Saturday, June 21, 2014

On the Origins of Asian Conflict

From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals who Remade Asia
By Pankaj Mishra

After a presumably unending series of fiction, I decided to go back, briefly, to non-fiction, which at one point of time was my mainstay. And it was with a book that I had heard about for some time now but only just got down to read - and I devoured it. Despite the obvious Leftist leanings of the author Pankaj Mishra, who despises capitalism by living in capitalist Britain instead of socialist India, as a historical record, this book is a gem.

The West has rather myopically seen itself as the center of the world, the source of human morality, spirituality and prosperity. In From the Ruins of Empire, Mishra outlines how this view was accepted by a conquered Asia for sometime, only to be entirely rejected and replaced by an Asian renaissance led by three thinkers from three corners of Asia - and in particular, of how Japan was the leading light towards this renaissance as the first industrialized Asian society.

This book has been written exceptionally well, full of deep research to fundamentally denounce the 'West and the Rest' idea of civilization  as a self-serving lie. It gives an idea of the narratives that developed as a result of colonialism that impact the world today - from Chinese Communism to Islamist extremism and, in particular, the Indian fascination for all things English and Western. This long narrative of history leading up to the modern day is the beauty of this book. Even if you disagree with the interpretations, it is hard to disagree with the view that colonialism is the leading cause of Asian conflict to this day. 

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