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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Modernization is not westernization

One of the most important aspects of globalization is the ability to access and deliver information instantaneously around the world.

This mass diffusion of information, combined with an increasing facilitation of travel, has introduced a variety of cultures to each other, and has frequently instigated conflict.

The notion of a clash of civilizations has existed for centuries. The difference now is that the current confrontation envelops all of society, not just the adventurous or privileged.

With the democratization of information comes many problems, and the portrayal of different cultures can become greatly skewed when the information providers begin to suffer from 'group think.'

Now, as different ideologies emerge and become immediately disseminated, what we begin to see is not the conglomeration and moderation of different ideas, but the polarization of ideas.

In the competition of so many different ideas and cultures, only the most extreme get noticed. It is through this polarization that everyone from American politicians to Islamic terrorists are able to hijack and exploit the extremist sensitivities of the public.

This polarization is the complete opposite direction of the one that should be taken. As technology has brought our world even closer, it is also necessary to use this technology to ensure that we are able to coexist in a globalized world.

Gordon Gecko, a character in "Wall Street," once said that information was the most valuable commodity he knew of. We must exploit every aspect of this commodity.

Information technology has brought the Islamic world closer to the western world. While modernization is often portrayed as part of the evils of western capitalism, it is by no means a western phenomenon, and can be easily utilized by cultures everywhere.

The Islamic golden age was one of enlightenment and major advances in math and science.

Our current number system is Arabic, and the binary system on which computers rely could not exist were it not for the invention of the notion of zero by the ancient Arabs.

Western society was able to gather a wealth of information from Arabic discoveries, and it would be foolish for cooperation not to flow the opposite direction.

Numerous western innovations have helped develop our globalized world, and made possible the economic success of western industrial democracies.

This is not to say these technologies cannot be applied in other ways, to suit the local context. There are many ways to build an economy, but ignoring advantages which are readily available is not one of them.

The incorporation of modern technology is not equivalent to an acceptance of the values of the culture from which they come. In and of itself, technology is apolitical; it is only its applications that make it controversial.

Many of the growing tensions between the western and Islamic worlds stem from disconnects of many types.

Besides a technology disconnect, there are also educational and economic disparities, likely a result of the former gap.

In order to bridge these gaps and develop a culture of understanding, the myths associating modernization and westernization must be dispelled.

While it may be that technology is western in its current form, it is highly versatile, and it must be used to disseminate valuable information.

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