Saturday, December 13, 2014

Intellectuals who Remade Asia: Great Book

Looking for a good book over the holiday break? Pankaj Mishra's From Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia provides a fascinating study of the 19th and 20th centuries from the view point of non-Europeans.

Through the eyes of a Chinese intellectual and a Muslim journalist at the turn of the 20th  century, Mishra shows how "some of the most intelligent and sensitive people in the East responded to the encroachment of the West." He describes how they responded to major events like the Indian mutiny, Ottoman modernization, the Russo-Chinese War, the Chinese revolution, and World War 1.

What a different view Asians had of the West! In short, they viewed the West much as the West view the Mongols--as uncivilized!

For example, the Hindu thinker Swami Vivekananda  "articulated a widespread moral revulsion among Asians for their European masters."

Intoxicated by the heady wine of newly acquired power, fearsome like wild animals who see no difference between good and evil, slaves to women, insane in their lust, drenched in alcohol from head to foot, without any norms of ritual conduct, unclean, materialistic,, dependent on material things, grabbing other people's land and wealth by hook or crook...

The moral revulsion common in the 19th century turned to hope early in the 20th century. That's when an Asian power defeated a white Western  power for the first time in centuries.

Intellectuals from Sun Yat Sen to Mahatma Gandhi saw Japan's defeat of Russia in 1905 as a sign of hope, noting that  "'the people of the East were finally 'waking up from the lethargy.'"

This is a fascinating book, readable, and only $13 at Amazon.

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