Dialogue key to bridging divide
By Sigurd N Skirbekk
Regardless of how we define civilisation, and regardless of where we draw the borders between an eastern and a western civilisation, we all know that there are differences between East and West, and also that these differences might form a basis for conflicts as well as for dialogues.
Conflicts are most likely to occur when one civilisation regards itself to be superior in all respects, so that its supporters see no reason to be critical to ones own position and see no reason to learn from other civilisations.
Not only differences in political views and economic interests can lead to conflicts. Also civil matters, such as different ideals about family formation and the morality for regulating relations between the sexes, can lead to antagonism.
When seen from a liberal Western point of view, the traditions of Eastern civilisation - particularly Muslim traditions, but not only these - are often regarded as outdated, paternalistic and suppressive to women.
The customs of arranged marriages are frequently mentioned, as are other customs in contrast to Western ideals of romantic love and of free choice of mates. A special concern has been paid to the tradition of female circumcision.
Besides, a strict segregation of sexes for jobs has in some countries led to an ineffective use of its potential working force.
"This question which has to be asked is: Would the newspapers that published the offensive material about Islam also print cartoons mocking the Nazi holocaust or the destruction of the World Trade Centres? I think not".
Kevin Martin, Scotland
More comments...When seen from the point of view of a typical Eastern tradition, the perspective might be turned around. The West has been accused of immorality, and this is often seen as a cause leading to an abuse of women as mere sexual objects.
Some have also mentioned statistical data from Sweden, which indicates that only one half of contemporary young Swedish girls will ever get married.
With reference to Britain, it has been said that half of those who get married will eventually be divorced. And with a reference to demographic data from Italy, it has been said that women in many parts of southern Europe only get half as many children as is necessary for keeping reproduction of the population at its present level.
We are here facing accusations from two sides, and we could then perhaps have expected some sort of dialogue between them, to find out if the two sides had something to learn from each other.
An understanding of the relativity of ones own cultural ideals could lead to less one-sided arrogance - and also to less self-confidence in superficial declarations of tolerance, supposing that all civilisations are equal, in strength as well as in weaknesses.
It is difficult to find neutral measures for comparing civilisations. During a long history of mankind we have made several experiences about how a civilisation might rise and fall. The reasons for this might differ.
Some researchers will focus on external challenges, from natural disasters to military opponents. Others will see the weakening of a civilisation as caused by internal processes.
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lunes, 27 de febrero de 2006
Dialogue key to bridging divide