Redefining the West

Comments by Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi about the superiority of Western Christian civilization over Islam has inflamed opinion around the globe. Here Václav Havel, President of the Czech Republic and a noted playwright, attempts to clarify what Western civilization now stands for.

PRAGUE - What does the term “the West” mean? First, it is a geographically delimited territory that can be described as the Euro-Atlantic or Euro-American region. However, it is of equal, if not greater, importance to define the West in terms of its values and culture. The West has had, in essence, a shared political and economic history emanating from a common set of spiritual sources. For many centuries the character of its civilization and its inner ethos equipped it to exert a major influence on other regions and eventually to determine disproportionately the current shape of our entire global order.