Written by: Michael Kravshik.
Traditionally, people have primarily identified themselves based on the circumstances they were born into such as nationality, religion, tribal affiliation or skin colour. The growing interconnectedness of the globe has resulted in an increasing shift of focus away from these traditional groupings and towards ‘thought’ groupings based on personal beliefs (environmentalism, libertarianism or socialism for example). Since it is exceedingly important to group people based on how they view themselves, it is necessary to have the proper vocabulary in place to analyze these patterns. ‘-Ism’s’ are used to describe the numerous (and sometimes overlapping) ideologies and different ways of thinking that we as human beings are exceptionally prone to. These words are used to describe everything from global ideologies with billions of adherents to obscure movements with a hand-full of followers. Although ‘-ism’s’ generalize diverse groups of people, they can be extremely useful in understanding how people, and peoples, interact with one another. Modern society has been especially adept at creating these words to define the various groups that are perceived to oppose its values, such as communism or fascism. In spite of this, providing a simple and recognizable ‘-ism’ to easily identify the group of people who sustain modern society has been largely unsuccessful. Identifying and discussing this group of people has become increasingly complicated. This is because the terminology currently in use has either become twisted, politicized and divisive in colloquial usage or is not precise, simple, and widely recognized. To move past this ineffectual terminology and adapt to a world where individual core values are increasingly disconnected from the traditional self-identifiers, the establishment of a new term is essential. By giving this important ideology a precise and easily understood name, we will be better able to define ourselves, and more confidently identify both our sincere allies and genuine adversaries.
The name I have chosen to describe a person belonging to this group is a Westernist, someone who beleives in the tenants of Westernism. Westernism is a way of thinking, and has nothing to do with your nationality, the colour of your skin, the language you speak or the religion (or lack thereof) that you adhere to. The foundation of Westernist ideology is the right to free speech. It is the great enabler of a citizen’s political power. Every right that citizens of a modern democracy enjoy is dependent on maintaining free speech. Free speech allows the public to ask and, if necessary, fight for what they want from their governments. Free speech is a necessary requirement for governments to remain truly accountable to the desires of the population. The other core values of Westernism are also rooted in the major tenants of modern western thought, including human rights, fair representation in a democratic governing system, and the separation of religion and state. Westernists reside throughout the political spectrum, since both the left and right cherish these virtues. In short, these people are your average progeny of a western-style modern democracy while also including the millions of people around the world who share these values, but do not live under a government that upholds them. Mere citizenship to a modern democracy does not shape ones’ values, and only those who genuinely hold these beliefs at their core are sincere Westernists. Westernism does not advocate any specific policy, only the importance and necessity of debating all options honestly and openly.
Westernism’s acceptance of diverse opinions results in an extremely flexible ideological system where, in the ideal situation, mainstream moralities are based on the ideas that can be best defended in the court of public opinion. This makes Westernism extremely resilient to changing times, since there is no indisputable source of righteousness such as the Bible, or the Communist Manifesto. This is in contrast to many culturally, religiously or geographically affiliated ideologies, which tend to be rigid, reactionary, and tied to the history of a certain group of people or piece of land. Yet, people who believe in any particular faith or political ideology can be, and are still, Westernists. This is the case as long as they genuinely believe in not only the right of other people to oppose their beliefs in thought and speech, but the importance of them doing so. Westernism is not only extremely accepting of unfamiliar and unconventional ideas, but relies on them to drive society forward. This diversity of ideas ensures that for concepts to remain relevant, they must constantly be challenged by, and defeat, competing ones. To take a line from the controversial, yet comical best-selling author Mark Steyn, “Multiculturalism is a Uni-cultural Phenomenon”, as in no other culture besides Western culture subscribes to mutliculturalism. Mr. Steyn was focusing on the weaknesses of that trait and its very real and harmful consequences. However, it also illustrates that no other culture has ingrained intellectual modesty into itself. The concept that mainstream thought and ideas may in fact be flawed, sometimes significantly, is an astounding and unique trait.
The most debilitating circumstance for a society based on the disagreement-prone Westernist ideology is when there is an inability to separate ideas, from the people who hold them. When people allow themselves to turn their hatred of an idea into hatred and utter disregard for anyone who believes in that idea, productive dialogue quickly evaporates. To avoid this, public discourse must focus on the virtues and drawbacks of an idea itself and not the specific people who support it. Since Westernism ascribes to the importance of challenging ideas, there is bound to be the inevitable harsh critic. Although this can be offsetting, it is as natural to Westernist discourse as the negative feelings baby deer might have towards the pack of wolves that ate their mother. In the ‘wilderness’ of free-speech based Westernist discourse, there should only be concern when people, not their ideas, are the object of hatred. For example, when the famed late-author Christopher Hitchens described in no uncertain words, his utter disdain for religion, he was proclaiming his distaste for the concept and not the people. In other words, a deer has every right to disagree with mother-natures’ concept of the food-chain, but it is unreasonable to hate all wolves for attempting to survive based on rules they had no ability to influence. It is equally unreasonable for wolves to hate and condemn all deer for the simple act of running away. Both are just trying to survive. They do of course hate one another, but Westernists believe that unlike wolves and deer, human society is capable of avoiding this hatred. With the combination of humanity’s high-level cognitive functions, and the fact that we do not actually want to eat one another (most of us anyways), Westernists should be able to remain conscious of this important distinction.
