The typical Western citizen today firmly believes in the sanctity of freedom and democracy. Ask Europeans and Americans: most are deeply convinced the West is home to freedom and democracy and that freedom and democracy constitute the basis of good governance in the Western world. Freedom and democracy are of course universal values which can never be questioned. It is therefore desirable that freedom and democracy, which in the Western world only have reached the highest degree of perfection, shall spread to the entire world.
Thus the Western citizen is primed to perceive as a hostile and very personal attack every sort of criticism towards Western policies coming from the rest of the world. The typical Western citizen holds himself in a very high opinion and sees himself as open and tolerant towards other peoples and cultures. His picture of the world and other nations, however, very often resembles a caricature.
And this not by chance. This caricature is something that is actively created and reinforced by Western media. The typical Western citizen buys into the narcissistic image of Western media as a place of sophisticated debate and deep, reasoned and objective analysis, whereas at the same time he is made to believe in the most firm manner that any sort of discourse originating from outside the West must be the work of malign propaganda aimed at destroying Western unity.
Of course to anyone with a pair of ears and eyes the notion of Western unity in a post Trump and Brexit world should look ridiculous. Look at the animosity and the vitriol that have divided the public discourse in the US and in the UK in the last few year. It almost seems like there could not possibly be a hostile country that could harbour more hatred towards our people than people from our own countries. It is not just the resentment of not so successful people towards the best and brightest, what has been dubbed “populism”. It is also the profound disregard of the best and brightest (and richest) towards the less than averagely successful (arguably a majority of the people). Western media too is a far from a united front.
And yet, on a higher and more abstract level, in the rhetoric used by the two of most powerful institutions in the Western world, NATO and the European Union, which dictate the tone of the entire public discourse in the West, the West is by definition united as never before. NATO, the EU and their numerous think tanks and PR offshoots continue to portray the West as a whole as a big “city on a hill”, so strikingly outstanding and so profoundly more virtuous and moral than anyone else. And exactly for this reason this reason the West is under attack. The world in its natural state is a nasty place and it does like not like good people, it seems.
The Western citizen thinks that he or she, in virtue of his or her special education and large and horizons can see the world without prejudices and objectively. Yet he or she is likely to react with offense and indignation when things that the rest of the world sees clearly, like Western hubris, are exposed to him. The Western enlightened citizen is utterly disappointed by this because he thinks he has learned the lesson of colonialism and has entirely got rid of a possible colonialist mental attitude. He strives to see the world justly and without taking sides. Yet the Western citizen is made to feel more and more unsafe in an increasingly hostile world. Look at what Russia is doing, look at what China is doing, this is the message the Western citizens hears day in, day out.
The average Western citizen may have heard of the Gulf of Tonkin “attack” which was the prelude to the US direct engagement in the Vietnam War. If he is particularly well read he may have heard that the NATO intervention in Yugoslavia in 1999 was possibly motivated on the basis of a false pretext. He may have even heard that no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq after the American invasion. 2003 was not a long time ago but by no means the Westerner thinks that the West today bears any kind of responsibility for the damage the Iraq war inflicted to the entire Middle East. The average Western has probably heard about all these terrible things, but he is bored to death by them. Because in spite of all these pitiful things that happened in the last couple of decades, the latest threat is real beyond any shadow of doubt. So when Russia amasses its troops on Ukraine’s border and Putin wants to destroy Western unity, clearly something needs to be the done about it.
It does not matter that Ukraine has in recent years, with the generous contribution of the West, eager to integrate Ukraine into the free, democratic, virtuous, and moral world, become possibly the most rabidly anti-Russian country on the planet. Ukraine sees herself at war not with a bunch of a separatists that Russia supports, but with the Russian Federation, guilty of having halted the total transformation of the entire Ukraine into a homogenous pro-Western and anti-Russian buffer state after the Maidan Revolution. Given that the essence of the new Ukrainian statehood and identity is grounded in profound hostility towards Russia, where should one expect to find Russian troops, if not next to the borders of a hostile state? All these questions are of course useless and outright malicious indeed. The Westerner has been cultivated and induced to Pavlovianly dismiss as propaganda anything that questions the official NATO and EU narrative. Freedom of thought used to look different. This time may not be so different after all, but it may turn out to be much more dangerous.