The Abduction of Modernity, an essay by Henry CK Liu, retraces the definition of “modernity” through history. The question rises as the so called “war on terror” implies the protection of some way of life, from those who reject modernity.
Is modernity a moral progress? Are technological developments a moral progress in human civilization? Are “modernization” and “westernization” synonymous? To Taoists, modernity is a meaningless concept because truth is timeless and life goes on in circles.
In order to decipher the present situation, an Aghata Christie would advise to look for who benefits from committed crimes and the money trail. One can still read Liu‘s essay and learn much about what was said about modernity by the greatest minds in human history.
The Abduction of Modernity covers mainly the Chinese civilization and thought – Confucianism and the Legalists, Taoism, Buddhism – its evolution and draws parallels with its Christian and European counterparts. Other chapters include Islam, the Enlightenment period, the Reformation of the Church, the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire, the colonization era, the rise of modern Japan, Imperialism and fragmentation: “While Western Europe marched steadily toward integration, the non-Western world was, and continues to be, fragmented for easy exploitation in the name of national self-determination“, and finally a last chapter: Imperialism resisted.
Liu describes the Chinese civilization and its successive occupation by barbaric invaders who came to gain access to Chinese culture, not to destroy it, and compares to the present day destructive ethnocentricity.
They were times when a combat had ethical criteria, as in the Chinese martial arts or during the medieval Europe. The Battle of Agincourt 1415, marks the end of chivalry and the obsolescence of aristocratic knights defeated by foot-soldiers applying a – so far despised and considered cowardly – killing tool: the longbow.
Gunpowder, invented around the 4th century in China, would not be used in warfare until 10th century. Chinese military planners did not modernize their martial code, and continued to suppress development of firearms as immoral up to the 19th century to China’s misfortune when confronting Europeans armies. Mao would state later that “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun“.
Liu concludes that the technological militarism is of barbaric roots and that a civilization built on military power remains barbaric, the reverse of modernity, notwithstanding the guise of technology. The present day militarism deprives human civilization of an evolving process of cultural diversity and therefore we might be living in an institutional march from modernity back toward barbarism with the predatory license for intolerance toward other cultures.
Relevant link: Afghanistan, British Media v Reality