WESTERN LIBERAL VALUES vs. EASTERN/SLAVIC VALUES
West is always best?
We are told by the western political leadership that they wish to preserve and spread western liberal values. This sounds relatively innocent depending on what is meant by the term.
I would like to look a little deeper than surface impressions regarding the meaning of 'western liberal values' and what western political elites seek to replace in regard to values we can say very generally exist in the East.
I’d like to start by admitting that I recognize how potentially dangerous it can be to generalize about values, and generalize also about the correctness or otherwise of behaviors, one to another across the world. However, I detect certain basic differences between western liberal values and those of the East and in particular those of Asian and Slavic nations.
These differences are quite subtle in many ways yet quite obvious in others I would contend. Hopefully what I wish to point out will not be found particularly contentious except by those elites in the West with a particularly strong belief in the universal merit of western liberal values.
The main positive aspect of western liberal values as I see it (which is not necessarily absent from Asian/Slavic values but less emphasized within the public and political spheres) I would define as follows:
A general tolerance for most behaviors which do not conflict with the law of the land. This can include a wide variety of behaviors, some of which would have been seen as outrageous, unwelcome and would have been shunned in earlier, more traditional and conservative times in the West. This covers many aspects of behavior and dress, sexual orientation and social relationships.
The negative aspect I find which tends to coincide with positive aspects within western liberal values lies in the overall effect of the freedoms in the West that it seems to me flows over into license.
This license, exists almost a right in itself to behave entirely as you please as long as the behavior does not fall foul of the law. The key word I would like to emphasize overall in this context is ‘license’. And the key negative feature is what I would call a general degradation of the culture leading to, or at least in significant way encouraging, social decay and even criminality. This I see as the overall negative factor, this embracing of a concept of individual freedom leading in subtle ways to license.
No nation or culture is free of bad behaviors, of criminality and the descent of individuals from lives of integrity, decency, what could be called good behavior and social responsibility, however, at its broadest these latter factors are what I perceive as having higher priority in the East.
I would hazard to call it a general adherence to decency, of right conduct individually and toward others, a higher degree of social responsibility, of maintaining a more emphasized degree of self-control for the benefit of all and to maintain the dignity of family and society in general. A more traditional way of life if you will, the essentials of a traditional way of life that was once the generally accepted way you lived your life in the West also before the modern age and the new, much more liberal values which are now espoused by western political elites.
I wish to avoid going into more detail as I suspect you have already understood what I am trying to say.
What I am not saying is that people in the West must necessarily change their mode of being if they find it conducive to what they conceive of as a good way to live with all it entails regarding the highly prioritized concepts of freedom and individuality as differentiated from responsibility to otherwise.
All I’m asking for is that those with different priorities and social customs in the East should not necessarily seen as lacking these western values.
The Slavic peoples and those of Asia have different priorities and adhere to different cultural mores and values than those of the West. There values tend to be more rooted in tradition, strong traditional concepts of decency, self-control, duty, and awareness of how important individual behavior is in reference to the good of society as a whole. Alongside this is a continuing disapproval of what is conceived of as bad behavior, i.e. behavior that is seen as not conducive to good social order and the maintenance of a stable, well-functioning society.
This can seem to be overly restricting in the West, perhaps even stultifying, inhibiting individual freedom and even as oppressive, at the very least restricting. However, a certain factor should be taken into consideration by westerners having this view. They live in a much more affluent society both in recent past times and in the present time. Many of the Slavic and Asian nations do not have the same luxury to be however they may wish where there are few of any consequences of irresponsible, solely self-interested behaviors. If an atmosphere of the same degree of license was as prevalent in these nations as in the West and in particular in the USA I would argue it would spell disaster for them.
I would argue that criminality is encouraged in nations where a high degree of license occurs. The foundation of a society based on hard-won social rules which generate stability from one generation to the next would I contend be weakened. Moral relativism inevitably creeps into such societies. Individual greed and the behaviors which stem from that greed in an ultra-competitive environment where egotism, hyper-competition create a dog-eat-dog ambiance can hardly be avoided.
In societies where resources and wealth have traditionally been hard won there tend to exist stricter codes of behavior. Success is seen more in socially connected terms as each individual is to some degree dependent on others and perennially dependent on a general good orderliness of society which allows a sustainable living to be achieved.
Insisting that such societies, often pejoratively labelled authoritarian and deemed backward or “undeveloped" in the West, take on western liberal values seems to me a disaster waiting to happen. Many of the societies I am talking of do not have (and in my view should not take on) the so-called benefits of western democracy in the same way I feel their taking on of western liberal values or the western notion of freedom (license) would be equally disastrous.
Western political elites are now more than ever insisting that their societies’ values and systems are universally applicable. More than that they are insisting they have some special right to force them on all others using whatever means they deem necessary, including the use of destabilizing techniques whether overt (sanctions) covert (use of subversive tactics to destabilize nations) and even military might and invasion. In my view, at the very least the rhetoric employed is clearly destructive, divisive, patronizing and clearly racist at times, either through an unconscious or a self-willed lack of fundamental understanding of how other societies have been constructed through real hard won experience from the bottom up rather than from the top down as they often maintain.
The Slavs and the peoples of many Asian societies adhere to values that place duty, family, decent, socially responsible behavior, work and integrity very high on a list of attributes. I would contend there are very good reasons for this that are influenced and degraded at the peril of those affected. They are the bedrock values of societies that depend on a certain degree of public order, social responsibility, honesty and good behavior to survive and prosper with less leeway that their fellow human beings in the West.
The political leadership of the West, in insisting that these solidly-based societies change to reflect their values is I believe wholly wrong and if allowed to achieve what they insist upon, will bring only chaos to the nations it affects.
It is wholly correct in my view that Slavic and Asian leaders like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping oppose all such efforts which they clearly see would destroy their nations by removing their vital and in fact much loved foundations of tradition, community, decent behavior, individual responsibility, love of family, a healthy work ethic and above all a high degree of agreed, mutually beneficial social cohesion.