In last century the USA and a century before that the United
Kingdom bestrode the world like a behemoth, the small group of nations
around the Northern Atlantic, 'The West' literally ruled the world. For
two centuries The Westerners have invaded the East (Africa and Asia) but
Africans or Asians have not sent armies to invade Europe. We
communicate in their language, we wear their cloths, we study their
culture and we believe today is whatever date it is because they said
In 17th century many Westerners visited India and China and
they were overawed by the wealth and sophistication of societies in
Asia. But in 18th century many Europeans started to believe the
Westerners were simply superior to rest of the world. According to
French social commentator Baron de Montesquieu Europeans had "- a
certain vigor of Body and Mind which renders them patient and intrepid
and qualifies them for arduous exercises.".
When asked why
Europeans are superior to everyone else they often concluded that it was
their 'CULTURE'. Just look, they argued, at the doctrines of Socrates,
the wisdom of the bible, or the works of Leonardo da Vinci.
my opinion they couldn't be more wrong. For example Socrates wasn't the
only philosopher in 5th Century BC. The years when he was active were
also the age of Buddha and early Jainism in India and Confucius and
first Daoists in China. They answered the same questions Socrates dealt
with - The Meaning of reality, the way of good life and creation of
perfect society. Socrates was just the local version of a broader trend.
Christianity was also a local version of a broader trend than
something that set the West apart from the rest. As the roman empire
fell in mid-first millennium, new questions arose - " Is there anything
beyond life? Can I be saved from the aftermath?"
provided the answers (let's not get into the validity of those answers)
and gained over 40 million followers. But in the same years in the wake
of Han Dynasty's fall in China, Mahayana and Buddhism were offering
their own answers to same questions. Soon enough Islam reached to
Africa, the middle east and southern Asia. Leonardo da Vinci refined
wisdom of ancient west to revolutionize everything from aeronautics to
arts but 400 years before Vinci China has produced it's own Renaissance
men who refined ancient wisdom to revolutionize everything. Shen Kua
(1031-1095) published groundbreaking work in field of agriculture
science, archeology and geology etc. Da Vinci would no doubt have been
impressed. The triumphs of western culture were impressive but they
were just local version of a broader trend and not lonely beacons in
So if culture wasn't the factor than what made Europeans superior?
Answer is simple : 'GEOGRAPHY'.
is unfair - societies evolve with the same sequence of cultural
development. Geography dictates the speed at which different parts of
World develop but the development can redefine geography too. 5000 years
ago Europe was at a disadvantage geographically. It was far from
centers of action Mesopotamia and Egypt so at the very beginning of
recorded history geography made western Europe backward. Fast-forward
to 500 years ago same geography gave western Europe wealth and power.
Geography was the reason that it was Europeans and not Indians or
Chinese who first discovered, colonized and plundered the Americas.
India and China were as developed as Europe but geography placed them
twice as far from American Continent as Europe, so Europeans got there
first. But the western dominance will not last forever. History teaches
that. The back-and-forth between Geography and Social development keeps
on working. By 1900, the vast resources of USA made it the 'top nation'.
In late 20th century the human resources of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan
and eventually China and India made them newer global cores. If the
process of change continues with the same pace in 21st century we can
expect the East to overtake West by 2050.