External Relations

Europe and Asiadcp02311

Talk to the European Federation of Women

Cheshire Branch, Hale, 21 September, 2000


Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.  Thank you for inviting me to address you on this important topic.

I think your invitation was sparked by a letter I wrote to the Daily Telegraph about Turkey’s joining – or not joining – the EU.

I suggested to your programme secretary that the matter would be better discussed in the wider context of relations between Europe and Asia – so here we are.

Asia, like Europe, is not a single entity, but divides up in various ways:

            –           by wealth

            –           by religion

            –           by race

            –           by history

            –           by geography.

In this brief introduction to an enormous subject, I shall look at three areas which seem to me to be of decisive importance in this new century:

            –           cultures

            –           economics

            –           populations.

First:   Cultures

To an unparalleled extent, the World’s cultures are dominated by the descendant of one original culture – the technological industrial culture originated here in Manchester in the latter half of the 18th century.

 Culture is a word used in many senses, often for those things which are actually peripheral to one’s actual life – forms of dress, food style, dancing, for instance.  Partly this usage is unconscious, but partly – in the hands of interested groups – it is a deliberate misuse of the language to disguise the extent to which the technological industrial culture is dominant.

I intend to use the word in the way archaeologists and historians use it – to describe the attributes of a civilisation:

            –           what people do to earn their living

            –           what science and literature they created

            –          what permanent features they have left behind – landscape, buildings, roads, laws, religion.

Religion may be seen in two ways:

            –           what people believe

            –           what people do – or try to do.

Numerically there are five great religions in the world, 4 basically in Asia, one in Europe and what I will refer to as “Overseas Europe”.

The four in Asia with their numbers of nominal adherents and dates of origin are:

 Religion  Place of Origin  Number of adherents
 Hinduism (c 1200 BC)  India  800 millions
Buddhism (c 560 BC)   N India  300 millions
Confucianism (c 500 BC)   China  ~ 1,000 millions
Islam (AD 600)   Arabia  ~ 1,000 millions

Of these, Hinduism and Buddhism have theological beliefs which do not translate strongly into moral precepts, and Confucianism, though non- proselytising and having a comparatively vague theology, is a philosophy which does translate into worldly actions.  Islam has both a definite theology and distinct moral precepts.

The fifth religion, Christianity, is virtually coterminous with Europe and Europe Overseas.  Nominal adherents are about 1,000 million.

Christianity has a very complex set of theological beliefs, which are translated into moral precepts.  Christianity has by far the most complex organisation, which stretches all over the world even where its numbers are tiny.

Christianity puts a uniquely particular emphasis on freedom – “whose service is perfect freedom” – or rather personal freedom reconciled with government – “render unto Caesar those things which are Caesar’s”.

This problem of reconciling personal freedom with the claims of the state led to the Reformation and the Protestant tradition.  As Pierre Chaunu (a Catholic) Professor at the Sorbonne and member of the Institut de France put it, “There is a total positive correlation between the Protestant tradition and political regimes of elected representation.  There is not a single Communist regime which has been able to insinuate itself into a country with a Protestant tradition (except in East Germany where it was imposed by Soviet Military occupation)”.

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