I am proud to say that I am a liberal, a believer in Liberalism. Wikipedia defines Liberalism as: "a political and moral philosophy based on the rights of the individual, liberty, consent of the governed, political equality, right to private property and equality before the law." But I hope my Liberalism does not give me grounds for sloppy thinking. Unfortunately, I see as many examples of sloppy thinking on the Left as on the Right. One could retort that being a Liberal and being a Leftist is not the same thing. I disagree. Liberalism is an invention of the Enlightenment, both French and British. It found complete expression in the writings of John Locke. While in the U.K., under a more flexible upper class, it was able to grow incrementally, Liberalism came to repressive France in the form of the French Revolution. The seating arrangement of the French National Assembly gave us the terms left-wing and right-wing. Supporters of the revolution sat to the president's left; supporters of the Ancien Regime sat to his right. Unfortunately, in their first experiment with Liberalism in France, the Leftists devolved into an Absolutism more terrible than the one they were seeking to replace during the Reign of Terror. But this, like Stalinism or Maoism, is not Liberal nor Leftist. It is simply Fascist autocracy.

I am a Liberal, but I am not inclined to distort reality and do not find it necessary. I encountered one such distortion today when I read a reference to "Western materialism" online. The usage is patently absurd. Even the most superficial review of the grand empires of Islam, the Mongols, the Hindus, and China lays waste to any notion that materialism is somehow uniquely Western. The opulent displays of power and wealth of their grandees exceeded even that of our own Louis XIV, and there were undoubtedly many more of them when you consider all the non-European accumulations of vast wealth. But even the common folk hoarded their valuables, as we do in the West today. Archeological digs all over the world have turned up jewelry and precious things of the common folk from across the millennia. The impulse is worldwide in both place and time. 

Amongst the silliest of us in the left wing, the word "Western" has taken on a bad connotation. Slavery is cast in a uniquely Western light, which is rubbish that is easily exposed with the most rudimentary knowledge of history. Western medicine is thought to be somehow lacking in favor of vague ideas of Oriental Medicine. This is a slippery slope. Believing that harmony between yin and yang will help qi is as utterly baseless as believing that god will heal disease and vaccines will poison you. Old superstitions Occidental or Oriental are just that, old superstitions. The mantle of exoticism worn by Oriental myths does not confer accuracy. Western Imperialism is often bandied about as another uniquely Western innovation, but it is not.

Some things that are Western, or were until they were spread by Western Imperialism, are Western science, which gave rise to Western medicine (ending the ghastly child mortality rates over almost the entire world), and Western Liberalism. This last has been uniquely important. Think about it: the notion of individual human rights grounded in natural law can be unambiguously traced to a handful of English and French philosophers writing during the Englightenment. From this notion flows the ideas that slavery is bad, women should be treated as equal to men, totalitarianism and dictatorship are wrong, and all humans are due dignity and have the right to self-determination. These opinions are uniquely Western in their origin, though now held by good people worldwide. And they are being hotly contested in battlefields on Europe's eastern flank and in autocratic governments everywhere. 

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