While making an honest and enlightened attempt to prevent the dissemination of true racism and bigotry, society has been having difficulty properly identifying it. Westernists engaging in important and often controversial dialogue have been misidentified and punished, while true offenders have been overlooked. The following is an illustration of this frightening pattern. Damian Goddard, a Canadian sportscaster, suffered serious public backlash and even lost his job for a Twitter comment that characterized “true marriage” as one between a man and a woman. Does Mr. Goddard deserve to lose his job and be publically humiliated and harassed for expressing his personal beliefs on this controversial subject? He did not express any hatred toward homosexuals, nor did he feel it necessary to firebomb a same-sex marriage ceremony. He provided his opinion on the institution of marriage, not on homosexuals, and there is nothing hateful about that. He was later quoted as saying, “I draw a distinction between ‘hurt speech’ and hate speech, and the culture has shifted in which hurt speech has become hate speech.” Over-sensitivity has increasingly allowed this important distinction to be ignored, and has resulted in the regulation of free expression, sometimes to the point of criminality. Restricting and policing freedoms to avoid hurt feelings does not adhere to Westernist ideology and has also proven to be ineffective in achieving its goal. Instead, the punishments for non-compliance breed an atmosphere of fear in the realm of public discourse, and important things go unsaid. This fear can be absolutely debilitating to a society built on, and in constant need of, innovative and unconventional thinking. Only by reverting to Westernisms chief ‘gospel’, free speech, can the survival and continuous progress of modern society be maintained.
The 21st Century presents unprecedented challenges, as warplanes, tanks and battleships are no longer capable of providing an effective defense for the Westernist way of life. Using the term Westernism as an identification tool can help society properly assess all people, regardless of their political, religious or cultural conviction. It can then be established whether they are Westernists (who should be supported), non-Westernists (who should be debated) or anti-Westernists (who should be confronted). Non-Westernists do not adhere to Westernist values but are also not hostile to it, whereas anti-Westernists preach and act against Westernist values and society. Insidious anti-Westernist ideologies have declared war upon the foundations of modern society, and have been allowed to perilously foment within it. When the only ideologies being properly identified are the ones opposing modern society, the result is an inability to understand people in any meaningful way excepting their relation to those ideologies. The consequence is an undue focus on people’s differences, rather than their similarities. This is the wrong approach and is most apparent in the case of Islamic extremism, where crude, ill-defined terminologies such as ‘moderate Muslim’ have become the mainstay of public discourse. Moderate is a relative term, and only characterizes one’s belief in relation to another’s. Various attempts have been made to provide a consistent definition of the term, but have only resulted in further confusion and misidentification. Instead of framing the discussion as “the West vs. Islam,” with Westernist Muslims placed precariously in the middle, it should be framed as “Westernists vs. anti-Westernists.” Defining Muslims based only on their relationship to extremism reduces our ability to properly evaluate who should be the recipients of our moral and financial support. Only by properly identifying the millions of Muslims living in Cairo, Kabul, New York and London who are genuine Westernists, can they be effectively fostered and assisted. If in the position personally, I would much prefer to be described as a friend, rather than an enemy of an enemy.
As the supremacy of traditional self-identifiers slowly dissipates, understanding the most influential forces in the world has become a more challenging affair. The increasingly rapid diffusion of ideas has allowed ideologues world-wide to organize and influence the globe much more effectively and at unprecedented speeds. The lack of effective vocabulary, which has been compounded by the blurred distinction between ‘hurt’ and hate speech, have together inhibited the honest and meaningful discussion necessary to confront the most severe challenges facing modern society. By defining Westernism, I have only provided a name for an ideology that already exists as the core beliefs of individuals all over the world, and is already tremendously influential. As a tool of identification, Westernism can allow us to truly define ourselves, and in the process, aid us in identifying our sincere allies and genuine enemies (something we have had particular problems with in recent years). Anyone who believes in the unrivaled importance and absolute necessity of free speech should be proud to label themselves a Westernist. The root of the word Westernism is derived from the nations who conceived and uphold these values (however imperfectly). Although this may result in unwarranted negative connotations, the benefit of this association is the rapid comprehension of this term by a majority of people. People, regardless of their geographic location, should not feel discriminated against by its use because west is a direction, not a place, and everywhere is west of somewhere. All Westernists may not share biological ancestry but they do all share the same ideological ancestry; the people who built the imperfect, yet remarkably benevolent, society that we all either do, or want to enjoy.
This is my opinion. What’s yours?
 Hitchens, Christopher. (2010, June 25). Christopher Hitchens – Why Fight Religion [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uA6lVqXmplY&feature=related
 Lewis, M. (2011, November 16). Firing of Sportsnet broadcaster after gay marriage tweet tests religious freedom, free speech. The National Post. Retrieved from http://life.nationalpost.com/2011/11/16/broadcaster-firing-tests-religious-freedom-free-speech/