Friday 13 May 2016

Civilisation and the West

By the middle twentieth century, few European nation-states had not at one time or another figured themselves as 'the outpost of Western Christian civilisation': France, imperial Germany, the Habsburg Reich, Poland with its self-image as przedmurze (bastion), even tsarist Russia. Each of these nation-state myths identified "barbarism" as the condition or ethic of their immediate eastward neighbour: for the French, the Germans were barbarous, for the Germans it was the Slavs, for the Poles the Russians, for the Russians the Mongol and Turkic peoples of Central Asia and eventually the Chinese.

Neal Ascherson

Logically speaking, they might all have been right. Discuss. 

Neal Ascherson's mental universe is Poland -centric. This is from his book Black Sea in which mentions Romania on one page and talks a very great deal about Poland.

As an Englishman I think of France as more civilised than us- in all the bad senses of the word 'civilised', at least. We English seem and feel provincial compared to France and Italy. But when we look westwards we feel like wise Europeans from an old continent.  

As Evelyn Waugh said

We are all born American - we die French. 

1 comment:

  1. Americans are always talking about themselves. Still a lot less true for Europeans despite all those years of American political and cultural hegemony.