These developments are primarily at the political and social levels, which are more serious.
Informed observers have noted, for decades, the positive advancements in Western societies generally, in the aftermath of the destructive World War I and World War II wars, especially in the 1950s, the 1960s, and 1970s, in respect of humanism and democratisation.
Such welcome advancements came after long eras in which a self-centred and racist capitalist mindset reigned supreme, wreaking havoc in many parts of the world through imperialist and colonialist Western forays and acts of aggression, some of which constitute what amount to crimes against humanity.
The positive transformations occurring in the said eras, which had a great impact within and outside Western societies because of the immense power of a number of Western countries, are numerous.
We refer here to three of them.
The first pertains to the respect of human rights inside and outside the West, embodied in the emergence of several charters prioritising and promoting human rights, as well as the emergence of several institutions which both uphold humanist principles, and monitor violations and expose their practitioners.
This is not to say that Western countries were consistent in advocating human rights causes inside and abroad and in opposing violations, since their own biases and prejudices played a key role in what to uphold and what to condemn.
Much of it depended often on whether one was “with us” or “against us”. Double standards and hypocrisy did manifest themselves, especially in Western views of violations of human rights abroad.
Nevertheless, “human rights” meant something concrete and there was a clear push, in principle, for a more just and equitable world.
The second refers to democracy itself. It was crystal clear, until recently, that democracy, as a concept and as a system of governance, was gaining great momentum, and great popularity. There were several successful and strong democracies within the West which represented a model to follow elsewhere. And several countries, at the global level, were eager to democratise, deriving positive energies from some of these Western models.
In many Western countries also, there was respect for the rules of the democratic game, and when one party won and another lost, there was a smooth transition of power and respect for the “people’s will”.
The third relates to multiculturalism within the West and without it. In many Western countries, diversity, in the eras referred to above, was generally celebrated: ethnically, racially, linguistically and culturally.
There were also strong indications, despite examples to the opposite, that all cultures are equally valid, rich, and respectable. Hence was the drive for dialogue among cultures, as well as openness to cultural exchange.
Things were not perfect, one should caution. But there was hope that humanity was moving in the right direction, regarding human rights and democracy.
And there are other dimensions of course, which we cannot address here.
What is noticeable now and truly worrisome, however, is that many Western countries seem to be reneging on these advancements.
In all that has been mentioned above, there is a recession or an ebb after a flow that lasted about half a century.
Such recession or ebb is epitomised by the acute divisions we witness in many Western countries on matters that seem to have been a subject of consensus or majority approval before. Extremism, bigotry, prejudice, chauvinism and racism appear to be on the rise.
And this is represented, socially, by those who advocate xenophobia, Islamophobia, intolerance and white supremacy.
The advocates of all of these deplorable notions are not only on the rise, but many of them seem to be reaching key positions of power, which could spell disaster.
Politically, we have started to see politicians who lose in elections but are unwilling to concede, antagonising their rivals, making a mockery of the “will of the people”, and doing their best to change the rules of the game to suit their own selfish interests and agendas.
In some countries, several politicians who promoted themselves as moderates started to court extremist groups in order to win votes, as if winning the elections is an end in itself, and as if democracy is a toy.
All such practices, and many others, damage both the process of advocating and upholding human rights on the one hand, and distort and subvert democracy, on the other.
These unfortunate developments in many Western countries are truly worrisome, for the West and for humanity. The concerned Western countries, therefore, need to pause and think long about what to do to remedy such a serious recession and deterioration, before it is too late.
Time for a lot of revision and soul-searching.
Ahmad Y. Majdoubeh is a columnist in The Jordan Times
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