A Reevaluation of the Western Society
The idea that the Western world, particularly the United States and European countries, are the roots of all evil is extremely common among Carls. Students have blamed Western culture for everything, from sexism to wars to poverty, and tend to see developing countries as models to be followed by America. As someone who was born and raised in Brazil, I disagree with this idea. I believe that many of our society’s current accomplishments, like individual freedom and economic development, have had important participation of both the US and European countries. Disregarding the importance of these nations when discussing different histories can distort the way we see the world.
First of all, I would like to highlight that the US and Europe have been responsible for most of the recent economic development around the world. Not only do they provide excellent living standards for their populations when compared to almost anywhere else, but they also have helped other countries develop. Countries like South Korea and Japan, for instance, had remarkable improvements in indicators such as HDI, poverty and GDP per capita since they started trading with the Western world. China, since the decision of opening its borders to foreign investment, reduced poverty from 88.32% of the population to 1.85%. Another great examples are Chile and Brazil. Chile followed a market friendly approach, trading with the US and the EU and incentivizing foreign investment, while Brazil did the opposite. After 24 years, Chile is 50% wealthier than Brazil. It is, thus, undeniable that countries like US and Europe have brought development and increased living standards all around the globe.
Second, many of the values we now fight for – freedom, equality under the law and humanity – have been defended by Western countries. Freedom in the World is a yearly report that analyzes countries’ political rights and civil liberties. Among the countries that are considered free, one will find the US, Canada, Eastern and Central European nations and their allies in the developing world, such as Argentina, Botswana and Australia. Not surprisingly, the set of countries who are not free includes nations such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. When one compares, for instance, women’s rights in UK and France with women’s rights in developing countries like Brazil and Pakistan, it becomes obvious that Western, developed countries are not the root of all evil. They are not perfect, of course, but they are doing a better job than most of other countries. Many times, they represent the best our world has to offer.
Lastly, I would like to highlight that I do not agree with a dualistic view on this discussion. The idea that Western society and culture are purely evil or purely good does not pass a reality check. Many times in the last 300 years the Western world committed abominable crimes, like implementing slavery, nazism, and communism. European countries invaded other continents, including the one I am from, and the US defended and implemented dictatorships in countries like Brazil and Chile. I am not, therefore, writing this to defend a blind love for Western institutions and values. My goal here is to demonstrate that the extremely negative vision we have of our own society is not reasonable. We should for sure recognize our mistakes and crimes, but never forget the value of our history and institutions.