The Reason for European Cultural Dominance
A lot of speculation has gone on about why Europe should have been the leaping off point for humanities unification. Some of that reasoning has been ungenerous to non-Europeans, and some of that reasoning has been ungenerous to Europeans. Most of the discussion on both sides assumes a homogeneity which has never existed in reality for Europe. But that’s fine — and hopefully one day that fictitious homogeneity will be equally assumed for the entire world.
The secret to Europe’s power stands revealed in a series of pictures.
I am not making this observation as a European attempting to justify my dominance. I am an American, and in as much as I am aware of my heritage it comes from Ireland, Scotland and Flanders. But it wasn’t until those facts started to become unimportant, and my society extended to the society of (at first) all of Europe, and later all of literate humanity that my potential as a human being really began to unfold. You might have noticed that the American libraries in the photo series were not as beautiful as the European ones.
In the culture wars I have more than once heard “The Cannon” scorned as the writings of “dead white men” — but by that logic I should only be interested in the writings of Americans, Irish, Scottish and Flemish writers. And presumably white living ones. I hope no explanation is required to demonstrate how stupid that idea is. Literature — fiction and non-fiction, inclusive of science and mathematics, extends us beyond provincial thinking. Not that the cannon isn’t full of provincial thinking, but in reading it from a distance, we learn what that is and why it is a problem. And we learn many other things as well — we become cosmopolitan. Literally — we take the universe as our city of origin.
No tool affected that transformation, or continues today to broaden and include larger and larger areas of the world than the cult of the written world.
1 Comment »