During the recent strife in Ukraine there was a great deal of talk in the US media about the Ukrainian government wanting to be in the West. Apparently nations can decide to which of the cardinal points they would like to move. National territories can’t just up and move surely? Ukraine can’t be in the West, because it’s not in the West. Yet neither are Australia and New Zeeland in the West, and they are Western. This is because we have come to read both East and West, not as opposing sides on a map, but as complex geo-political and indeed moral locations. In this narrative – for want of a better word – “West” means good and “East” means bad.
All of this, perhaps, was clearer in the 80s, when the West meant something; when it stood for freedom, Coca-Cola or Pepsi, the right side of the Berlin Wall, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher (that sort of thing). After Yeltsin got on top of those tanks in Moscow the whole distinction got a little hazy for a while, but now we’re getting back in tune. We’re the good guys, right? Well, that is what we were always taught. In the gap years of the Cold War the European Union has developed apace to become another land of the free on this side of the Atlantic, and by and large we were meant to buy into the whole story of Europe being a stronghold of the Free World. We were meant to see ourselves as the good guys.
That was all very well and good until we f*cked up the fount and spring of all our freedoms – the market. The global failure of Capitalism has exposed the true extent of the ugliness that lies beneath the veneer of freedom and democracy; in the United States and in Europe. Brussels’ worse than vicious treatment of Greece during it’s summer crisis showed the EU to be less interested in human wellbeing than it was in its own capital interests. US, EU, and UK (the Troika of Freedom) power games in a fractured Ukraine put an end – once and for all – to the misconception that Western imperialism and warmongering was a thing of the past. Then, more recently, the suspension of Portugal’s democracy in favour of a ‘democratic’ European Union revealed the real motives of the West.
Our barbaric treatment of the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria (to name a few) has blown back in our faces in the forms of terrorism (that’s what we call it when people hit us back) and a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Of course the West’s response is thunderous reprisals; bombing population centres and killing and displacing millions, with callous indifference to the lives of the human beings we have sent scurrying for safety. As Britain debates whether to add to the bloodbath in Syria, its Prime Minister calls those begging for peace “terrorist sympathisers.” There can be only one rational conclusion, and it is this: We are the baddies.