We can feel around us the dissolution of all that seemed, just yesterday, so solid and permanent.
Some say the West is in decline, in a process that began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the United States burst onto the stage before compounding its power after 1945. It put an end to the last days of Europe's imperial splendor.
Observing events today, we may feel that the American years were in fact the West's last, magnificent chapter, and the East is regaining a long-lost supremacy, reshaped this time by communist China.
The American Way of Life, as that shallow version of Western civilization is called, barely had time to mature and define itself. It simply appeared as the rule of materialism and economic power, with a motto to chase money at any cost, even at the expense of living a life.
As Pope Paul VI observed, people can sometimes trade their humanity for riches. The result is our world, where wealth has impoverished us in so many ways, fueled inequality, and inequities, and shrunk our interest in friendly, social coexistence.
Business infects religion
Material abundance hasn't freed us of needs but enslaved us to more, and artificial needs. We have done away with the extended family and our physical and social networks, but also with craftsmanship, trade, professions, and the lifelong work that structured and gave meaning to people's lives, even if it didn't always earn them a living.
The nuclear family followed, as an isolating rather than socializing phenomenon, focused on privacy and individuals. It has led to a society in the United States that says no to children, and yes to pets.
Work is exceedingly specialized now, in a globalized, hyper-technological world that is the fief of multinationals (and they're not bigger versions of the corner shop). People no longer see, or trust, work as they did before. It has no roots. Business is infecting religion, while the profit motive, frankly, lies at the very heart of modern education.
Women walking in Worth Avenue, in Palm Beach, USA.
A new "Chinese era"?
So what would a "Chinese era" bring us?
More social discipline it seems, and state capitalism that assures greater social stability. Its regime would curtail personal freedoms in favor of service to the state, and ostensibly to society and the greater good!
They are rejecting a world being redone.
In the meantime around the world, new ideas are challenging the free-market free-for-all. There is nostalgia for what we had (or what we recall of local culture, communities, family and neighbors), in reaction to the chilly cosmopolitanism of our time. Ordinary folk want their identity back — or what they were.
They want wealth — wealth they can touch and taste and feel — not a blip on the screen. Wealth that meets their needs. And they are rejecting a world being remade as a five-star hotel for the lucky few!
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