If you’re born in one of the countries of the Western world have you ever wondered why people of this world feel responsible for the misfortune of non-Western countries? And why they think they can solve all kinds of natural and man-made disasters? And why they have a moral opinion about other cultures with different systems and politics? And have you ever wondered why Chinese, Russians, Africans, and South-Americans, the rest of the world so to say, don’t give a shit about the state and fate of other countries and parts of the world?
The answers to these questions all track back to one phenomenon: the supposed superiority of Western cultures. It is like westerners are born with a collective overvaluation that gives them the right –some think the duty- and legitimation to present themselves as teachers, referees, and benefactors of the whole world, including penalties for infringements. Important institutes that preserve this right are the United Nations with its “Universal” Human Rights, the International Money Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the governments of the most powerful countries. These institutes decide the money flow, government spending, and measures like trade boycotts.
Of course, westerners are not born with this feature. It is not something that is genetically determined. Yet, it is that self-evident and non-negotiable in a way that people are not aware of it. Like a psychological derogation that is formed during one’s youth unconsciously, it has been established in one’s culture as a fact. An appealing fact that makes us happy. Because this ‘derogation’ is fuelled by a variety of rewarding emotions such as domination (being in control), curiosity, pride, care, and empathy.
As a collective phenomenon, feelings of superiority are usually based on an assumed lead in the development of (technical) knowledge, of legal and regulatory requirements, military power, and the standard of living of one’s society. Superior civilizations developed slowly, conquered parts of the surrounding world, had their highlights, and died out or were overshadowed by another upcoming civilization. That way in Europe and the Middle East the Persians, Greek and Romans succeeded one another, until a rather mixed European culture evolved. All that time Asia, Africa and America had their own separate developments, mostly unaware of European advancements.
Halfway the second millennium the superiority of some European countries had reached the point that the exploration and conquering of other parts of the world became a new challenge. Shipbuilding nations like England, Holland, Spain, and Portugal roamed the world and occupied Southern Asia and parts of Africa and the Americas. What they found were in their eyes inferior people that could be used for labor, trade or be killed. Together with raw materials from those parts of the world those European countries were able to enrich themselves, which in the upcoming protestant religions was a divine virtue (and the root of modern capitalism).
Beginning in the 20th century, especially after World War II, terms of superiority made place for compassion, helpfulness, and shame. Reluctantly the colonies in Africa and Asia were made independent, assuming or knowing that most of those countries probably couldn’t cope with that situation. Money would be a solution for that problem. So, up until now the superiority of western countries is not expressed in occupation and oppression but in money. A lot of money. But did fifty years of aid produce any results? About that opinions differ, but it is evident that, small scale and practical aid aside, for many countries these results have been close to zero.