The Empire Strikes Back : Part Two:Interlude.
Regular train reading is currently "The Eastern Origins OF Western Civilization" by John M. Hobson. Mr Hobson's work represents one extreme of an argument between Eurocentrists and people I can only describe as Probably Enthusiasts of the non-Eurocentric Equal Area Projections (PEEP). Mr Hobson is definitely a PEEP.
Eurocentrists believe that the current state of World Civilization, namely a Global Civilization dominated by "The West" is entirely along the lines of the natural order of things. The West is dominant, they explain, because of our values, resources, inventiveness, socio-economic and political systems, not to mention the heroic actions of a few select historical figures. What if it had all gone horribly wrong, they hint darkly, and one of the Eastern Powers had risen to World Pre-Eminence in the last thousand-odd years? Imagine a world dominated by one overpowering culture, power rested firmly in the hands of self-interested cat-obsessed family dynasties, where strangely robed High Priests' speak for the Gods. A world of luxury and power for the few, while the masses struggle to live, sending their young men to fight in wars they do'nt understand, their daily struggle enlivened only by the occasional seaside holiday, the dazzle of illustrious celebrity and the semi-legal drugs that the powers-that-be quietly sanction. A truly horrible vision.
The PEEPs present a different perspective. The West, they argue, is currently, temporarily, Numero Uno, only because of Western tendencies that lie in the direction of opportunistic theft (of ideas, resources and land), piratical trading methods, and biological warfare caused by the regrettably low standards of personal hygiene that are prevalent in the West. Indeed, the PEEPS allege, it wasn't really until they had conquered the World that Westerners felt relaxed enough to have a good daily bath. We would have all been better off, they argue, disappearing into Himalayan caves for a few years and studying Confucius. Besides which, Mr Hobson claims, the Chinese invented everything from steam engines to writing, at least 500 years before the Europeans, and only failed to achieve world domination because on the eve of colonising America in 1421, became fascinated with the contemplation of a particularly complex snowflake, went back to the cave and decided to think about it for a few hundred years. The World would have been infinitely better off, Mr Hobson seems to imply if we'd all been able to wear silken robes to work, even if it meant the extinction of the tiger 200 years before it looks as if it is just about to happen.
While insufficiently researched in the subject to assert any conclusions yet, I can report that while proximity to fellow commuters on the 7.33 Turbobooster does seem to support the notion that daily washing among Westerners is still not ingrained as a habit, equally, reports (from a Chinese friend) of the ring roads of Beijing sound more like a description of Dante's Hell than a Contemplative Paradise.