Imagine this. Time is a few centuries into the future. Western civilization has long ago reached its apex, and has since fallen into a submissive and chaotic state. Western Greats such as Goethe and Kant are remembered fondly, though not widely read, and the 21th century is recalled with pride as a time of unparalleled Western technological achievement. Alas, for the present and future it is clearly China that Western youth look to. After all, the Chinese have flourished in the past centuries, reaching global dominance in power and thought.
With this increased Chinese dominance has come a certain zeal for evangelization. Indeed, a century ago the entire West was subjected to various forms of Chinese rule, during which it was thoroughly schooled in the virtues if old Chinese religion. Curiously, however, since that time the Chinese have themselves abandoned their traditional religious heritage and, while no longer physically governing the West, have returned preaching a different ideological discovery: the Ultimate System of Government and Morality (USGM). The Chinese have not read much of such backward Western thinkers as Locke and Hume, and instead accompany their efforts to bring USGM to the West with insistent demands that we (‘at long last!’, as the Chinese would think) translate and learn from their own Greats (whose names I can’t recall, being hard to pronounce to the Western tongue). At one point China even physically took over a Western country just so as to impose a constitution stipulating the typical Chinese 5-tiered system of political administration!
All right, time to cut the buffoonery; you get what I’m on about.
The thought here is that it is hard to overestimate the importance of our own history in developing Western-style democracy. Critical democratic thinkers like Montesquieu and Locke are our thinkers: this is why we like to read them. Would we ourselves adopt easily the advice of, say, ‘superior Chinese foreigners’ and start reading Medieval Chinese authors instead? Likewise, we have to realize that Western democratic thought was a straight consequence of the Western Renaissance: the renewed appreciation of those icons of early Western civilization, Athens and Rome. But these are not (at least, not in the same way) icons of, e.g., early Arab civilization. So should we expect non-Western cultures to bear similar pride in their imitation of the old Greek city states?
Lots to think about in that corner.