We usually associate Westernism with globalized notions of consumer capitalism, free markets, advocacy for consensual government, and human and property rights. We certainly see all of that in the spectacular growth of contemporary India, vis á vis its prior socialist and state-controlled past.
But the Mumbai incident also illustrates the other side of Westernism that is a twin to rising affluence and expanding freedom — a certain sort of Western fondness for political-correctness, victimhood, and grievance that grows among the leisured class out of relativism, utopianism, and multiculturalism. The result is the emergence of elites that are as quick to blame their own government or culture for homicidal violence as they are the perpetrators of it. After all, the former is cheap and easy, the latter involves real courage and danger to one’s person.
Thus here and in India intellectuals, pundits, and Bollywood actors variously suggested that grievance and injustice to India’s Muslims apparently better explain the violence — even why (?) the Pakistani-based terrorists singled out iconic targets in Mumbai’s elite districts, gave reprieves to some Muslim hostages amid their serial executions, and were especially interested in murdering British, American, and Jewish citizens. Last time I looked, however, the abject poor in Panama or Haiti were not targeting icons of globalization in their cities, or roaming their streets looking for Jews, Americans, and Brits.
Too often lost in too many exegeses were the politically-taboo adjectives like “evil” or “thugs” and “killers”. Photos and stories of abject murderers with automatic weapons in wire-service reporting out of India transmogrified into mere “militants” and “suspected gunmen.” Apparent restricted rules-of-engagement training might explain why Indian policemen did not initially fire on the killers in their midst.
Moral equivalence and obfuscation were ubiquitous. So we were reminded that radical Islam holds no monopoly on international terrorism — as if Christian, Hindu, or Sikh Indian terrorists cross borders and routinely invade Pakistan to murder innocents and blow up buildings to express their anger at their own poverty, or the ravages of globalization and modernism, or the excesses of radical Islam, or indeed travel to the US and Europe to do the same.
Apparently, 21st-century globalization is not just economic, political, and cultural osmosis, but ideological as well — in the sense of mimicking our own moral paralysis.