In this programme, Professor Alistair Bonnet continues his dialogue revolving around his book ‘The Idea of The West,’ and frames the present East-West process is the context of ‘othering;’ the need for individuals, families, countries, to establish their identity by comparing themselves with others.
To the question “Have we reached a peak of West-East tensions?”, professor Bonnett replies that he thinks that the tensions between the so-called West and Russia is something that is being increasingly seen as something that has to be contained, in contrast to the situation in the Middle East. “The problems between the West and Russia seem rather petty in comparison with the situation with the Middle East.”
A discussion about the distinction between cultural and political identity followed. “Cultural differences are often used as a euphemism for ethnic identity and when ethnic identity becomes confused with political identity, a whole range of problems is opened up. …One sees that in England, the conservative party is very white, whilst the labour party is increasingly a non-white party. You see the ethnicisation of politics, which could lead to the end of political discussion as politics are subservient to your ethnic group.”
As a possible way forward, transculturism is discussed as offering a way in which we can see ourselves in the other. “Yes, this is happening through globalisation, …people see themselves in the shoes of other people, understand where they are coming from rather than rejecting them, however this cosmopolitanism has been with us since the Renaissance. It works for the middle classes, not for more place bound, less economically privileged people, who have more to lose from the erosion of clear cultural identity. …it’s happening but slowly.”