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Bernard M -- Taipei English Tutor

Bernard M - English Conversation / TOEFL / IELTS 一對一英文會話

Friday, November 9, 2007

Western Selfishness?

Since I've been in Taiwan I've heard lots about how Westerners are self-centered. Granted that the following quote is regarding ancient Western civilization, nevertheless it gives a radically different picture of the basis of Western civilization.

FROM The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer:
Greek and Roman society was built on the conception of the subordination of the individual to the community, of the citizen to the state; it set the safety of the commonwealth, as the supreme aim of conduct, above the safety of the individual whether in this world or in the world to come. Trained from infancy in this unselfish ideal, the citizens devoted their lives to the public service and were ready to lay them down for the common good. . . All this was changed by the spread of Oriental religions which inculcated the communion of the soul with God and its eternal salvation as the only objects worth living for, objects in comparison with which the prosperity and even the existence of the state sank into insignificance. . . A general disintegration of the body politic set in. . . This obsession lasted for a thousand years. The revival of Roman law, of the Aristotelian philosophy, of ancient art and literature at the close of the Middle Ages, marked the return of Europe to native ideals of life and conduct, to saner, manlier views of the world.

I would only point out that subordination to the community is one thing, subordination to the state is an altogether different matter.

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